Monday, May 27, 2013

Sunday Sunshine: Long Weekend Edition!

Don't forget to enter my Darkest Minds giveaway, to win a signed book and some awesome swag!

Whoops!  Yesterday was Sunday--but since neither I nor Mr. S had to work today, I totally forgot that fact.

I hope those of you who had long weekends enjoyed them as much as we did!  Central to our weekend were the new episodes of Arrested Development that hit Netflix very early Sunday morning.  Arrested was a huge part of my college experience--I watched the first few episodes in my freshman dorm's common room surrounded by people I was just getting to know; I caught up on the first and second season with Mr. S when we were first dating; once he graduated, I got all my friends hooked on it so I would have someone to watch Season Three with (and then mourn with when it was canceled.)  It's kind of surreal to be 27, married nearly four years, and suddenly watching new episodes.  But I'm loving it!  I will say that if this was college, we would have stayed up to watch them starting at 3am Eastern Time, when they went live, and probably polished off all 15 episodes in a day.  As it is, we watched most of them over the last two days, but with breaks for things like going outside, grocery shopping, and sleeping.  We still have a few left to look forward to after work tomorrow, though.

We also did plenty of other summer-weekend things, though: hit TWO different farmers' markets, went board-game shopping (and played both of our purchases: Agricola and Small World.  It's hard to find good board games that you can play with two people, actually; these both pass the test), hit up the Trader Joe's in Rochester (and, on a related note, ate WAY too much junk food, but made some delicious salads to balance that out), took walks.  In short: this was basically the perfect weekend.  So I can only be so mad at myself for forgetting to blog.

I'm already knee-deep in this week's SUPER-EXCITING reading--Netgalley hooked me up with Rose Under Fire, Elizabeth Wein's highly-anticipated companion novel to Code Name Verity.  I am so, so happy to get to read this one early, although I can tell you I'm already pretty sure I'll be asking for a real copy as a birthday present (what with the September release date and all.  So convenient.)

But that's for next week!

What I Read This Week:

Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles, #2)Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let me start by saying: I'm not great with change. So picking up a Book Two and finding that my beloved protagonist takes her time in getting to the page is always a struggle for me. But if Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy has taught me anything, it's to push through and give the new character a chance. So, thanks, Philip Pullman, because Scarlet (the character, as well as the book) definitely deserves a chance.

This is a tricky book to write about, because the twists and turns of the plot are so much of what make it delightful. Marissa Meyer certainly knows her stuff where story is concerned. This was evident in Cinder, but while I saw a lot of things in that book coming, Scarlet was the exact opposite. It's not that they weren't set up well, because they were--but the pieces didn't click into place for me as quickly. I'm kind of weird in that I actually like books where I can solve the clues ahead of the reveals, but the reveals in Scarlet were good enough that I didn't mind. (YMMV in that respect; you may like guessing plot twists and big reveals or not and you may guess these ones or not, but that was one big difference between the two books for me.)

And as I've said, I did warm up to Scarlet and Wolf. The tension between them felt real, the stakes were high, and the obstacles in their path seemed insurmountable. Nevertheless, I was glad when their story finally intersected with Cinder's. Cinder also picked up a new companion in this book, the supremely irritating (in a good way!) Captain Thorne. I couldn't help but picture a combination of Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice (or, let's be real, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries) and Zapp Brannigan from Futurama. We do hear plenty about his excessive charm and good looks...but we hear it all from him. I really kind of loved him by the end, and in a fairly grim book he was a welcome streak of comic relief.

Scarlet also sees the return of my two very favorite characters from Cinder: Iko and Kai. I can only say that I wish there was more of both, but what we do see is pretty great. Oh, Kai, I just want to give you a hug. This is a fairytale it has to end with happily ever after. Right? RIGHT?

I'm really looking forward to Cress, the next installment in the series. If you haven't checked out the Lunar Chronicles yet, I recommend it for fans of romance, sci-fi, fantasy, action...this series has a lot going on and pulls it all together in style.

Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) StepsAdulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps by Kelly Williams Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kelly Williams Brown, creator of the "Adulting" Tumblr, has turned her collected wisdom into a book that I want to go around handing out at college graduations. What I like about her book (and the Tumblr before it) is its combination of humility, grace, and decency. Williams writes from a place of, "I may not be awesome at this yet, but I think I know what I should be doing, and I'd like to share that with you, because it can be confusing/difficult/weird." As someone just about Williams's age, I appreciate that tone.

As I went through the different sections of the book, I had two main reactions. One was, "Hey--I do that! Good for me, and good for Kelly Williams Brown for explaining it so well." The other was, "Wow, that's definitely a thing I should do." Her flowcharts, doodles, and jokes make the book an enjoyable reading experience, and even if you feel like you're doing pretty ok at this adulting business, chances are you'll find something in here to enlighten you. At the very least, this is a good reminder of the important things in life: get your oil changed, call your grandma if she's still around, and know when to "drop the banana" during a fight (in other words: be the first one to end the hostilities.)

