Review: 45 Pounds (more or less)

Title: 45 Pounds (More or Less)
Author: KA Barson
Publisher: Viking/Penguin
Pub Date: July 11, 2013
Genre: YA 
Rec. Age Level: 12+
More by author: n/a

 Picture Me Gone


When Ann’s aunt announces she’s getting married – and that Ann will be in the wedding party – she knows that it’s now or never to lose the weight that’s been holding her back her whole life. Ann’s mother is a svelte perfectionist who, for years, has been pushing Ann to take control of her weight. Ann has tried every diet fad and tactic out there, all under the supervision of her mother, but this time things are going to be different. She forks over her savings for an infomercial diet that promises to be foolproof, finds a job to fund her weight loss method (she’s determined to do this without poking and prodding from her mother) and waits for the weight to melt away. But things aren’t so simple, not when it comes to changing her body… and not when it comes to changing what Ann sees every time she looks in the mirror. And, as she soon realizes, Ann isn’t the only one in her family with an unhealthy body image and relationship with food. It’s going to take more than five payments of $19.99 for Ann to achieve her happy ending.

Ann from 45 Pounds (more or less) is, more or less, me. Well, my high school self anyway. I like to think that I’ve achieved much of what Ann achieves by the end of the novel. But, all of the ups and downs regarding her weight – the self-loathing, the grudging acceptance, the moments of grim determination, and the times when weight loss seems impossible – were all too easy to relate to. I spent the entire book rooting for Ann and a fair amount feeling frustrated when she turned to bad habits (but only because I’d been there before and wanted to shout “Put down the french fries, Ann!! It’s not worth it – you have more to live for!” Ahem.). 

What I love most about this book though, is the positive changes that Ann and her family begin to accept after having meaningful and honest conversations. I truly hope that those who read 45 Pounds (more or less) will apply some of these changes (like positive language regarding food, weight, and eating) to their own lives. 

45 pounds (more of less) is, in my opinion, a must-read with an important message about adopting positive language and ideas of self-worth and being healthy in a society obsessed with shallow and unrealistic images of beauty.

Notable Quotes:

“And while the shape of my family might not match other families – or even what I imagined it should be – some pretty amazing people make room for me, watch out for me, and love me. Sometimes, even when I don’t know it. Make it so I fit. No matter what.”

“I change the channel to another movie. An old one, but new to me. And, ironically, a thin, gorgeous blonde—Meg Ryan, maybe—rides her bike on a country road. She smiles like she has no cares in the world. Like no one ever judges her. Like her life is perfect. Wind through her hair and sunshine on her face. The only thing missing are the rainbows and butterflies and cartoon birds singing on her shoulder.

Maybe I should grab my bike and try to catch up with Mom, Mike, and the kids. They can’t be going very fast. I would love to feel like that, even if it’s just for a second—free and peaceful and normal.
Suddenly, there’s a truck. It can’t be headed toward Meg Ryan. Could it? Yes. Oh my God. No! Meg Ryan just got hit by that truck.

Figures. See what happens when you exercise?”

Review: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Title: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
Author: April Genevieve Tucholke
Publisher: Dial/Penguin
Pub Date: August 15, 2013
Genre: YA 
Rec. Age Level: 14+
More by author: Between the Spark and the Burn

 Picture Me Gone


Violet White comes from old money, but that money has run out, along with her artistic, free spirit parents, who have left Violet and her brother living penniless in the faded family estate. When Violet decides to take on a renter for the guest house behind the estate, she doesn’t expect it to be filled so quickly, nor by someone as magnetic and mysterious as River West, the new face in Echo . In spite of the odd and terrible events that seem to follow in River’s wake, Violet finds herself pulled to this boy with his lazy charm and unreliable stories. But River isn’t what he seems… or perhaps he’s exactly what he seems. The devil takes on many forms and, in Echo, he just may be a teenaged boy with a crooked smile. A gorgeous setting and lush writing coupled with the horror and a mystery that spans decades makes Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea impossible to put down, even when the suspense of what might be lurking on the next page grips the reader with fear.

Oh my goodness, I adore this book. Beautifully written with dangerously flawed (and sometimes ridiculously terrifying) characters, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea kept me mesmerized from the very first pages until the thrilling, heart-pounding conclusion. And finding out that there’s another book has left me so excited and distracted that I’m having a hard time writing a coherent review. 

I spent most of the book just waiting to see what card Tucholke would deal readers next. Like Violet, we readers are simply along for the ride, watching with horror as things spiral further and further out of control in the sleepy town of Echo. The setting, crumbling mansions and the ghosts of an opulent past populated the spoiled, reckless wealthy, is both striking and lends itself perfectly to the story, with its mystery and dark family secrets. If you haven’t read this debut yet, make time – you won’t regret it.

