Friday, July 27, 2012

Book Review & Giveaway

Dreamland by Sarah Dessen

Here's what it's about: Rogerson Biscoe, with his green eyes and dark curly hair, is absolutely seductive. Before long, sixteen-year-old Caitlin finds herself under his spell. And when he starts to abuse her, she finds she's in too deep to get herself out...

Dreamland is by no means a fast-pace, can't put down book but it's well written and pulls you in. This is primarily due to Dessen's ability to tap into true to life events. At no time did I feel like I was reading a book but, rather, watching a life slowly unravel. Caitlin has wanted to have some kind of attention her entire life and, instead, all eyes were always on her sister Cass. But when Cass suddenly leaves and Caitlin's on her own, Caitlin doesn't know how to navigate the landscape. In fact, the irony is that at a time when Caitlin could finally be out front in center at school, in front of her parents, and even on her new cheerleading team, she slinks even further back into the shadows. 

Unfortunately this is all too easy to do since there's a continued preoccupation to bring back Cass who has runaway. Caitlin forgoes any and all opportunity to demand attention. In her eyes, Cass' disappearance takes away the person with whom she's always felt tethered and now Caitlin feels more alone than ever. She, like the rest of the family, allows herself to be numbed by this. Caitlin's mother offers opportunities for attention and yet the only attention Caitlin ever pursues is with her new boyfriend Rogerson--an intelligent, lost soul with a dark streak.

I applaud Dessen for tackling such a serious topic. I could relate to Caitlin wanting to both stand out and be noticed by those important to her but also her desire to blend in. I think boyfriends and even friends can often start to reshape a person's life sometimes with--and without--their consent. Caitlin doesn't realize so much that it's happening until she's already in love and already compromising so much of herself. I had not yet read a YA book about intimate partner violence but this is a topic that's incredibly important. I fear if this was released today, at a time of almost overcrowding in the YA market, that it would not have stood out which would have been a shame because this is definitely worth reading.

If you'd like a chance to win it, all you have to do is the following:

1. Be a follower of the blog
2. Email me at Subject line "Sarah Dessen Contest"
3. Extra entries if you 

  • tweet "Check out #bookgiveaway #contest by @SCookRay" and then include a link to the contest
  • Facebook post about the contest
  • write a comment in the comment box
4. Contest ends at 5 pm EST on August 5. Winner will be announced on August 6. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Book Review: Anna and the French Kiss

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Here's what it's about: Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris - until she meets Etienne St. Clair: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home. As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near - misses end with the French kiss Anna - and readers - have long awaited?

The beginning of this book--the transition of Anna to her new Parisian elements--took too long. Perkins could have established Anna at the new school, introduced us to her friends, and grounded her in the world much more succinctly in order to create rising tension from the get go. Perhaps I'm being ruined by reading so many more adventurous (whether it be paranormal, mystery, urban fantasy, etc.) genres lately. But I LOVE contemporary and always have. So I persevered. Plus I'd heard fabulous things about this novel and it's rocking 4.3/5 stars on Good Reads. 

And then it happens. Just like crushes in high school do.  One day there's not much going on and then a tornado sweeps through and we're being carried away. That's what this book does to you, only unlike a tornado you don't see it coming. One day I was starting to grow a little bored with it and then the next I found myself  lying in bed well past my bedtime to find out if FINALLY St. Clair and Anna will get together already!!! 

Once Anna and St. Clair's relationship grows some legs, we're thrown into the "does he or doesn't he like me?" question full force. Perkins perfectly portrays the world of mixed signals, close calls, and the sighs and highs of first love. All in all it's a fun and entertaining read with great food references and splashes of Parisian sights. To make things even more tasty, St. Clair has the seemingly perfect combination of all things: great Hollywood hair, confidence yet also vulnerability, an extensive vocabulary (for us nerds out there), a British accent, and fluent in French. *swoon* Extra huge bonus points too because he gives Anna a book by my absolute favorite poet Pablo Neruda. 

As more and more YA novels seem to portray teen characters acting like adults, this novel felt very authentically high school to me.

What good books have you read lately?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Swagger Song

I am loving this song whether walking from the metro to work, going for a run, or writing about my character entering a new and exciting scene. With the Olympics coming up the video also has a cool story angle to it too.


Monday, July 16, 2012


I'm off on vacation...

Okay, confession: I'm not on this sandy white beach or swimming in the turquoise water or even anywhere remotely close to this exotic vacation. I'm in Upstate New York. Still...when I think "vacation" this is what I think of.

Photos like this have a certain quality to them. You find yourself relaxing just at the thought of being there, just at the image.

My vacation is not quite as exotic. AT ALL. I'm going to my family reunion, followed by a few days of hiking in the mountains.

It will be relaxing though and in an effort to keep it relaxing I'm limiting my Internet activity (or trying to), which means the blog is on vacation this week too. However, I will making it worth the wait.

