To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it, To Kill A Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic.

Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior - to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos. Now with over 18 million copies in print and translated into forty languages, this regional story by a young Alabama woman claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature.

I read To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time in eighth grade English. It was my favorite book we read that year, and I just remember how good it was. It was a book that made me think, that made me feel all the things. It's the book that made me want to start reading more mature, modern classic novels. And reading it for a second time made, I got so much more out of it than the first time around.

To Kill a Mockingbird is a compelling piece of literature written during such a horrible yet fascinating time period in American history. To me, racism is so mind boggling. I've never understood it, and I never will. And to think that it is still an issue today just horrifies me. This book is such a powerful lesson about acceptance and just basic right and wrong/good and bad. To think that the color of one's skin had such an influence... that they weren't considered as people, just... RAGE RAGE RAGE. To Kill a Mockingbird teaches a powerful lesson about people and just society as a whole, about how it's not just skin deep. 

Scout Finch is the embodiment of childhood innocence. To her good is good and bad is bad. It's clear cut, and everyone should be able to see that. The idea of setting a story like this from the perspective of an eight-year-old was just perfect, because it really conveys what the story is trying to get across. Children aren't born racists. We're products of our environment. Scout grew up with Atticus for a father and Calpurnia, the help, as a sort of mother figure. The thing I did notice about Scout was that she was rather inteligent for an eight-year-old. But then she would be immature and a child at times as well, so it was a great balance.

Atticus Finch. I love him. He is one of my favorite literary character's of all time. He's just so good. And smart. He does the right thing, even when it's the hard thing, something most people do not have the courage to do. He didn't see people as black or white, he saw them as human beings. Atticus is an example to every person and parent out there. The things he says, just the way he is, is amazing. And you can tell that he'd be one of those people who doesn't know just how great they are. Seriously, if I ever get a dog I'm naming him Atticus... haha!

The Tom Robinson case just... gah! I don't want to say anything, I don't want to spoil it for people who haven't read the book... I don't want to say much more plot wise in general, but I really feel that this is a book you need to immerse yourself in and fully experience.

This story is just such a memorable book. As I was reading it over, more often than not I'd read passages and be like "I remember this!" And I don't mean the general plot stuff, I mean the word for word quotes. It has a special place in my heart and I know it's a forever favorite. The characters are all so meaningful, the story is chalk full of metaphors and symbolism that really make you think, and the writing is gorgeous. Alabama dialect and all.

To Kill a Mockingbird is a must read. Not a typical must read. THE must read. 

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.
- Atticus Finch” 

 


If it Weren't for Inkpop...

 
On March 1st, InkPop, a website very near and dear to my heart, will no longer exist. HarperCollins sold Inkpop to Figment, another teen writing website. This both saddens and angers me.

The truth is, I've been off Inkpop for a while now. Ever since the layout/website change, I haven't been nearly as active as I was in the beginning. To me, Inkpop's been going downhill for a while now. But it's so sad to me that HC is just abandoning everything.

I remember when I first joined Inkpop, two years ago. I was fourteen years old, and the idea of a website full of teen writers like me was so mindblowingly amazing. I never realized so many people shared the same dreams and aspirations for writing as I did. And the possibility that a REAL editor would get to read and critique some of MY writing was so incredible. I was like, oh, but I'll probably never get up there. And then when I did top five it was such an amazing feeling.

If it weren't for Inkpop, I wouldn't be the writer that I am today. I wouldn't know how to properly punctuate, tag dialogue, or any of that technical stuff. I still remember the light bulb moment back when I first joined that was like OH, IT HAS TO ALL BE IN THE SAME TENSE. The fabulous critiques I got in the beginning helped me grow and develop my writing so much.

Hell, if it weren't for Inkpop, I probably wouldn't even have a finished manuscript yet, or some of the projects I'm currently working on. The idea that people were counting on me and waiting for me to post chapters is what motivated me to write.

