Happy Halloween!

I have never done this before, but I’m about to post a picture of myself in my Halloween costume.  *GASP* A picture of the elusive Belle herself?!

Prepare yourselves.  I dressed up as Katniss for school Friday.

IMG_0065Kind of awesome, right?  My students loved it.  I did have to listen to them whistling Katniss’s tune from the first movie (to which I said, “What are you guys, a bunch of mockingjays?”).  But being the English teacher, I figured I had to dress up as a book character.

I didn’t tell any of my students who I was going to dress up as because I wanted it to be an awesome surprise.  But for one poor boy, it wasn’t so awesome…he dressed up as Peeta from Catching Fire and got made fun of all day long.  (“Have you seen your wife yet?”  “Aren’t you going to say goodbye to your wife?”)  Middle schoolers.  But he had a pretty good attitude about the whole thing.

So I have a question for you guys:

Is anyone else dressing up as a book character for Halloween?  Share in the comments!  I totally need more ideas for next year.  🙂

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Spotlight Friday (141)

Hello my lovely little monsters!  (Um…that’s in honor of Halloween…clearly, I have been spending too much time with my little middle schoolers.)  We are going to look at some AMAZEBALL books today!  And, in the spirit of Halloween, some of them I’m sure are going to be quite creepy.  Enjoy!

Hotel Ruby by Suzanne Young

Release Date: November 3, 2015

Summary (from Goodreads): When Audrey Casella arrives for an unplanned stay at the grand Hotel Ruby, she’s grateful for the detour. Just months after their mother’s death, Audrey and her brother, Daniel, are on their way to live with their grandmother, dumped on the doorstep of a DNA-matched stranger because their father is drowning in his grief.

Audrey and her family only plan to stay the night, but life in the Ruby can be intoxicating, extending their stay as it provides endless distractions—including handsome guest Elias Lange, who sends Audrey’s pulse racing. However, the hotel proves to be as strange as it is beautiful. Nightly fancy affairs in the ballroom are invitation only, and Audrey seems to be the one guest who doesn’t have an invite. Instead, she joins the hotel staff on the rooftop, catching whispers about the hotel’s dark past.

The more Audrey learns about the new people she’s met, the more her curiosity grows. She’s torn in different directions—the pull of her past with its overwhelming loss, the promise of a future that holds little joy, and an in-between life in a place that is so much more than it seems…

Welcome to the Ruby.

What’s To Like: This is bound to be interesting.  It reminds me a little of Infatuate by Aimee Agresti with the creepy yet entirely too elegant hotel setting.  I love the mystery that already seems to surround this book.  And isn’t that cover just so compelling?

Dangerous Lies by Becca Fitzpatrick

Release Date: November 10, 2015

Summary (from Goodreads): Stella Gordon is not her real name. Thunder Basin, Nebraska, is not her real home. This is not her real life.

After witnessing a lethal crime, Stella Gordon is sent to the middle of nowhere for her own safety before she testifies against the man she saw kill her mother’s drug dealer.

But Stella was about to start her senior year with the boyfriend she loves. How can she be pulled away from the only life she knows and expected to start a new one in Nebraska? Stella chafes at her protection and is rude to everyone she meets. She’s not planning on staying long, so why be friendly? Then she meets Chet Falconer and it becomes harder to keep her guard up, even as her guilt about having to lie to him grows.

As Stella starts to feel safer, the real threat to her life increases—because her enemies are actually closer than she thinks…

What’s To Like: If this is anything like Black Ice, then I’m going to be all over this in a snap.  This looks like it’ll have a good amount of suspense as well as probably some action.  We are talking about enemies who are known to kill people…though we are in Nebraska, so who really knows.  (No offense if you come from Nebraska.  Like my “boring” home state, stuff happens here.  No one else knows about it, though.)

thFor the Record by Charlotte Huang

Release Date: November 10, 2015

Summary (from Goodreads): Chelsea thought she knew what being a rock star was like… until she became one. After losing a TV talent show, she slid back into small-town anonymity. But one phone call changed everything.

Now she’s the lead singer of the band Melbourne, performing in sold-out clubs every night and living on a bus with three gorgeous and talented guys. The bummer is that the band barely tolerates her. And when teen heartthrob Lucas Rivers take an interest in her, Chelsea is suddenly famous, bringing Melbourne to the next level—not that they’re happy about that. Her feelings for Beckett, Melbourne’s bassist, are making life even more complicated.

Chelsea only has the summer tour to make the band—and their fans—love her. If she doesn’t, she’ll be back in Michigan for senior year, dying a slow death. The paparazzi, the haters, the grueling schedule… Chelsea believed she could handle it. But what if she can’t?

