September 28, 2013

Review: The Boy on the Bridge

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The Boy on the Bridge by Natalie Standiford
Grade: B-
Provided by NetGalley and Scholastic Press in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: Laura Reid goes to Leningrad for a semester abroad as Cold War paranoia is peaking in 1982. She meets a young Russian artist named Alexei and soon, with Alexei as her guide, Laura immerses herself in the real Russia--a crazy world of wild parties, black-market books and music, and smuggled letters to dissidents. She must keep the relationship secret; associating with Americans is dangerous for Alexei, and if caught, Laura could be sent home and Alexei put under surveillance or worse. At the same time, she's been warned that Soviets often latch onto Americans in hopes of marrying them and thus escaping to the United States. But she knows Alexei loves her. Right?

As June approaches--when Laura must return to the United States--Alexei asks Laura to marry him. She's only nineteen and doesn't think she's ready to settle down. But what if Alexei is the love of her life? How can she leave him behind? If she has a chance to change his life, to rescue him from misery, shouldn't she take it?

The Good: Laura was an...interesting character, to put it mildly.  She intrigued me with her interest in Russia, which was very unique.  Its setting is unique, too.  Cold War era Russia, for goodness' sake!  I can't think of too many YA novels set there.  The POV worked well (third person focused on Laura), so I constantly questioned Alyosha's motives.  If the POV had flip-flopped between the two, I don't think I would've found this book to be as good.  Without spoiling too much, I found the ending to be oddly satisfying.  I'm sure some readers will hate it, but I enjoyed its ambiguity.  Roma and Karen were my favorite supporting characters.  I liked Laura's hastily-written essays and the poetry.

The Bad: The summary was just a wee bit misleading.  Alexei rarely goes by Alexei - he goes by Alyosha, for some reason.  I'm not sure how I felt about the romance.  It was a bit cliche at moments, and it bothered me how Laura kept calling it "love."  Also, Olga bothered the heck out of me (as I'm sure she was supposed to).  But still.

The Ugly: Mentions of sex and drugs.  A fair amount of drinking, although it's technically not illegal for some of the characters.  There's a scene revolving around the use of an Ouija board.

The Verdict: Overall, a good read.  The Russian culture was an excellent background.  If you can get past or aren't bothered by the cliche almost insta-love, then you'd probably like The Boy on the Bridge.

September 27, 2013

Random Fridays: Fictional Worlds I'd Like to Visit


I'd love to have you participate in Random Fridays, too!  Just do the following:
  • Include the above image in your post and give credit to me and my blog.
  • Blog about this week's topic.
  • Add the link to your Random Friday at the bottom of this post.


I was recently thinking about which fictional worlds I'd love to experience and why.  So this is your chance to do the same.  Just choose a few TV/movie/book worlds and say why you'd love to visit them.

1. Movie- The Princess Diaries
And all because of moments like this:



2. Book- The Mother-Daughter Book Club series by Heather Vogel Frederick
I have this feeling that the five girls would be real kindred spirits, and I'd love to be best friends with them.  Plus, hello, books.

3. TV- Switched at Birth
I love ASL, and how cool would it be to be part of the Kennish-Vasquez family?  Plus, there's fun moments like this.

Gotta love ASL.


4. Book- Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace
Betsy and her Crowd would be awesome friends, too.  I love how they obsessed over the latest trends and latest slang.  If they caught up quickly, they'd fit right in now.

5. Movie- Beauty and the Beast
Not sure which I'd rather have more: the prince or the library at his castle.




6. Book- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Solely for the fashion.  Okay, and Mr. Darcy.

7. Book/Movie- The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
That's the type of fantastic adventure I'd enjoy.




September 26, 2013

Cover Love #6

Cover Love

So it's another Cover Love, and I have two lovely covers I must share immediately!

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Calling Anna and Bennett’s romance long distance is an understatement: she’s from 1995 Chicago and he’s a time traveler from 2012 San Francisco. The two of them never should have met, but they did. They fell in love, even though they knew they shouldn't. And they found a way to stay together, against all odds. 

It’s not a perfect arrangement, though, with Bennett unable to stay in the past for more than brief visits, skipping out on big chunks of his present in order to be with Anna in hers. They each are confident that they’ll find a way to make things work...until Bennett witnesses a single event he never should have seen (and certainly never expected to). Will the decisions he makes from that point on cement a future he doesn't want?


Isn't it bee-yoo-tee-ful?  I love how Anna's position on this cover is opposite that of Time Between Us, and I positively adore the colors.  The feel is perfect, and I'm really drawn into the story.  It's fascinating how Bennett is just a bit closer and clearer than on the previous book's cover.  The repetition of the light flare effect is perfect, as it really connects the two books.  October 8th can't come soon enough!