If it weren't for inkpop, I don't think I'd be confident in my writing at all. The positive comments I would get meant the world to me. Inkpop made me felt like I mattered. It gave me a voice.

And most importantly, if it weren't for Inkpop, I wouldn't have became friends with so many amazing people. To bond with and connect with people all over the world over the same love is so great. And it's crazy how close you can become with people you've never met. We've had the craziest, most hilarious conversations, and priceless Skype conversation. In essence, Inkpop gave me another family, people who get in me a way that people in the real world don't.

Inkpop made me realize that there's a whole world outside of my town. And a whole bunch of people who are just like me. Back in middle school, I was ostracized because I loved reading. I was bullied over it. Having a place to go where I could fangirl about books with other people seriously has meant the world to me.

So, thank you Inkpop. You have done so much for so many people, and it's sad to see you go.

RIP.


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Cover Reveal: My Heart by Damned by Chanelle Gray

MY HEART BE DAMNED
Release date: 15th July 2012.
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If you're a Hunter, there are only three things you must know about the Damned. The Damned can't lie, can't live without a body, and can't leave you alone.

Amerie Carter has the blood of a Hunter, unfortunately. She is one of a rare line of women who, upon her sixteenth birthday, will come into extraordinary powers used to hunt the Damned; escaped souls from Hell who take up residence in human bodies. It's supposed to be her sweet sixteen, but Amerie has never dreaded a day more, and her worst fears are confirmed as the celebration turns tragic when her mother is killed.

Grief-stricken, Amerie vows to never hunt a day in her life. She's determined to hide behind normalcy, attending school, hanging out with her friends and working an after-school job at The Hut. All Amerie wants is to be left alone. But try telling the Damned that. The harder Amerie tries to ignore her powers, the more the Damned come looking for her.

When an attack leaves one of Amerie's friends in the hospital, and endangers the lives of her fellow students, she knows she has no choice: Hunt or Be Hunted. Thankfully, the gorgeous, secretive, and so-off-limits Marshall offers to train Amerie to take out her supernatural enemies. But training with Marshall means leading lying to her friends, her family, and confronting the mysterious circumstances surrounding her mother’s death.

Amerie soon discovers she’s not the only one with something to hide, Marshall’s secrets might kill her before the Damned get the chance.
Eek! I think this cover is gorgeous...and I CANNOT wait to read this book!

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Bitter End by Jennifer Brown

When Alex falls for the charming new boy at school, Cole -- a handsome, funny, sports star who adores her -- she can't believe she's finally found her soul mate . . . someone who truly loves and understands her. 

At first, Alex is blissfully happy. Sure, Cole seems a little jealous of her relationship with her close friend Zack, but what guy would want his girlfriend spending all her time with another boy? As the months pass, though, Alex can no longer ignore Cole's small put-downs, pinches, or increasingly violent threats. 


As Alex struggles to come to terms with the sweet boyfriend she fell in love with and the boyfriend whose "love" she no longer recognizes, she is forced to choose -- between her "true love" and herself.

Bitter End is one of the first really good stories I've read where the plot centers around an abusive relationship. It was honest and meaningful, and honestly I bet it reached out to a lot of girls who might be in this situation. But because it was so focused on getting across this message, I did feel like a few small things were lost. Overall though, it was a quick, read and as enjoyable as any book on a topic like this can be.

The writing was good. it was simple, but it really fit the story well. I liked the way the writing sped up and almost blurred whenever Cole hit Alex, because it really mimicked what was going on in her head. I liked Alex's voice...but I just couldn't empathize with her all the time. I feel like that maybe because I've never had any personal experience with this topic, but I'm just sitting here, seeing all the red flags that are so obvious, and I'm like WHY ARE YOU STAYING WITH HIM. And then she starts sacrificing her friendships and all other relationships, just because a boy told her that he loved her. So I can't really support some of Alex's decisions, but I really applaud the point that Jennifer Brown makes with this novel. That abuse can hit anyone, turning them into a person they'd never thought they'd be.