Notable Quotes:

“The Citizen’s attic was, objectively, breathtaking. The place was littered with trunks and old clothes and wardrobes and pieces of furniture and strange metal toys no one had played with in sixty years and half-painted canvases and on and on. There were several round windows to let in the sunlight, and I loved how it raked its way across the floor as I watched, dust dancing like sugerplum fairies in the bold yellow glow. If attics could make wishes, this one would have nothing to wish for.”

“River’s kiss tasted like coffee and storms and secrets.
And slowly, slowly he began to move faster, and then faster…
And then he stopped.
River let go of me, just like that. Just about the time I’d forgotten who I was, just about the time I’d forgotten we were even two separate people anymore and not just one glowing, quivering, ocean of kissing… he let me go. He stepped back and took a deep breath.”

“I coughed and choked, and drowned on moonlight, which tastes like butter and steel and salt and mist. And then, just like that, just when I thought she was going to kill me, suck the air out of my lungs and make me a ghost too, she lifted her hand, and… faded away.”

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Review: The Museum of Intangible Things

Title: The Museum of Intangible Things
Author: Wendy Wunder
Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin BFYR
Pub Date: April 10, 2014
Genre: YA 
Rec. Age Level: 14+
More by author: The Probability of Miracles

 Picture Me Gone

Hannah and Zoe haven’t been given much in life, except each other, and they don’t have anything particularly wonderful waiting in their future. Unless you count enrolling at the local community college, which they don’t. The only worthwhile tie the girls have to the New Jersey town they grew is Zoe’s autistic brother, who relies on Zoe and Hannah to help him navigate the world and all the intangible things within it he struggles to understand. After climbing out of a dark depression, Zoe bounds into mania, declaring that Hannah might not have the best grip on the intangibles either. Hoping to recover the real Zoe in the midst of her cycles of depression and mania, Hannah agrees to ditch New Jersey and embark on a cross country road trip in search of those difficult to understand but absolutely essential intangibles: Loyalty. Envy. Obligation. Dreams. Disappointment. Fear. Negligence. Coping. Elation. Lust. Nature. Freedom. Heartbreak. Insouciance. Audacity. Gluttony. Belief. God. Karma. Knowing what you want (there is probably a French word for it). Saying Yes. Destiny. Truth. Devotion. Forgiveness. Life. Happiness (ever after).
The Museum of Intangible Things is, at its core, a love story. Not the typical romantic love story (though there is one of those within its pages as well), but the story of the strong and enduring love between two girls who have always been and always will be there for one another. True best friends with a wild streak… Bonnie & Clyde Bonnie. Wendy Wunder gives readers an unforgettable story of two girls who take to the road and commit the occasional crime in an epic quest to ensure the others’ happiness.

Notable Quotes:

“I am a freshwater girl. I live on the lake, and in New Jersey, that’s rare. The girls on the other side of town have swimming pools, and the girls in the south have the seashore. Other girls are dry, breezy, salty, and bleached. I, on the other hand, am dark, grounded, heavy, and wet. Fed by springs, tangled in soft fernlike seaweed, I am closer to the earth. Saturated to the bone. I know it, and so do the freshwater boys, who prefer the taste of salt.”

“I come from a long line of downtrodden women who marry alcoholics. All the way back to my Lenni Lanape great-great-great-(lots of greats) grandmother, Scarlet Bird, a red-haired New Jersey Indian who married William Penn. I know this to be true because of the red highlights in my hair, and because, if you ever see the statue of William Penn in Philadelphia, the one that dictates the height of all the buildings in its perimeter, you will notice, if you look at him from behind, that he and I have the exact same rear end.”

 “My best friend Zoe has a perfect rear end and stick legs, and long, silky black hair. She is obviously not descended from William Penn. There are no dowdy pilgrims in her ancestry. Whereas I am grounded and mired in this place, she’s like milkweed fluff that will take off with the first strong breeze. Stronger than fluff, though. She’s like a bullet just waiting for someone to pull the trigger.”

Review: Vitro

Title: Vitro
Author: Jessica Khoury
Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin
Pub Date: January 14, 2014
Genre: YA
Rec. Age Level: 12+
More by author: Origin

 Picture Me Gone

The author of Origin, Jessica Khoury, takes readers to a new locale and a new scientific experiment with her sophomore novel, Vitro.

Sophie Crue has spent most of her life living with her father in the United States, seeing her mother only a handful of times and only during exotic vacations, but before her parents divorced, they lived on a remote island in the Pacific. Her mother remained on the island after Sophie and her father set off for the States, staying behind to devote her life to making huge, life changing scientific breakthroughs…. or so Sophie always believed. 

After receiving a cryptic message from her mother, Sophie returns to the island and teams up with her childhood friend Jim, the only pilot on the island who will brave flying her to the sinister Skin Island where her mother works. Sophie doesn’t believe in the mysterious fear and whispered stories that keep the islanders from venturing too near Skin Island, but she soon finds out that there’s more truth that dark experiments are being performed on the island and that her mother may be at the center of everything.

