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Review: Also Known As

image from Judith at Paper Riot

Epic Recs is a feature hosted by Judith at Paper Riot and Amber at Books of Amber in which two bookish peeps are paired together to recommend books to one another. It's pretty great. 

And in case you didn't know, Gaby and I are ON FIRE with our recommendations. Honestly it's like we share one brain in two bodies. Which is SUPER RAD in case you were wondering! 

Okay, so we're 2 for 2 for Epic Recs. She loved INSIGNIA and GRAVE MERCY. I loved SCARLET and WHERE SHE WENT. Could we possibly go 3 for 3? Will she love AMY & ROGER'S EPIC DETOUR? You'll have to head over to her blog to find out! 

What I can tell you is that Gaby NAILED IT AGAIN with ALSO KNOWN AS by Robin Benway! I LOVED IT. 

Maggie and her parents are spies. Like, legit safe-cracking, cyber hacking spies. Don't worry, they're the good guy spies who stop bad people from doing seriously bad stuff. 

Maggie's never had what you could call a "typical" childhood, what with practicing her safe cracking at the ripe age of 3 and having 15 different passports and all. She'll have to fake being normal though when their next assignment puts her undercover in a high school. She has to save her family and all the spies identities by befriending Jesse Oliver who is just as cute as you think he is. 

Oh yes, this book has the swoons,y'all! Jesse Oliver is a pretty rich boy with substance (so, perfection basically) and Maggie is totally flustered by his flirtations and gets all feely and overwhelmed and it is just SO CUTE. 

Also, Roux is an incredible best friend and while I don't think that's necessarily a swoon, it's totally worth mentioning.

I totally swooned over Angelo, even though I'm totally not his type. I loved his patience and commitment love for Maggie and her family. 

New York City! Part of me wonders if this is why Gaby picked this book for me as she is a Manhattanite herself. Whether she did or not - I loved it! I am SO not a big city girl (I'm certainly NYC would swallow me whole) but I loved the imagery and the shout outs to the different NYC elements. So fun. 

Okay, the sneakiness piece of this review is almost too easy. Hello, she's a SPY.  What could be more sneaky than spies? Well besides ninja's, obviously. 

You don't know WHY it is that Jesse's dad is trying to sell the names of the spies, so that part is kinda sneaky. And the ultimate resolution is twisty and turny and super fun!

Something I love about Benway's writing is that while it is super fun, catchy, and light - she does have authentic characters. Which means they are flawed or have imperfect homes or don't always do and say just the right thing. I love that about her writing because it helps me connect with everyone, even the teenage spy in NYC, on a deeper level. 

Who was your favorite character in ALSO KNOWN AS and why? This is really, really hard because I'm torn between Roux (the teenage best friend) and Angelo (the lifelong family friend). Roux is SO much like Maggie that they are perfect for each other. But Angelo has sage advice for Maggie and her relationships, the job, and fashion. So barely, just barely, I'll have to say Angelo edges out Roux. BUT ONLY BARELY. 
If you were a spy, what would your special spy skill be? My dream skill would be an expert computer hacker. Someone who could figure out passwords and crack codes and all that business. Kinda like Charlie on Supernatural. Okay exactly like Charlie on Supernatural.
Being a spy takes you all the way around the world. What are the top 3 places you'd want to be sent on assignment? Such a good question, Gaby! I'd say London for sure. I mean hello, ENGLAND. I'd also like to go somewhere warm and tropical, so we'll say the Dominican Republic? And finally somewhere remote and mountainy. Chile? Sure. London, Dominican Republic, and Chile. 

YES. AGAIN. Gaby picked a Truly Epic Rec for me! She just gets me, you know? And I love her dearly for it (among the other 8312 reasons). 

What about you? Have you read ALSO KNOWN AS? What about GOING ROGUE? Do you think I successfully recommended AMY & ROGER'S EPIC DETOUR to Gaby? Go and see!

And stay tuned for our April epic recs which are coming soon! 

An already outdated bookshelf tour!

As some of you know, I have built in bookshelves in my home. It's basically the BEST EVER. The husband and I totally fell ass backwards into this amazing place to live and we are thankful each and every day.

I spent a solid chunk of my weekend a few weeks ago updating my bookshelves and reorganizing. It's so zen, you know?

Anyway, let's journey into my heart of hearts. My bookshelves.

Let's start with the finished copies.

Top shelf is for box sets. You'll notice I have Twilight up there and I am NOT EVEN EMBARRASSED. We all have guilty pleasures. Deal with it. Joining Team Jacob up top is the Iron Fey boxed set, the Percy Jackson boxed set, and the first 6 Sookie Stackhouse books. I repeat, guilty pleasure. 

Next are the read hardcovers. I KNOW they are crooked and it's driving me bananas too, but I have since remedied the situation. I swear. Also I had them slightly out of order because I always mix up M and N alphabetically because I am lame. Gandalf is keeping it real among the read hardcovers. I think my favorite spine art on that shelf are SHADOW AND BONE and SIEGE AND STORM. I preordered RUIN AND RISING to add among the glory! 