I just wish that Cole was made more likable right off that bat. I mean, the reader knows right away that you're not SUPPOSED to like him...but I would've at least liked to buy into him a little more before he started showing his other side. Some of the things he said, some of his gestures were just...creepy. I wanted to see in Cole what Alex saw in Cole. But I did like the whole back story that developed Cole, with his parents and whatnot. People are the way they are for a reason.

Jennifer did a great job with such a serious topic. It definitely has that edge of your seat quality with it's mixture of entertaining and heartbreaking. Alex was too blinded by love to see that this boy was seriously hurting her. She started blaming herself, thinking it was her fault, something that so many women tend to do. For me, my absolute favorite moment in this book was when it finally clicked in Alex's head that it wasn't her fault. I was like finally!

Everything about Bitter End was done realistically in my opinion. I guess the disconnect for me was just struggling to comprehend some of the decisions Alex was making. How someone could be that blinded. But overall, this was a powerful book. I really enjoyed Jennifer Brown's writing style, and I've heard great things about her debut Hate List, so I'm definitely putting that on my to-read list.




ARC Review: Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

It all begins with a stupid question:

Are you a Global Vagabond?

No, but 18-year-old Bria Sandoval wants to be. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a guided tour of Central America—the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists with fanny packs are hardly the key to self-rediscovery. When Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his outspokenly humanitarian sister Starling, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path.

Bria's a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan's a bad boy trying to stay good. As they travel across a panorama of Mayan villages, remote Belizean islands, and hostels plagued with jungle beasties, they discover what they've got in common: both seek to leave behind the old versions of themselves. And the secret to escaping the past, Rowan’s found, is to keep moving forward.

But Bria comes to realize she can't run forever, no matter what Rowan says. If she ever wants the courage to fall for someone worthwhile, she has to start looking back.

Kirsten Hubbard lends her artistry to this ultimate backpacker novel, weaving her drawings into the text. Her career as a travel writer and her experiences as a real-life vagabond backpacking Central America are deeply seeded in this inspiring story.


Thank you to Netgalley for the eARC.

You know when you find a book that just sounds so perfect for you? But then you're hesitant to read, because it just has such a fantastic premise and what if it doesn't live up to your expectations? Then it turns out that you had nothing to worry about... because not only did the book live up to your expectations, but it exceeded them? That's how it felt when I finished Wanderlove. It had everything I love about a book--a main character that I can relate to, a swoon-worthy boy, traveling--and then even more. This book was just so much fun to read. I seriously couldn't put it down.

First off, what drew me to this novel in the first place was the setting. I can't wait to get out and travel. So I automatically am partial to buts set in foreign countries. But even then, this book was different than most. Think backpacking all over Central America. This book takes the reader to so many different locations, everywhere from Guatemala to Belize. And because the author, Kirsten Hubbard, was a travel writer and has been to all the locations mentioned throughout the novel, she's able to capture the setting so vividly. I felt as though I was thrown into a Central American adventure while I was reading this book. It was so much fun and I literally couldn't stop reading.

Bria was such a great main character. I loved her voice and I loved how I was able to really get inside her head. Part of it was just that I could really relate to her. Sometimes I want to hop on a plane and see the world and just escape everything too. I think everyone gets those feelings once in a while. Except Bria actually acts on them, setting herself up for an awesome journey. And I could see Bria's transformation as the novel progressed. She started out so naive, and I don't think she was fully aware of what she was signing up for. She over packed and just didn't know what she was doing. By the end of the novel, Bria is a backpacker. And the emotional journey that followed this book was fantastic too. Bria was broken, devastated. She was willing to give up everything she loved over a breakup. To see her gain strength as the novel progressed and just develop into an opinionated kick-ass main character was so great to read. Bria is, in essence, my favorite kind of main character. (And I think the name Bria is so pretty.) 