Tackling big issues, like nature versus nurture, the myriad of questions associated with creation and science, and the bond between parent and child, Vitro is sure to garner praise from readers looking for depth packaged within a fast-paced story and an exotic locale.

Notable Quotes (aka, And so it begins…):

“I can pay you, I swear. I know it exists! My mom’s worked there for years.” 

“You could and over the key to the national treasury, wouldn’t make a bit of difference. It’s not there, I’m telling you! I’m sorry, miss, but I can’t produce an island out of thin air.” 

She drew a deep breath to steady herself, feeling like a torn flag whipped and battered by a hurricane. “If you can’t help me, then who can? There must be someone local knows the surrounding area.”

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Review: Picture Me Gone

Title: Picture Me Gone
Author: Meg Rosoff
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile/Penguin
Pub Date: October 3, 2013
Genre: MG/YA
Rec. Age Level: 12+ 
More by author: How I Live Now, There Is No Dog, What I Was, Just In Case, The Bride’s Farewell

 Picture Me Gone

Meg Rosoff, as always, delivers a stunning, emotional read with PICTURE ME GONE. 12-year old Londoner, Mila, has accompanied her father, Gil, to New York where is estranged best friend, Matthew, has disappeared. Mila notices things. An observer with a keen eye, she connects small details others dismiss or overlook. She’s puzzled by Matthew’s disappearance, and as she and Gil attempt to unravel the mysteries of Matthew’s life – his motives, his relationships, his guilt – Mila comes to realize big ideas about life, trust, and the things that define who we are. Absolutely brilliant and beautifully written, PICTURE ME GONE is Important with a capital I.
Notable Quotes:

“I would hate to have parents who were always looking over my shoulder, reading my diary, checking my thoughts. I would hate to be exposed. And so, perhaps, when I say I long to be a pane of glass, I am lying. I long for partial obscurity at the same time that I long for someone to know me.

It is confusing and difficult to be me.

Sometimes I I need to cry in order to release the great welling sadness I feel in my head.

For this I need privacy. I do not want anyone to see me and ask why, almost as much as I would like to be comforted.

Somehow, without ever being present, Matthew has exposed all of this, brought it wriggling to the surface like worms. They gather there now, vaguely nostalgic for the dark.” 

“In theory, I would like to lead a transparent life. I wold like my life to be as clear as a new pane of glass, without anything shameful and no dark shadows. I would like that. But if I am completely honest, I have to acknowledge secrets too painful to even tell myself. There are things I consider in the deep dark of night, secret terrors. Why are they secrets? I could easily tell either of my parents how I feel, but what would they say? Don’t worry, darling, we will do our best never to die? We will never ever leave you, never contract cancer or walk in front of a bus or collapse of old age? We will not leave you alone, not ever, to navigate the world and all of its complexities without us?”  

“I will not always be happy, but perhaps, if I’m lucky, I will be spared the agony of adding pain to the world.” 

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Cover Reveal: Embers & Ash by Ted Goeglein

Have you seen the cover of Embers & Ash by Ted Goeglein!? It’s the final installment in the Cold Fury trilogy from Penguin Books, coming in August 2014! This final installment looks just as badass as the first two books. I love these covers. I think they’re a much better fit than the original for the hardcover of Cold Fury. These showcase just how strong and intense Sara Jane is!

More about Embers & Ash

Sara Jane Rispoli is on the wrong side of the Russian mob, but closer to finding her family than ever. And she’s willing to do whatever it takes to finally end this terrible journey even if the price is her own life.

The very cold fury that has seen her through the worst of her troubles is now killing her; she knows the cure, but she can’t sacrifice the deadly electricity until she’s rescued her family. But when she finally does rescue them, it’s not the happy reunion she pictured. And the torment doesn’t stop there, not even when she finally discovers Ultimate Power. Only destroying the Outfit completely can end this terrible nightmare.

Old enemies return to seek vengeance, double-crosses abound, and even more mysteries are uncovered as we rocket toward an end no one saw coming. 

(Book II, FLICKER & BURN, is out now!) You can find out more about Ted and his books here!

Book Trailer: Champion by Marie Lu

Anyone else ridiculously excited for the final book in Marie Lu’s epic Legend series?! November 5th can’t come soon enough! 🙂

More about the book:

He is a Legend.
She is a Prodigy.
Who will be Champion?

June and Day have sacrificed so much for the people of the Republic—and each other—and now their country is on the brink of a new existence. June is back in the good graces of the Republic, working within the government’s elite circles as Princeps Elect while Day has been assigned a high level military position. But neither could have predicted the circumstances that will reunite them once again. Just when a peace treaty is imminent, a plague outbreak causes panic in the Colonies, and war threatens the Republic’s border cities. This new strain of plague is deadlier than ever, and June is the only one who knows the key to her country’s defense. But saving the lives of thousands will mean asking the one she loves to give up everything he has. With heart-pounding action and suspense, Marie Lu’s bestselling trilogy draws to a stunning conclusion.

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