As the title pretty strongly implies, there is some, uh, adult content, both in language and content. But if you're ok with a book that discusses mature relationships and drops the occasional f-bomb, I highly recommend this (either for you, or as a gift to a recent college grad/young adult in your life.)

This Is What Happy Looks LikeThis Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Have you ever read a book that makes you smile? Not like, aww, that's funny, but not funny enough to laugh. Like, oh my god, my face hurts because I am having an intense and involuntary spasm of all my smile muscles and it won't go away. Like, I may or may not be squeaking with joy because I can't smile big enough to express how cute this is. That kind of smiling?

I'm actually pretty glad I read this book at home (in like...three sittings--could have been one but I didn't want it to end, so I took breaks.) Because for sure, I looked pretty goofy reading it.

Ellie O'Neill is a small-town girl (living in a lonely world) (sorry) (I'm not sorry) who just wants to blend into her seaside town as if she was born there. The few years of her life before she arrived in Maine feel like something out of someone else's life; her life is here in Henley with her mom, her beagle (named Bagel), and her best friend Quinn. Out of the blue, someone new comes into her life. All she knows about him is is mysterious email address (a teenager who still uses Yahoo! for email? What more could Ellie and her Hotmail account hope for?) but as they exchange anonymous messages, she feels her world expanding to include one more.

When Graham Larkin arrives in Henley, Maine, to shoot his latest sure-to-be-hit film, he's got one thing on his mind: find the mysterious and sweep her off her feet. Should be easy, since they've been confiding in each other for months. But he hasn't factored in the parts of Ellie's life that she keeps safely hidden away.

...But let's be real, we all know where this is going. The real question is, can a book this adorable sustain itself for 416 pages without getting too sappy or predictable?

Yes. Yes it can. I especially appreciated the fact that the obstacles Graham and Ellie face feel legitimate: no "I saw you talking to another person who I then ASSUMED you were about to make out with, so I refused to talk to you for three weeks!" or whatever bad teen movies do. (You know that section of romantic comedies, where you just sit there going "Just ASK HER ABOUT IT, oh my GOD, what is WRONG with you!?!" Yeah, that part isn't here. I mean, you root for Graham and Ellie, but you also understand what's keeping them apart.) I also LOVED that Ellie and her best friend Quinn can have a fight--a BIG fight--and Ellie never questions that they will, in time, get past it. That's so rare in fiction and so true in life.

I had an absolute blast reading this book. My only wish is that I had read it on the beach, preferably in a tiny New England town where I could take breaks for lobster rolls and saltwater taffy. (I'm seriously dying for some saltwater taffy right now.) I highly recommend this to anyone who loves romantic comedies, summer, or smiling.

View all my reviews


  1. Okay, I'm totally laughing at your description of romantic comedies, because I always freak out over the same thing. It drives me bonkers when characters don't ask the questions anyone in their right mind would ask at that particular moment. It's such a cheap way of creating conflict. I agree that Jennifer E. Smith didn't stoop to that. I loved the premise of THIS IS WHAT HAPPY LOOKS LIKE and thought the author did a great job of letting the relationship between Graham and Ellie unfold.

    Your review is yet another reminder that I need to read SCARLET already. I've had it for ages, but somehow other books ended up becoming the priority.

    Glad to hear you enjoyed your long weekend!

    1. I can't believe I waited this long for Scarlet--I was SO impatient for it to come out! I've been awful at getting to sequels lately. But this one was definitely worth the time it took me to re-read Cinder.

  2. Glad to hear you liked ADULTING! I've been curious about that one, since I really enjoy the Tumblr. And hooray for more Arrested Development! It's weird--I think about where I was (geographically and in life) when I started watching and things are so different. Kind of a weird deja vu to be watching new episodes again. (I only watched two--hubs and I are trying to pace ourselves.)

  3. Sounds like you guys had a great weekend. Don't you just love this time of year? :-) Great reviews as usual, Jess. I loved SCARLET, but like you, I wanted a bit more Kai and Cinder. I'm hoping (like you) that because it's a Cinderella retelling that we get our happily ever after. As for THIS IS WHAT HAPPY LOOKS LIKE, I had the same reaction that you did to it--I couldn't stop smiling. It was the perfect blend of everything I like in a YA contemporary. And I think you're right, it would have been awesome to read it in some New England seaside town complete with lobster rolls and other treats. :-)

  4. I saw ADULTING in the book store the other day and was totally intrigued... I might have to go back and pick it up, now that I know you enjoyed it. Looks like a very entertaining read. And THIS IS WHAT HAPPY LOOKS LIKE... So, so good!


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