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The cover of The One just released today, and I can't stop fangirling.  It's so beautiful!  I love how the covers have been blue, red, and white, which echoes America's name and the implications of freedom behind it.  I also think it's cool how it appears to be a bridal dress but we still have no clue which boy she'll choose.  So exciting!  But now we have to wait until May... The wait is almost as unbearable as the one for Cress.  Almost.

September 24, 2013

For All the Gallagher Girls

Last night was quite possibly one of the best nights of my life.  I got to meet Ally Carter.  She is amazing in so many ways.  She's hilarious, entertaining, beautiful, nice, and just amazing.  There were people in line who'd brought their whole collection of her books, and she didn't complain even once about signing all of them, although her hand is surely aching by now. (I personally brought Heist Society and Uncommon Criminals, along with buying United We Spy from the store.)




She answered tons of questions.  Inevitably, someone asked her for her advice about writing, and that answer was totally my favorite.

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I asked her about Embassy Row, and she told us some fun stuff I hadn't heard on Twitter.  I'm really excited for her new series.  It sounds spectacular.  By the way, there are downsides to following Ally on Twitter because I already knew the answers to three-fourths of the questions people came up with.

Kate and I were numbers 44 and 45, so we had to wait a bit to get our books signed.  I didn't mind at all, especially because we got Gallagher Girl notebooks.  There were only 15 of them, and if we hadn't been standing where we were, we wouldn't have gotten them. (I think that notebook is going to be my new writer's notebook, just saying.)

When I finally got up to the table, I told Ally her dress was pretty (it seriously was) and gave her the card I'd made.  I told her I'm a writer, albeit unpublished, and she asked me a couple questions.  Then we posed for a picture. (Kate's mom actually took several.)


The way we're looking at each other in this one is awesome.


You can see how excited I was, just by my profile.  I was meeting Ally Carter, for goodness' sake.

I'm still sort of in disbelief that last night happened.  I hope I can meet Ally again at a future signing (for Embassy Row, maybe?).

September 20, 2013

Random Fridays: Disney Songs


Do you want to participate in Random Fridays?  Awesome!  Just do the following.
  • Include the above image in your post.
  • Link to my blog in your post.
  • Add the link to your Random Friday at the bottom of this post.


So if you don't know me well, I love Disney and Disney songs are totally my jam.  When I clean my room, I'll listen to my Disney playlist and dramatically act out the songs. (Kate can testify to this.) So below are my favorites.

1. "Belle" from Beauty and the Beast
Y'all had to know Beauty and the Beast would top my list.  It's my favorite Disney movie, after all.  When I was, like, six, I perfected the art of reading while walking because I wanted to be like Belle.



2. "Kiss the Girl" from The Little Mermaid
Yeah, I just like this song. :)



3. "Little April Shower" from Bambi
Some of the best writing music ever, I swear.



4. "Go the Distance" from Hercules
Another great song to write to. :)



5. "Be Our Guest" from Beauty and the Beast
I am dying to go to the Be Our Guest restaurant and "try the gray stuff," but this song is just spectacular in general.



6. "Reflection" from Mulan
What makes this song so awesome: Lea Salonga.  She provided Mulan's singing voice (and Jasmine's, too).



7. "I See the Light" from Tangled
I think, without the art direction, this song is nothing.  Listening to it on YouTube is nothing compared to seeing the scene in the movie.



8. "So Close" from Enchanted
Makes me happy and sad at the same time.




9. "I Won't Say I'm In Love" from Hercules
How many girls (or guys) are like this? 

"My head is screaming 'Get a grip, girl.'" :)



10. "A Whole New World" from Aladdin
Lea Salonga again. :)



11. "Colors of the Wind" from Pocahontas
This is one of the songs I dramatically act out.



12. "Ev'rybody Wants to Be a Cat" from The Aristocats
Mmm-mmm. (If you want to jump to where the vocals start, jump to 1:30 in the video.)



13. "So This Is Love" from Cinderella
I'm ending this week's Random Friday with a beautiful song.  Ilene Woods has one of the best Disney Princess voices out there (along with Mary Costa and Lea Salonga).



Also, there's been a change to next week's theme, so make sure you check the Random Fridays page.