And then there's Rowan. Now, it's no secret that I love a bad boy. But a bad boy who's trying to be good? That might be even hotter. In any case, it so worked with Rowan. He's the ultimate backpacker...traveling from location to location, to wherever his next dive job is. He got into trouble with drugs in the past, but he wants to change. And God, he's so adorable. He had his jerk moments, but I really enjoyed him and his relationship with Bria. I loved the back and forth with them, how neither of them would take each others crap. And the best part is that Bria and Rowan were friends... that despite being put in a typically unrealistic situation, the development of their relationship was so realistic and cute and gah sexual tension! Eek, I loved it.

Like I said, I do have to admit that the predicament was just a tad bit unrealistic. I mean, I would never go off with two strangers in a strange and dangerous part of the world. My mother would be like HAVE I TAUGHT YOU NOTHING? Bria was trying to be all tough and bad-ass, and luckily it worked out in her favor. Honestly, I loved all the characters and just the whole story way too much to even care about the realisicness of the plot. Starling, Rowan's half-sister, was awesome. I loved meeting the random locals, as well as digging into Bria's weird relationship with her parents. The character development and relationships were all so complex and layered.

An added bonus to Wanderlove was the artwork included all throughout. Sketches were scattered and dispersed throughout the novel, tying in with Bria being an artist. But what's even cooler is that Kirsten Hubbard drew these pictures as well. Not only can she write, but she can draw! I'm so jealous.

Wanderlove is an adventure that you will not be able to put down. I absolutely loved it.






The "Oh Snap Look At all these Fantastic 2012 Releases" Giveaway

Hey everyone! So I figured it was about time for another giveaway. I was thinking about what to give, and realized how many amazing books are coming out this year. So I wanted to giveaway something to support all the new 2012 releases.

Therefore, I'm giving away one 2012 release book! It can be a book that's already come out, or a pre-order for a book that you're waiting for. And so long as The Book Depository ships to your country, this giveaway is INTERNATIONAL!

All you have to do to enter is follow me by GFC and leave a comment telling me which book you'd like if you win. Then there's extra entries for twitter and such. :)

The giveaway will run for two weeks, ending on March 6th.



a Rafflecopter giveaway



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A Blue So Dark by Holly Schindler

Fifteen-year-old Aura Ambrose has been hiding a secret. Her mother, a talented artist and art teacher, is slowly being consumed by schizophrenia, and Aura has been her sole caretaker ever since Aura's dad left them. Convinced that "creative" equals crazy, Aura shuns her own artistic talent. But as her mother sinks deeper into the darkness of mental illness, the hunger for a creative outlet draws Aura toward the depths of her imagination. Just as desperation threatens to swallow her whole, Aura discovers that art, love, and family are profoundly linked—and together may offer an escape from her fears.

Wow. I've been wanting to read this book for a long time now. I've never read a book dealing with schizophrenia, and haven't read too much dealing with mental illness in general. There isn't that much out there in the YA world centered around mental illness, because its so hard to pull off. A Blue So Dark was an amazingly honest story about a girl dealing with her mother's schizophrenia. The writing was beautiful and real, the story unique.

This is such a deep, emotional read. And Schindler's writing was just so beautiful in this seemingly effortless way. She's one of those writers who take what people are thinking and then actually say it in this eloquent, gorgeous way. It made me feel in a way that so few books do. It took me along on this roller coaster of emotions with Aura. 

And Aura herself was such a fantastic character. Her voice was so honest and real. She was so brave, yet so scared. Such a strong character. I don't know if I could deal with the things she's dealt with. I really felt as though Schindler put me inside Aura's head. Even when I didn't like what Aura was doing, I understood why she was doing it. Like how she really truly felt as though art was a cause of schizophrenia. Everyone knows it isn't, but when you grow up with a schizophrenic mother who is an artist, that connection is a tangible link. People are always looking for someone/something to blame, so Aura blamed art.