What’s To Like: Ok, y’all, I am just a sucker for books about musicians.  Male, female, whatever.  But then you throw in what is sure to be an interesting love story, I’m a goner.  Ugh.  I’m already torn between Lucas Rivers and Beckett and I haven’t even read the book yet!

A Mad Zombie Party (White Rabbit Chronicles, #4)

First Lines: I crawl out of bed like I’m one of the walking dead and rub my gritty eyes.  My temples throb, and my mouth tastes like something furry crawled inside, nested, had babies and died.

Let’s just say that when I saw this in the library, it was in my hands before anyone could say “Jabberwocky.”  Did I care that I already had too many books in my hands?  Nope.  This was coming home with me, come zombies or mad hatters.  I had to see this story from Frosty’s perspective.

*Series Spoilers Ahead.  Read on if you dare*

They thought they had won.  Ali Bell, Cole Holland, and their gang of zombie slayers had defeated Anima Industries.  But, as they’ve seen time and again, things that are dead don’t always stay dead.  In the course of that final battle, Frosty lost the one thing he didn’t think he could live without: his girlfriend Kat.  On the path to self-destruction, the only thing that saves him is Kat herself–returned as a ghost with a message.  Kat wants Frosty to partner up with Camilla Marks, the girl whose actions led to Kat’s death.  Frosty will do anything for Kat–except that.  And when Anima returns, it’s going to take all of the slayers to defeat Anima again.

Ooo-hoo-hoo!  This book did not disappoint, let me assure you.  Remember all that stuff you love about Ali and Cole from the previous books?  The awesome zombie fights, the hilarious sarcasm and quips, and the hot and steamy love story?  Yup, it’s all here too!

I really liked seeing things from Frosty’s side this time around.  Not that there was anything wrong with Ali and Cole, but by the end of the 3rd book, their love story is pretty much set.  And I was looking forward to something new.  Frosty’s an interesting character.  Normally, things don’t bother him much, unless that ‘thing’ is anything to do with Kat.  And to watch him change throughout this story…that was awesome.

But the one who really won me over was Camilla.  (The story bounces from her perspective to Frosty’s.)  If Frosty’s haunted by what happened with Anima, Camilla is the one being punished for it all.  She’s been exiled, forgotten, and basically cut off from everyone she thought cared about her.  I had a lot of sympathy for her, especially once I started to understand her motives.  And for everything she’s gone through, she’s got iron in her soul.  She never let on how much things bothered her, even when she felt completely destroyed inside.

The romance is totally what you’re hoping it will be.  It’s electric.  Like, whoa.  If anyone tried to interrupt me while I was reading a good part, they were soundly ignored.  Nobody was going to bother me during one of those supercharged moments.  Nope.

I’m starting to feel like a broken record when it comes to this series, but it’s so cake.  When comes to YA supernatural romance, there are very very few books that can even compete with this series.

The Heartbreakers (The Heartbreaker Chronicles, #1)

First Lines: Cara was clutching the latest edition of People as if it were the Holy Bible.  “If I didn’t have you bring me magazines,” she said, “I’d go stir crazy locked up in this place.”  “I had to fight off some soccer mom for the last copy,” I told her.  And I was serious.

I’m a sucker for books about normal people mixing with celebrities.  I’m really not into the celebrity lifestyle or anything (I hate their reality shows and couldn’t care less about Kim Kardashian), but something about their stories draws me in.  Or it has to do with hot musicians.  You know what?  I’m changing my answer.  I’m a sucker for hot musicians.

Stella will do anything for her sister Cara…even if it means sacrificing her dignity to stand in line for hours waiting for the Heartbreakers (a band she hates) to sign a CD for Cara.  At least while she’s waiting in line she can daydream about the cute boy she met at Starbucks that morning.  Only that daydream turns into a nightmare when she realizes that cute boy is actually Oliver Perry, the lead singer of The Heartbreakers.  Talk about mortifying.  But maybe there’s more to Oliver than his worldly charm and charisma.  Because even after she insults his music, he gives her his number.  What?  Still, Stella doesn’t feel like she can get into a relationship with Oliver…not when her sister may be dying of cancer.

So, a little backstory on this, I guess this was first published on Wattpad before being picked up for actual publication.  Which is pretty cool.