September 19, 2013

Review: Going Vintage

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Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt
Grade: A-
Summary: When Mallory’s boyfriend, Jeremy, cheats on her with an online girlfriend, Mallory decides the best way to de-Jeremy her life is to de-modernize things too. Inspired by a list of goals her grandmother made in1962, Mallory swears off technology and returns to a simpler time (when boyfriends couldn’t cheat with computer avatars). The List:
1. Run for pep club secretary
2. Host a fancy dinner party/soiree
3. Sew a dress for Homecoming
4. Find a steady
5. Do something dangerous
But simple proves to be crazy-complicated, and the details of the past begin to change Mallory’s present. Add in a too-busy grandmother, a sassy sister, and the cute pep-club president–who just happens to be her ex’s cousin–and soon Mallory begins to wonder if going vintage is going too far.

The Good: I love the whole premise of the book.  Vintage and retro are two of my favorite things.  It was so much fun hearing about all the stuff from the 1960s.  Mallory was an awesome character with an awesome name (seriously, how many Mallorys have you heard of?).  The idea of following her grandmother's list was cute.  Oliver was a great character, too.  Sometimes a bit too perfect, but he could've been a total jerk like Jeremy, so too perfect isn't so awful on second thought.  His eventual relationship with Mallory develops well.  It's based a lot on their conversations, and I think that's cute and how it should be.  I think Going Vintage was also a real eye-opener about how much we use technology.  Mallory pretty much quits cold turkey, and so she loses touch with her friends, can't work on a school assignment, can't even look up information at a library, etc.  There's a huge part about Mallory's grandmother that left me completely shocked, although in rereading the book, I caught little hints of it coming.  I loved that whole plot point.  Most people fantasize about how perfect the 1950s and 60s were (me included), and they weren't as amazing as we make them out to be.  Mallory's grandma's storyline displayed that in a great, realistic way.  Finally, I quite enjoyed Mallory's lists and how they started chapters and ended the book.

The Bad: The beginning was a bit shaky.  Ginnie, Mallory's sister, really annoyed me.  Her choices, her personality...that girl was just frustrating.  So was their mother, frankly.  There's a major spoiler about her and she got off a bit too easy in the end.

The Ugly: A bit of language, all PG-13 or TV-14 levels.  Mentions of sex, but all in sort of classy ways.  Mentions of drugs, although I don't believe the main characters ever did them.

The Verdict: Yeah, the book is a bit of a fluff read, but it's great!  Not everything we read has to be deep and cause us to think.  And actually, Going Vintage IS thought-provoking.  So it's a must-read. :)

September 17, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on my Fall TBR List


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United We Spy by Ally Carter-9/17/13
It's out today!!!  Except, it's a week until I'll read it.  I have to wait to buy it until I go to the signing in Naperville.  And I'm going to meet Ally Carter.  Oh. My. Word. That's still sinking in.  I'm going to meet the Ally Carter.

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Time After Time by Tamara Ireland Stone-10/8/13
Another sequel I'm looking forward to.  Tamara Ireland Stone creates beautiful prose, and I'm excited to see where Anna and Bennett's story goes next.

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House of Hades by Rick Riordan-10/8/13
We've been left on a literal cliffhanger for a year.  I've waited long enough. :P

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The Captive Maiden by Melanie Dickerson-10/22/13
Cinderella mixed with Ivanhoe.  An historical retelling of a fairytale with Christianity beautifully woven in so it's not cliche.  I just hope the release date doesn't get pushed back, like The Fairest Beauty's was.

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Allegiant by Veronica Roth-10/22/13
I'm just glad I was late to the Divergent fandom so my wait hasn't been as long.  But in the few short months since I read Insurgent, I've been dying.  That cliffhanger...I feel like it's driving me crazy!

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The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes-11/5/13
I think I heard about this book on Twitter, and I've anxiously been awaiting it, in hopes that it'll be good.

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Relic by Heather Terrell-10/29/13
Okay, technically, I've already read this, but I need to reread it again before I review it.  But I was definitely looking forward to reading it, and I wasn't disappointed.  My only complaint at the moment-the synopsis says it's for fans of Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games.  I hate it when synopses do that.


4 to 16 Characters by Kelly Hourihan-11/7/13
I found this book on NetGalley, and I've already sent it to my Kindle app.  The whole concept has me intrigued (although the cover is a bit lacking), so I hope it's as good as it seems.  It's definitely a book I want to give a try.

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Seraphina by Rachel Hartman - already released
So I've heard good things about Seraphina.  It's in my stack of library books at home, and I plan to read it soon!

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The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau - already released
I saw The Testing on the shelf at my local bookstore and decided to give it a try.  It, too, is in my library stack, so hopefully I'll get to it soon, in between all the new books, all the other library books, the ARCs, and the 5 million rereads.