I thought the mother's character herself was extremely well-done. She was like a child, and it was fascinating seeing her mind work. And seeing how her illness affected the people around her. Aura's father, who left when Aura was thirteen, Nell, Aura's grandmother, and most importantly, Aura herself. It's such a complex, consuming illness, each case unique. I thought it was all handled so well, and provided a deep look into this illness.

Another aspect of this book that I really appreciated was the romance. And how little of it there was. This book was not a love story, it was a story about a girl struggling to survive and hold onto her sanity in such an insane environment. I liked Jeremy, and while I wish that he was in the book more, I'm almost glad he wasn't. His role was important, and just showed so much about Aura. If I was in her situation, I wouldn't be thinking about boys all the time either, so I'm glad that she didn't get consumed by him and that he was more of a side character.

This book was just so complex. There were so many layers to it. Part of it was about trying to stay afloat, while it was really about going underneath the surface. There were so many facets to this novel, making for such a beautiful and complex contemporary read. A Blue So Dark is really YA contemporary at its best. Such a gorgeous read about life and just how in the end you have to draw what you see.


    

White Cat by Holly Black

The first in a trilogy, this gritty, fast-paced fantasy is rife with the unexpected. Cassel comes from a shady, magical family of con artists and grifters. He doesn't fit in at home or at school, so he's used to feeling like an outsider. He's also used to feeling guilty--he killed his best friend, Lila, years ago.

But when Cassel begins to have strange dreams about a white cat, and people around him are losing their memories, he starts to wonder what really happened to Lila. In his search for answers, he discovers a wicked plot for power that seems certain to succeed. But Cassel has other ideas-- and a plan to con the conmen.

I wanted to love this book. I really did. I heard a lot of great things about it. But I just didn't connect. By the end, I honestly didn't care what happened to the characters. The plot was unique, and the writing was decent. The characters themselves just didn't do it for me to be honest. There was a disconnect that really threw off my enjoyment of the novel.

The world building in this novel was great. It was such a cool concept, the idea of people being curse workers and having control of people's fate. But it was set during modern day. Normally I like it better when an author just throws the reader into the new world and makes them figure things out... which is what black did. But I feel like with this there needed to be a bit more background and explaining. There were great moments at times... and then there were moments when it didn't feel believable enough.

There were some good, suspenseful moments in here. And a couple nice twists. But I didn't believe into the story line enough to believe any of it to be quite honest. I had more of a "yeah right" attitude while reading this book.

The thing is, there wasn't one character that I connected with. Cassel was a pathological liar, a conman, and frankly kind of crazy. Everyone in his family was crazy. I guess if I got into the whole curse workers story, maybe I would've sympathized with him a bit. And then I thought I was going to like Lila, but I didn't even like her either. She was horrible. THERE WAS NO ONE FOR ME TO BOND WITH. And when that happens, no matter how amazing the plot is, the whole book plummets in my mind.

I've never been a big fantasy person to begin with, but I went out on a limb here with White Cat and I'm sad to say that it disappointed. I really think that it just wasn't the right read for me. If you're a big fantasy fan, I would say to give it a shot. If you're more eh about fantasy like me, then I don't know.




To Write is To Act

I've been thinking about the connection between writing and acting quite a bit this past week. Balancing my wanting to write my latest WIP with needing to memorize all my lines for the spring play has got me pondering the relationship between the two. And I've come to the conclusion that they're intertwined and connected more so than I've ever thought. 

Not to say that writing and acting themselves are similar at all. They aren't. While acting is for the exuberant extrovert, writing is for the quiet introvert.

But, when I'm acting and when I'm writing, some of the same exact feelings surface. To be a good actress, you have to totally immerse yourself in your character. So, for my character, who's kind of off-the-wall, I have to wholeheartedly believe that I invented cheese and banana bread. I have to be over-the-top and extravagant in a way that I'm totally not.