I have a nice collection of read paperbacks as well. Mostly YA with some Adult thrown in for good measure. Looking at you space triology by C.S. Lewis. 

Finally, the bottom shelf are super big books like that Sherlock Holmes collection and graphic novels - read and unread. Audiobooks also rock that bottom shelf as well as my moleskines (that I keep out in the open. this does not include my secret stash) and my borrowed books. Mostly from my friend Jaime. Hi Jaime! 

Now to the unreads...

This is already WOEFULLY outdated since I won a sweet box of ARCs from Lenore Appelhans (blogger at Presenting Lenore and author of THE MEMORY OF AFTER [which I LOVED] & CHASING BEFORE) and received GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE from Heidi at YA Bibliophile and also bought the entire GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS series in hardcover with birthday money which I need to read! 

Anyway. I'm super good about getting rid of ARCs after I read them either by donating or giving them away, which is why none are on my Read shelves. I just need to keep up with my to reads, you know? I'm trying okay! 

Bonus! Lucy's shelves!

They are right by her changing table (the library = her nursery), so excuse the baby things to the right. I wanted to include the Batman Board Book collection obviously so you get all the other biz too. Fun fact: those Batman Board Books were the first books we bought for her! When I was like 6 hours pregnant. Wee!

This isn't her full collection of books either. I know, OUT OF DATE. But mostly it's because we have a stack by the glider for nighttime and also because I have an addiction to buying books. It has extended to buying books for Lucy. NO SHAME. 

So that's it! There are my books. Welcome to my library you guys. Come anytime! 

Review: Faking Normal

Title: Faking Normal
Author: Courtney C. Stevens
Pub Deets: February 2014, HarperCollins
Series/Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Source: Won from Epic Reads! Thanks!

Amazon | Goodreads | Author's Blog | Author's Twitter

In a sentence or so: Alexi doesn't want what happened to her over the summer define her, so she does her best to fake normal and deal with it later. When Bodee's tragedy meets Alexi's hurt, they begin to change each other and channel their brave together.

We know what happened to Alexi at the start of the book. I appreciated that because then it wasn't this big reveal of WHAT occurred, but rather the Now What that we were reading. We are with Alexi when her memories flare up and when her pain is unbearable and when she tries to cope by harming herself. Enter Bodee. He has a heavy heart of his own and an unthinkable tragedy which we also learn immediately. He moves in with Alexi's family so the two of them share a space, as well as secret ways to cope with their pain.

There were lots of things I liked about FAKING NORMAL. There was even loads of potential here and I sincerely enjoyed the read up to about the last 20% of the book. I was able to connect with Alexi and her friends and found their banter funny and their established roles in the group familiar, if a bit trite.

Basically the first 80% of the book is Alexi trying to deal with what happened, faking normal as it were, and how Bodee helps her with that. She helps Bodee a bit, but his tragedy is of a much different nature and not something I think Alexi would have been even remotely equipped to handle.

The last 20% of this book just PISSED. ME. OFF. Which I guess means I was pretty invested in the characters and story and that's a good thing - but I felt manipulated the entire rest of the book by how FAKING NORMAL ended. What you assumed to be true was not true. Not exactly. And the ultimate resolution was so supremely disappointing. Granted, we don't walk through the total aftermath of their decisions, but the way it wrapped up led me to think that the end of the book set the tone for the characters futures and I did not respect it.

I can't imagine how hard it is to write an issue book (or any book) so my opinions are a bit jaded. But in real life, I believe tragedies require counseling - professional or otherwise. Not the case with FAKING NORMAL. And when people do Bad Things they need to be held accountable for their actions. And when we are Channeling Our Brave we need to do so for OURSELVES. Never, ever for someone else. Love yourself first and empower yourself for YOU - not for a boy.

Anyway - I obviously had some pretty intense emotions around this book, so I respect that about FAKING NORMAL. I liked the casual yet thoughtful writing of Courtney C. Stevens (with the exception of some weird phrases that felt like they were trying too hard) and will definitely be reading her future books, despite my disappointment with the end of FAKING NORMAL. After all, FAKING NORMAL had all the elements of a great contemporary, but fell flat when it came to the final resolutions of tragedies and recoveries.

If you're looking for a fresh take on an issue book that has a surprise ending and a boy with a broken heart, FAKING NORMAL could be for you!

Epic Recs: March

image made by Paper Riot
So pretty much Gaby and I were MADE for Epic Recs because we are just on fire with this whole game. If you need proof of that, here's January and February for you. BOOM.

Let's keep up the good work, okay? Okay.

Gaby said she wanted something "made of awesome" and "lots of swoon". For those of you who have read AMY & ROGER'S EPIC DETOUR, you realize I nailed it. Also, there are other reasons why she will love it BUT you have to head on over to her blog to see why I recommended it for Gaby specifically!

As for me, Gaby recommended ALSO KNOWN AS by Robin Benway. Here's why! 