Anywho, I knew going into this book that I was going to get something cute and fun.  Right?  But I started getting really concerned 60-70 pages in when it seemed like it was going to be nothing but fluff and instalove.  I was so heartbroken that it was going to be a disappointment.  (Ha!  Get it?  Heartbroken over the Heartbreakers?  I crack myself up.)  I mean, in that chunk of pages, Stella mostly felt like an idiot for making a moron of herself in front of the band and the boys partaking in wild antics that I’m not even sure real rockstars get into.  (But hey, what do I know about the rockstar lifestyle?  I’m a teacher.  I got to bed before 10:30.)

Mercifully, as the story continued, it was less fluffy.  It took a turn for the more serious.  Cara’s cancer was a big part of that.  The cancer was that dose of realism Stella needed when she got sucked into the whirlwind that was the Heartbreakers.  But Stella also struggles a lot with a few things.  She lets fear run her life.  And the boys are dealing with a lot of problems of their own.

Ok, now the boys really are all adorable.  They do come across as a One Direction style group, though, which was something I wasn’t quite anticipating when the book kept throwing around the word “rockstar”.  But they were funny and charming.  I certainly have my favorite of the bunch (and it wasn’t Oliver), so we’ll have to see if a later book in the series focuses on my favorite.  (cough Alec cough)

I thought the characters were relatable, but it did take me a while to warm up to Stella.  She comes across as harsh and witchy in the beginning, given her hatred of the band.  But when you get past that stuff, she becomes real.  She’s anxious about everything, and she’s got a lot of huge decisions to make.

Overall, you really just have to get past the beginning of this book to like it.  If you can handle that, it gets pretty adorable.  But the beginning is rough at times.

A Thousand Nights

First Lines: Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to my village looking for a wife.  She that he chose of us would be a hero.  She would give the others life.

I saw this at the library and snatched it up, even though I already had too many books in my arms.  I was not leaving this behind.  I love the concept of 1,001 Nights and I really love seeing its retellings.  I see them so rarely and I just eat them up.

When they see the dust clouds on the horizon, they know their time is up.  Ruthless and heartless, their king Lo-Melkhiin has arrived to find a wife.  This is, as everyone knows, a death sentence to the most beautiful girl in the village.  Desperate to save her beautiful sister, a girl takes her sister’s place.  As Lo-Melkhiin takes her back to the qasr (his palace, essentially), she sees everything as though it was the last time.  Night after night, Lo-Melkhiin comes to her.  And day after day, she remains alive.  She begins exploring this merciless ruler…only to find out he wasn’t always like this.  Something went wrong.  Far away, her sister mourns her death.  Her sister’s pain brings a kind of magic to her.  As that power grows, she begins to wonder if she can save the kingdom…and all the girls who could soon be in her place.

Let’s start with the positives.  Our narrator (who really doesn’t have a name at all) is definitely clever enough and strong enough to be a good protagonist.  She carries the story well.

And I love that it’s a diverse story.  It’s so fascinating to read about a life and customs that are so unlike your own.  I don’t understand why it’s taken this long to really bring these stories to light when other cultures are full of strong men and women too.  They have stories just like we do.  We need to be telling those stories.  Ok, I’m getting off my soapbox.

And, weirdly, Lo-Melkhiin felt like the kind of evil villain you sort of like.  Like in one of those “love to hate them” ways.  That was…interesting.

But I did have a lot of issues with this book.  For starters, it feels really bogged down, especially in about the 2nd quarter of the book.  (Not quite the beginning, but not quite the middle of the book either.)  It wasn’t quite clicking.

It wasn’t quite what I was expecting either.  Perhaps I look at this story in too much of a romantic light.  (I saw another review that pointed out how sexist the original story is: a girl who can prove she is clever is “rewarded” by getting to marry a murderer.  Touche.)  But I truly did expect this to be a lot like the original story and…it wasn’t.  It throws in elements of magic and it strays from the source material.  (The narrator isn’t really a storyteller.  She tells stories…but now like she does in the original story.)  So some of my rating comes from my disappointment in that regard.

To be fair, I do want to comment that this is meant to be a thought-provoking read, I think.  I think this story wants you to think.  It wants to show you that women have a strength that men don’t always understand and tend to underestimate.  It wants to show you different types of power: power that comes from fear and power that comes from love.

I just thought I’d be getting something more…romantic with this book.  This goes back to my expectations not quite being met.

Overall, it’s an interesting story, but it and my expectations were no sympatico and therefore I didn’t enjoy it as much as I could have.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth (The Forest of Hands and Teeth, #1)

First Lines: My mother used to tell me about the ocean.  She said there was a place where there was nothing but water as far as you could see and that it was always moving, rushing toward you and then away.