September 16, 2013

Review: Twigs

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Twigs by Alison Ashley Formento
Grade: C
Expected Publication Date: September 18, 2013
Provided by NetGalley and F+W/Adams Media in exchange for an honest review
Summary: One pint-sized girl. Ten supersized crises. And it’s high noon.

They call her “Twigs,” because she’ll never hit five feet tall. Although she was born early, and a stiff breeze could knock her over, Twigs has a mighty spirit. She needs it, as life throws a whole bucket of rotten luck at her: Dad’s an absentee drunk; Mom’s obsessed with her new deaf boyfriend (and Twigs can’t tell what they’re saying to each other). Little sister Marlee is trying to date her way through the entire high school; Twigs’ true love may be a long-distance loser after a single week away at college, and suddenly, older brother Matt is missing in Iraq. It all comes together when a couple of thugs in a drugstore aisle lash out, and Twigs must fight to save the life of the father who denied her.


The Good: There's a lot packed into that summary.  So I had high hopes for this book, especially when I can relate to Twigs on the height spectrum.  Twigs was a good character to begin with, but I think she needed more growth.  The good news is, Ms. Formento created a fairly realistic tale.  Nothing was too out of the ordinary.  There was so much tragedy, that I found myself rooting for Twigs the whole way through.  The book ended on a high note.  I did like some of the conclusion.

The Bad: Things got just a little too weird.  At moments, this book felt like a bad soap opera.  There were too many wacky personalities and too much drama.  And the book just wasn't memorable.  If someone asked me to recommend a book I recently read, it unfortunately wouldn't be Twigs.  There isn't too much about it that I liked.

The Ugly: Lots of swearing.  Talk of sex.  Underage drinking.

The Verdict: Unfortunately, it's not something I'd recommend.  If the amount of plot elements had been cut, I think Twigs might've been much more enjoyable.

September 15, 2013

FAQs as a Writer

Back in June, I had a similar post, and I'm going to recopy some of those questions and answers here.  I have well-meaning, but nosy, family and friends, and I have to answer these questions too often.

Am I in your book?
Maybe.  If a book is ever published and you're in it, you're likely to recognize yourself.

No, seriously, am I in your book?
Uh, once again, maybe.  I don't like revealing if there's a character based off of someone unless it's my choice.  People like to try and influence what their character is like, change scenes, ask for their character to do awesome things, etc.

Could you not kill the character based off of me, if there is one?
Yeah, of course!
Your character's chance of dying just went up 50%.

Can my character have a better death scene/do something awesome/be the main character/be a fairy/etc?
People are obsessed with their characters, seriously!
I have predetermined ideas from when I start writing a book and ideas that come to me as I write.  It's unlikely that I'll ever use unsolicited suggestions.

What's your book about?
This answer really varies, based on who is asking.  Close friends usually get to know the main synopsis.  My mom gets to know some things, too.  But otherwise my standard answer is: "It's about this person who does something interesting and there's a conflict and it's a book."  Like I said in my June post, I've discovered telling people everything about my WIPs (Works In Progress), I lose the ability to finish the book.  And I worry about plagiarism a lot.

What type of books do you write?
Mostly contemporary fiction.  I sometimes write fantasy or futuristic/dystopian.

Why aren't you published/trying to get published?
There's a long process to even trying to get published.  First you have to write the book.  Then you have to edit it and cry.  Then edit and cry some more.  Finally, a writer will deem their book satisfactory enough to query agents.  That can take ages.  You have to find the right agent and have the right book.  Then they'll sub it for you to editors.  And once again, it's a case of the right editor and the right book.  Besides, I'm young.  Although I'd LOVE to be published now, I still have growing to do as a writer.

Can I read your book?
I seriously just let my mom read my book I'm hoping to query soon.  I wrote it ten months ago.  It took me six months to let any of my friends read it.  I choose who and when.

So when's the movie?  Can I be in it?
Well since I haven't been published yet, there's not even a chance of a movie deal.  And if there ever is, I won't control who's cast.

Why don't you write a book like Harry Potter?
You mean a book about a school of wizards, or a book that has the success of Harry Potter?
A) Wizards aren't my thing.
B) I'd love to write a book that is a huge success!  But I'm not the one who determines that.  Ultimately, readers decide if a book is a success.  A publishing house that believes in your book enough to do tons of promotion helps, too.