Again, I am taking Lisa out of her comfort zone, but ALSO KNOWN AS is one of those books that takes cute and adds more cute and then throws in some kissing, just to make you feel better than good. Also, there are excellent New York moments, spies, and a fantastic best friend. Another reason I picked this one is because my January and February recommendations for Lisa were kind of serious and heavy, so I think she deserves something lighter and sunnier - especially since it's March and I'm hoping one of these days the temperatures might stop hitting the teens and single digits. (I know, I know, whoa, dream big.)

Obviously I completely trust Gaby and anything she recommends. I do love Robin Benway after AUDREY, WAIT, although I don't know that I would have picked up ALSO KNOWN AS this soon if it weren't for Gaby. Which is what Epic Recs is all about,  you know? That and meeting the other half of your brain and discovering that she's this super cool chick living in Manhattan reading and loving all the same books as you and squeeing with her pretty much on the daily. Or is that just us? 

What about you? Have you read ALSO KNOWN AS? Is Gaby on the mark? And please, feel free to pat my back over my recommendation of AMY & ROGER'S EPIC DETOUR to Gaby because we know it's too legit to quit. 

Adventures Through Awkwardness: March!

hosted by Amy @ Tripping Over Books and me! (Lisa is Busy Nerding)

OH HEY, Y'ALL! How's that Middle Grade reading going for you? 
I hope you're finding time to read some great MG! 

If not, here's your chance. Because as you know, The Adventures Through Awkwardness Challenge is a monthly challenge so you don't ever have to feel like a total failure. New month! New Challenge! GO YOU!

This theme for March is: Mythology 

As always, you can choose ANY Mythology based Middle Grade read for the month. If you need a little help finding a book, here are some recommendations.

The Lost Hero (The Heroes of Olympus #1) By Rick Riordan | {Summary from Goodreads}
(like we could NOT mention Rick Riordan on a MG Mythology challenge? PLEASE.)
Jason has a problem. 
He doesn't remember anything before waking up on a school bus holding hands with a girl. Apparently he has a girlfriend named Piper. His best friend is a kid named Leo, and they're all students in the Wilderness School, a boarding school for "bad kids", as Leo puts it. What he did to end up here, Jason has no idea—except that everything seems very wrong.
Piper has a secret. Her father, a famous actor, has been missing for three days, and her vivid nightmares reveal that he's in terrible danger. Now her boyfriend doesn't recognize her, and when a freak storm and strange creatures attack during a school field trip, she, Jason, and Leo are whisked away to someplace called Camp Half-Blood. What is going on? 
Leo has a way with tools. His new cabin at Camp Half-Blood is filled with them. Seriously, the place beats Wilderness School hands down, with its weapons training, monsters, and fine-looking girls. What's troubling is the curse everyone keeps talking about, and that a camper's gone missing. Weirdest of all, his bunkmates insist they are all—including Leo—related to a god.

Pegasus and the Flame (Pegasus #1) by Kate O'Hearn | {Summary from Goodreads}

When Pegasus crashes onto a Manhattan roof during a terrible storm, Emily’s life changes forever. Suddenly allied with a winged horse she’d always thought was mythical, Emily is thrust into the center of a fierce battle between the Roman gods and a terrifying race of multiarmed stone warriors called the Nirads. Emily must team up with a thief named Paelen, the goddess Diana, and a boy named Joel in order to return Pegasus to Olympus and rescue the gods from a certain death.

Along the way, Emily and her companions will fight monsters, run from a government agency that is prepared to dissect Pegasus, and even fly above the Manhattan skyline—all as part of a quest to save Olympus before time runs out.

Tales of Ancient Egypt by Roger Lancelyn Green | {Summary from Goodreads}

This is what I'll be reading!

This collection brings the world of Ancient Egypt to life with tales of journey and discovery. Among the many stories are the great myth of Amen-Ra, who formed all the creatures in the world; the entrancing tale of Isis, who searched the waters for her dead husband Osiris; and the miraculous story of the girl with the rose-red slippers, considered the first-ever Cinderella tale. Entertaining and enchanting, this is a timeless collection of the oldest stories in the world.

Nobody's Princess (Nobody's Princess #1) by Esther M. Friesner | {Summary from Goodreads}

is beautiful, she is a princess, and Aphrodite is her favorite goddess, but something in Helen of Sparta just itches for more out of life. Not one to count on the gods—or her looks—to take care of her, Helen sets out to get what she wants with steely determination and a sassy attitude. That same attitude makes Helen a few enemies—such as the self-proclaimed "son of Zeus" Theseus—but it also intrigues, charms, and amuses those who become her friends, from the famed huntress Atalanta to the young priestess who is the Oracle of Delphi.

Nobody's Princess, author Esther Friesner deftly weaves together history and myth as she takes a new look at the girl who will become Helen of Troy. The resulting story offers up adventure, humor, and a fresh and engaging heroine you cannot help but root for.

If you have other suggestions or ideas for Middle Grade Mythology, please share them in the comments! 

After you've read and reviewed your book for the month, please share your link to enter and win this month's prize! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Until next time, keep it awkward!