When I return, I'm posting 3 book reviews and 1 book giveaway! (Can anyone say, "Sarah Dessen"? Hint, hint.) What book you ask? You'll have to return and find out.

In the mean time, what does vacation mean to you?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Book Review: Last Night at Chateau Marmont

Last Night at Chateau Marmont by Lauren Weisberger

Here's what it's about: Brooke loved reading the dishy celebrity gossip rag Last Night. That is, until her marriage became a weekly headline.Brooke was drawn to the soulful, enigmatic Julian Alter the very first time she heard him perform “Hallelujah” at a dark East Village dive bar.Now five years married, Brooke balances two jobs—as a nutritionist at NYU Hospital and as a consultant to an Upper East Side girls’ school, where privilege gone wrong and disordered eating run rampant—in order to help support her husband’s dream of making it in the music world.Things are looking up when after years of playing Manhattan clubs and toiling as an A&R intern, Julian finally gets signed by Sony. Although no one’s promising that the album will ever hit the airwaves, Julian is still dedicated to logging in long hours at the recording studio. All that changes after Julian is asked to perform on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno—and is catapulted to stardom, literally overnight. Amazing opportunities begin popping up almost daily—a new designer wardrobe, a tour with Maroon 5, even a Grammy performance.At first the newfound fame is fun—who wouldn’t want to stay at the Chateau Marmont or visit the set of one of television’s hottest shows? Yet it seems that Brooke’s sweet husband—the man who can’t handle hot showers and wears socks to bed—is increasingly absent, even on those rare nights they’re home together. When rumors about Brooke and Julian swirl in the tabloid magazines, she begins to question the truth of her marriage and is forced to finally come to terms with what she thinks she wants—and what she actually needs.

Weisberger came to fame with The Devil Wears Prada. She's also written Chasing Harry Winston and my favorite, Everyone Worth Knowing. Last Night at Chateu Marmont is an enjoyable read although not my favorite of Weisberger's books. While each of Weisberger's novels are chick lit with a serious twist, this dug deeper than others (which I respect) but muddled there too long for my taste. 

Brooke is a wonderfully relatable character. What's so interesting about this read is that it takes all of the things that Brooke and her husband Julian had wished for each other. She doesn't have to work two jobs to support them. He makes his big break and can finally meet his parents' expectations of him. Money is no longer a worry. Brooke is even an US Weekly gossip mag lover like myself. What they didn't expect is all the stresses that would come when the world is suddenly watching what they thought was a happy marriage--when they, themselves, end up on the very pages they used to watch so fervently. 

Weisberger writes an accurate portrayal of life in the limelight. How publicity to advance Julian's career sometimes feels like its own kind of betrayal. And the problem with living the glamorous beautiful life is that all the glamorous beautiful people are there to tempt you.

You read this novel and realize how fragile relationships are and how we all, in our own special way, crave attention whether it's from a certain few or from the masses. It's important, however, not to forget where you came from and who has been there all the way to support you. My only request of Weisberger would have been to better straddle the balance between a  a relationship unraveling (with the tension, twists, and turns this storyline can provide) and that of a marriage counseling session. 

Still, if you're looking for a summer read, this is still a possible contender. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Great Video

I heard the song, "How Far We've Come" by Matchbox 20 last night on the radio. I had completely forgotten about it and was immediately reminded what a phenomenal song it is and how full it is of meaning. I couldn't find the original music video for it anywhere (though if you can find it, I strongly encourage you to check it out). I did, however, come across this very well done montage geared entirely towards the environment.

It reminded me of how books and their visual covers can be such perfect matches. This video perfectly blends the lyrics with visual images that underscore their meaning. I hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Women's Sports Foundation

Last month marked the anniversary of Title IX. As you most likely know by now, I have a serious love of soccer and, really, any and all sports. I grew up surrounded by older althletic brothers but, still, I'm certain I would have found sports all on my own or, as a friend of mine has said, sports would have found me. Because that's how soccer has been. It's been the one consistent love of my life. In fact, it's been the longest-running relationship I've ever had.

I adore sports especially women's sports as I've seen all the ways it can keep kids out of trouble and, for young girls, the ways it gives them confidence about their abilities, about what's possible with hard work and dedication, and how it helps them escape from society's obsession with unrealistic body ideals. Legs are meant to be strong and sturdy to kick a ball rather than frail and rail like to balance on a pair of heels. For all of these reasons, I adore this brand new commercial brought to us from the Women's Sports Foundation. They say that by the age of 14, girls will abandon sports at twice the rate as boys. Let's help reverse this trend because there's so much that sports can bring to a life. There are lessons about sharing, about team work, about how to win and lose gracefully, how to prove to yourself that you're capable of things you never imaged and YES, how your body is beautiful and it's meant to be strong and taken care of.

I encourage you to share this with the girls and women in your life. Enjoy!