And you know what? The same exact thing happens to me when I'm writing. To write a good book, a book that strikes a chord, you have to totally become the character. Sure, you get to create the character, whereas with acting you become the character, but still. in my new project, I have to know Leila like I know myself. I need to feel what she's feeling and want what she wants while I'm writing, or else it'll all just feel fake to me, you know?

With both writing and acting, you have to work toward something. It'll never be perfect the first time around. The first interpretation will always be wrong. You go through multiple "drafts' and "revisions" each one getting closer and closer to the end product that you'll eventually be proud of.

So whether you like being behind the scenes doing the writing, or on the stage performing the written word, you get the chance to become something you aren't. You get to tell a story. You get a chance to be so deep and involved, and almost become the story.

So writer or actor?

How about storyteller.

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Half-Blood by Jennifer L. Armentrout


The Hematoi descend from the unions of gods and mortals, and the children of two Hematoi-pure-bloods-have godlike powers. Children of Hematoi and mortals-well, not so much. Half-bloods only have two options: become trained Sentinels who hunt and kill daimons or become servants in the homes of the pures. Seventeen-year-old Alexandria would rather risk her life fighting than waste it scrubbing toilets, but she may end up slumming it anyway. There are several rules that students at the Covenant must follow. Alex has problems with them all, but especially rule #1:Relationships between pures and halfs are forbidden. Unfortunately, she's crushing hard on the totally hot pure-blood Aiden. But falling for Aiden isn't her biggest problem--staying alive long enough to graduate the Covenant and become a Sentinel is. If she fails in her duty, she faces a future worse than death or slavery: being turned into a daimon, and being hunted by Aiden. And that would kind of suck.

Ever since reading Obsidian, I'd been dying to read more of Jennifer's writing. Her writing style and strong main characters are just so much fun to read. Half-Blood definitely did not disappoint. It was pretty kick ass. And that cover is so gorgeous.


Okay, I've heard from a lot of reviews that there are a lot of Vampire Academy similarities in this book. And that made me a little wary going into it. But as a huge, gigantic VA fan, I have to say that while they're were parallels, it wasn't bad enough that it bothered me. As the book progressed it developed into something unique and pretty awesome. Totally get why people are saying it's similar, how Alex is basically Rose and Aiden is Dimitri and whatnot...but honestly I felt like Half-Blood held it's own and it didn't really bother me.

Alex is pretty awesome. She was a great narrator. She was so strong in some ways, and very fragile in others, and that made her so believable. Everything with her mom was so well done. The conflicted feelings and all. She was brave to a fault, making stupid decisions. But I love her voice, and reading her narration is just so much fun.

Then there's Aiden. And Seth. I loved Aiden. He was Alex's trainer, and just super awesome. And let's be honest, he's super hot. It's obvious that he cares about Alex but he's not super overprotective. And there's back story about his parents and his brother Deacon that made him real. But then there's Seth. The sexy Apollyon. I loved the constant banter between him and Alex. He amused me, and Alex amused me more when she was around him. Because, I mean, the Apollyon is a big freaking deal, so I loved that Alex didn't think he was. I'm really sensing some love triangle-ness in the next couple books... so we'll see where this goes.


Another aspect that was great about this book was that in wasn't at all romance-centric. Yes, of course Jennifer added some hot moments, but most of the books centered around the major plot of Alex and her Daimon-turned mother. I loved watching Alex's training sessions with Aiden, and seeing that she wasn't OMG amazing at first, that she really had to work to get where she was. And like I said before, the conflicted feelings about her mom were so well done. Because I too would want to hope for the best. So I really felt for Alex. And I loved that in the end, she followed through with the decision she had to make.