Bonus: You're majoring in creative writing?  That'll get you nowhere.  Major in engineering or English education and write in your spare time.
Excuse me while I go kill a whole village.
.....
Okay, so now that's done and I've gotten my anger out...
What I want to do with my life: write.  And edit.  My dream job consist of being an author and working in a publishing house, preferably as an editor or copy-editor.  I DON'T WANT TO BE AN ENGINEER (seriously, I'm sure people who know me well laugh at the thought of Emma as an engineer) OR A TEACHER OR ANYTHING ELSE.  Well, except a wife and mom.  But that's different.
As for majoring in creative writing, my parents and I have actually discussed majoring in journalism or general writing or anything along those lines.  But ultimately, the courses required just don't fit my strengths.  I've been accepted to the college I want to go to.  I'll major in creative writing and minor in journalism and digital storytelling, which will provide me with all the courses I'll need.  Please don't tell me that being creative will get me nowhere.  If you do, I'll bet you hate puppies.

All right, Irritable Emma is going to go write an angst-filled novel now, just to get all the frustrations of these questions out.

September 14, 2013

Review: Matched

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Matched by Ally Condie
Grade: A-
Summary: Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate... until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

The Good: Some of the best world-building I've ever seen.  Ally Condie created her dystopian society artfully.  She didn't info-dump and left a lot to be discovered.  She might've given us a tad more information, but that didn't distract from the plot.  I love the way the Society controls everything.  I mean, it's bad, but it's intriguing and thought-provoking.  This was one of those dystopian books that really made me think.  It's amazing how people will so willingly go along with great amounts of control.  The plot needed a little more substance in this book (I feel the first book in a trilogy needs to have its own plot resolved while contributing to the main storyline that continues into the second and third books), but overall it was good.

The Bad: The characters were a bit shaky.  I think Cassia needed a more obvious flaw or two.  Xander fell a bit flat, and I wanted more from him.  And of course there's that darn love triangle.  I think the book might've been a bit more interesting, had Cassia loved only Ky but was pretty much destined to end up with Xander.

The Ugly: I'm having some trouble remembering, but I know the language was fairly tame.  Romance, too.

The Verdict: If you haven't yet read Matched (I was late to the game; I always am), you must give it a try!

September 13, 2013

Random Friday: Hairstyles


Rules:
  • Include the above image in your post.
  • Link to my blog in your post.
  • Add the link to your Random Friday at the bottom of this post.
  • Have fun. :)


So I really love hearting pretty hairstyles on We Heart It, and I chose my 8 favorites to share with you. :)










So what's your favorite of my picks?  It's going to be interesting to see what everyone else chooses.

September 11, 2013

WWW Wednesdays

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Hosted by Should Be Reading.

So I have 3 questions to answer, and if you want to play along, you do, too!

What are you currently reading? I'm currently rereading The Elite by Kiera Cass.
What did you read last? Twigs by Alison Ashley Formento
What do I plan to read next? Likely Wither by Lauren DeStefano or one of the books I need to review (NetGalley or an ARC from my local indie bookseller)

By the way, today is the 12th anniversary of 9/11, so let's all take a moment to remember those who lost their lives.

September 10, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I'd Love to See as a Movie and Teaser Tuesday


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1. The Mother-Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Frederick
There's a reason I'm working on a screenplay for it... Now I just need to find a production company who's willing to buy the rights and use my script.

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2. Heist Society by Ally Carter
And, yeah, I know there are people currently working on the adaptation.  But I really want a GOOD movie of Heist Society.

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3. Cinder by Marissa Meyer
How insanely awesome would this movie be?  The fairytale aspect would pull a female audience, and if they showcased it right, the futuristic and sci-fi elements could attract guys.

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4. Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George
It's one of the best-written fantasies I've read, and I think they could do a lot with a movie version.  King Under Stone and his world would look insanely awesome on a big screen.

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5. The 39 Clues series
It has the potential to be a blockbuster film series.  What would be best, though, is if they combine 1 or 2 books into one movie.  And I'd just want them to do the first series.  The second series is good, but I think it gets just a tad too unrealistic and melodramatic.

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6. Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
'Nuff said.

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7. Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace
This is the second week Betsy-Tacy has ended up on my TTT list!  I'd absolutely love to see them made into movies, even just the high school books, Betsy and the Great World, and Betsy and Joe.

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8. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
If you didn't read this book in your childhood, you need to read it.  And someone needs to make a movie.

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9. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Basically, everything I said about Mixed-Up Files applies to this book, too.  Including that you should read it.

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10. Divergent by Veronica Roth
I'm kind of cheating with this book, since there is a movie of it.  It's going to be a long wait until March 2014, though, and I'm very excited!


Hosted by Should Be Reading.

Technically this is a re-read, but whatever. ;P

"'Not a lot of people know we're in the palace in the first place, just a few of the cooks I work with, one of the nurses, and Maxon.  I don't even think the guards know because they have to answer to the king, and he wouldn't be pleased to find out."
-page 194, The Elite by Kiera Cass

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