I bought this ages ago and just never got around to reading it until I needed the shelf space.  (Certain books, if I buy them to take to school, will stay home with me until I’ve had a chance to read them first.)  And since it’s nearly Halloween, zombies were totally on my must-read list.  What’s Halloween without zombies?

Mary has lived by simple truths her whole life.  The Sisterhood always knows what is best for the village.  The Guardians are there to protect them.  The Unconsecrated will never stop coming until there is no one left.  And, most importantly, never ever get too close to the fence separating the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth.  But then Mary starts learning that some of these truths aren’t what she thought they were.  Maybe the Sisterhood is hiding dangerous secrets.  Maybe the Guardians don’t always protect them.  Maybe there’s something beyond the fence.  When the Unconsecrated breach the fence and threaten everything Mary thought she knew, she’s going to have to make some new truths for herself…and fast.

I will say this for it: if you’re looking for a story with a happy ending, this is not it.  Every time you started to hope for something happy, the plot went and crushed your hopes.  Every time.  So that, at least, felt how I would expect a post-apocalyptic world to go.

But for most of the book, I was massively conflicted.  Let me try to explain.

My thoughts on the world Mary lives in: While I found the world itself interesting, there were times I didn’t think it was described enough for me to get a full understanding of where she lived and her customs.  I just had so many questions.  Like, how small is this village?  If it’s as small as it sounds, how are they not all related by this point?  (It’s a valid question!)

My thoughts on the characters: I tended to like the characters, but there was usually a serious mismatch between what Mary perceived (and, therefore, us) and what others told Mary was actually going on. For example, it seemed to me that Mary was a bit of a loner. At the beginning of the story, no one cares enough about her to save her from the Sisterhood. And yet later in the story, we hear all kinds of characters talking about how everyone cares about Mary. Um…what? Because this isn’t matching up.

But, like I said, I did tend to like the characters…sort of. I understood Mary’s determination to find the ocean. She saw her village failing before anyone else did, so she was smart. But she was also kind of annoying at times. And, as seems to be my MO of late, I picked the wrong team again. Sigh. It makes the book so much less enjoyable when you’re rooting for the underdog and it never happens.

The zombies were cool, though again, I had a lot of questions. (When don’t I, it seems.)

Just let me add that for all of this complaining I’m doing, I was constantly trying to get back to my book to read.  It was suspenseful and action-packed.  Hello, we’re chopping off zombie heads with axes.  There’s action.

Overall, it’s great on action, but I thought the characters and the world could have used a bit more building to make this a really awesome story.

The Haunting of Sunshine Girl

First Lines: “Mom, the house is creepy.”  We’re only halfway up the gravel driveway to our new home, and I can already tell.

I spotted this in Barnes & Noble a while ago and it caught my attention because A) it’s a ghost story and I do enjoy getting mildly creeped out come October and B) this was a book based on a Youtube show.  I’d never seen that before, and I thought that was interesting.

Weird things are happening in Sunshine’s new home in Ridgemont, Washington.  She hears footsteps coming from the floor above her.  She feels cold constantly.  And every now and then, she hears the voice of a little girl that can’t just be explained away.  But the more weird stuff Sunshine notices, the less her mom believes her.  Confused and scared, Sunshine turns to new friend Nolan for help.  Can Nolan help her find out who the ghost is and what they want? Or will the ghost become too dangerous for Sunshine to stop?

Alright.  So, I will say that this was sufficiently creepy at times.  I read the first chapter right before I went to bed one night, and it had some major creepiness going on.  I was like, “Great.  Why did I decide to start this book right now?”

And it definitely has an interesting plot.  I mean, the more Sunshine discovers about the ghost in her house, the less her mom believes anything Sunshine has to say on the topic.  Isolated, Sunshine has to turn to Nolan for help and advice.  And from there, things get even more interesting.  I would never have guessed it would take the twist it did.

Granted, there were some places in the story that could have used some more explanation.  I don’t want to call them plot-holes because that’s not really what it is, but it’s just that some places…lacked all the information I needed to truly understand the story.

Even with all of this, I was missing something from this story.  I never really connected with Sunshine.  I mean, I related to her.  A lover of vintage, Sunshine never misses a chance to feel like she comes from a bygone era.  Bookish Nolan was also easy for me to relate to.  But I never really felt emotionally invested in their story.  I wish I could pin down exactly where/how this happened, but I can’t.  Just generally throughout the story, I couldn’t quite feel like I cared enough to make it personal.

Overall, it’s got enough of a ghost/horror story angle to be creepy and spooky, but I wanted more from the characters.