Overall, the writing itself was great. I might've liked a little bit more description at times, but for the most part everything was really well done. The character development through the writing is the best part, it definitely makes the characters come off the pages. I'm really interested to read Pure and see where Alex's story will take us next!




Ruined by Simone Elkeles

How to Ruin a Summer Vacation:


Moshav? What’s a moshav? Is it “shopping mall” in Hebrew? I mean, from what Jessica was telling me, Israeli stores have the latest fashions from Europe. That black dress Jessica has is really awesome. I know I’d be selling out if I go with the Sperm Donor to a mall, but I keep thinking about all the great stuff I could bring back home.

Unfortunately for 16-year-old Amy Nelson, “moshav” is not Hebrew for “shopping mall.” Not even close. Think goats, not Gucci.

Going to Israel with her estranged Israeli father is the last thing Amy wants to do this summer. She’s got a serious grudge against her dad, a.k.a. “Sperm Donor,” for showing up so rarely in her life. Now he’s dragging her to a war zone to meet a family she’s never known, where she’ll probably be drafted into the army. At the very least, she’ll be stuck in a house with no AC and only one bathroom for seven people all summer—no best friend, no boyfriend, no shopping, no cell phone…

Goodbye pride—hello Israel.

How to Ruin my Teenage Life

In this sequel to How to Ruin a Summer Vacation, EVERYTHING in sixteen-year-old Amy Nelson Barak's life is going wrong! Her mom got married and moved to the suburbs, and now they are going to have a baby. Amy moves in with her dad in Chicago and signs him up for an online dating service. His first four dates are that night . . . 


What else? Her dog Mutt impregnated her grumpy neighbor's prized poodle, so Amy will actually have to get a part-time job to pay for half the veterinary bill. And there's this totally annoying boy, Nathan Rubin, who just moved into her apartment building. Luckily, Amy has a cute boyfriend named Avi. Only he's more like a non-boyfriend considering Avi is in the Israeli army for the next three years.

What's a girl to do when everyone is conspiring to ruin her life?


How to Ruin my Boyfriend's Reputation


Guess who's jetting off to the Holy Land this summer

Yes, it's me--Amy Nelson-Barak. I've volunteered for ten days of military training in Israel with my friends. The Sababa brochure said it would be a "fun" summer experience. Okay, so I didn't sign up to prove I'm not a princess...I did it to surprise my hot Israeli boyfriend stationed at the same base.

Too bad nobody told me:
- It's hot in the Negev desert...like, so hot your makeup melts off and you get under-boob sweat spots.
- You can't sleep in until 11 a.m.
- You shouldn't kill bees with your flatiron--don't ask.
- Peeing in a hole isn't easy (when you're a girl)--double don't ask.

When I find out our team leader is my boyfriend Avi, I'm totally psyched...until I learn he has to treat me like all the other recruits. Can you say OY VEY

I've been dying to read the Ruined books ever since I read my first work by Elkeles, Perfect Chemistry. I love her writing style to death, so I thought A book set in Israel? Yes on so many levels!  And I totally loved this series as a whole. I decided it'd be easier just to do one gigantic review, because I read them back to back and the trilogy weaved together nicely as one giant book.

I'm going to be honest. The setting was the major attention grabber for me. And while the second book was still fantastic, it was my least favorite probably because it wasn't set in Israel, but it was back in the US. Her descriptions of the country were awesome, and is making me dying to get there even more. I loved the way she incorporated the Hebrew and Judaism into the plot effortless--so few books center around this. It was great reading a book and having some "I know this!" moments as well as some learning moments as well.

Amy. I loved her sometimes, and other times I wanted to punch her in the face. She's selfish, self-centered, occasionally obnoxious, insecure, and self-conscious about her boobs. But, while she could be annoying, I really connected with her narrative and enjoyed it for the majority of the books. And it was really nice seeing the transformation in Amy as the books went through. She was cynical and it seemed as though there was a constant one step forward two steps back pattern, but by the end of the series you could really see her true growth as a character. Whether it was sheering a sheep in book one, taking responsibility for her dog impregnating a champion poodle in book two, to surviving boot camp in book three, Amy Nelson-Barak was certainly an interesting and unforgettable main character to follow.

Avi. Oh Avi. I want to say I LOVE YOU and be done with it. Because I loved everything about him. How he could be so sweet and protective. He was a jerk and moments. I wanted to slap him. But then I wanted to kiss him. Because his sincerity was off the charts. He wrote Amy love letters while he was in training for the IDF (Israeli Defense-Force.) FREAKING LOVE LETTERS. I'm like, stop pretending you're such a tough-ass. You're a softy underneath. His whole persona was just my God.

I loved all the other characters in the book too. I love Amy's dad Ron and his incredibly awkward sex talks. I loved her badass Safta (Grandma). Her cousin Osnat. Her friends Jess, Miranda, and Nathan. Everyone had a place and a purpose, and while there are a lot of characters between the three novels, it was never overwhelming. Just, awesome.

What I loved most was seeing how much Simone has grown as a writer. Because the writing here was not perfect. There was a lot of telling in my opinion--but part of me feels like that was a part of Amy's character herself. The writing was still really good, but there's a definite difference in these books and Perfect Chemistry. I am forever a fan of Simone Elkeles.

So yes. I really really loved these books. Definitely recommend them.




The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Anyone who has read J.D. Salinger's New Yorker stories—particularly A Perfect Day for Bananafish, Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut, The Laughing Man, and For Esme—With Love and Squalor, will not be surprised by the fact that his first novel is fully of children. The hero-narrator of THE CATCHER IN THE RYE is an ancient child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield. Through circumstances that tend to preclude adult, secondhand description, he leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days. The boy himself is at once too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it. There are many voices in this novel: children's voices, adult voices, underground voices-but Holden's voice is the most eloquent of all. Transcending his own vernacular, yet remaining marvelously faithful to it, he issues a perfectly articulated cry of mixed pain and pleasure. However, like most lovers and clowns and poets of the higher orders, he keeps most of the pain to, and for, himself. The pleasure he gives away, or sets aside, with all his heart. It is there for the reader who can handle it to keep.

For some reason, I've always wanted to read this book. I'm not sure why. It's required reading at my school junior year, but something compelled me to read it NOW. I guess it's just that I've heard so much about it. So much praise from some people and so much hatred from others. The Catcher in the Rye is a book that you either love or hate. I wanted to see where I fell on the spectrum.

I loved this book. I really did.

Holden Caulfield was such an interesting narration. Some people want to marry him, others want to punch him on the face. I just want to give him a hug. He is so cynical yet still incredibly naive. Yes, he's whiny and possibly the biggest hypocrite every. But that's the point of this book. Reading a book narrated by a character with such a warped one-sided perspective on life was fascinating to me. Digging into the psychology behind Holden's character was so interesting to me. His character--while beginning to lose some of his mental sanity, was still so human in many ways. We especially see this through interactions with his sister.

Holden could never just be happy. There was always something wrong, he was always complaining about something. And while sometimes his judgement was way off... other times he could peg people to a T. He doesn't believe in people doing things for the sake of doing them. There's always an ulterior motive to Holden. And it's so so interesting going through all this with Holden and seeing things through his eyes.

J.D. Salinger himself is such a fantastic writing. There are so many passages that hit me, that I would reread just to absorb the words. And it really felt like this wasn't J.D. Salinger writing this book... it was like HOLDEN wrote the book. And to me, that's the best book, where the character development is that well. I really feel as though Catcher is one of the first true young adult books. It was published in 1951. At that time, not to many books were written in first person, and let alone from the perspective of a sixteen-year-old. It's so funny to me to consider that while so many things have changed Catcher has proven how somethings will remain the same.

Here's to a book that I'm actually looking forward to reading in English next year.