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Wicked Reads with River and Penguin Teen

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Guy guys guys HALLOWEEN IS LESS THAN WEEK AWAY. I GET TO DRESS UP ON FRIDAY AND SATURDAY AND I AM SO EXCITED.

~exhale~

I love Halloween. LOVE it. I used to always dress up. Then I moved to Japan. If you google enough you’ll find some really bizarre Halloween happenings over there. There’s a “Halloween Train” which is basically one car on the Yamanote (which is my fav train, it runs in a circle both ways, it’s awesome and takes one hour to do a full loop yes I’ve done it before… more than once…) where a bunch of crazy foreigners and their friends get drunk and ride around in Halloween costumes. I’m not sure if it still happens because I know that a lot of Japanese people hated it, but if you google you will find. I also just read an interesting article about a prominent Yakuza family who was giving out bags of candy! So that’s a thing. And at the last English school I worked at (in Hitachi) the local community government (like a community watch group) came around and gave all the shops in the area snacks to hand out and then they brought a bunch of kids around and they said something like “Candy please” and we gave them the pre-provided snacks. It was… odd.

SO I am so happy that being back in the USA means properly celebrating Halloween! While I did try to keep it alive in Japan (I once threw a Halloween party for my husband when we were first dating so he could “experience American culture”) it’s so fun to be able to dress up for work and go to Halloween parties.

And of course, READ REALLY CREEPY SCARY BOOKS. Because if there’s something that I love doing in October, it’s scaring myself. And I am the biggest wuss when it comes to horror. Especially movies and TV. But with books I’m okay. Maybe because I can’t actually SEE anything worse than what my own head can create. I love the creepy crawly FEELING that comes with reading freaky book. And read freaky books I have!

Penguin Teen contacted me asking if I’d like to partake in their #WickedReads event and I said OF COURSE I LOVE WICKED THINGS. And they sent me:
surviveSurvive the Night by Danielle Vega

When I first read the synopsis of this book I knew that I HAD to read it! A group of friends gets trapped in an abandoned NYC subway when a rave they’re attending gets busted? And people start dying?! CREEPY! Sadly what was a decent book slowly became a B-class horror show with some weird monster stuff but meh, it was creepy and fun and a quick read. I haven’t read her other book, but I want to give it a try now that I know her stuff can be so freaky!

Along with this I’ve read a TON of other freaky books that I saved just for October. Let me know if you’ve read any of them and if they freaked you out as much as they did me!

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A Madness so Discreet by Mindy McGinnis

Ever since Mindy tweeted that this book took place in a insane asylum I knew that I HAD to get my hands on it! I LOVED Mindy’s other books and I love how dark her writing is and how she just isn’t afraid to GO THERE. This book was everything I had wanted and more. I really liked that there wasn’t any romance in it, and the relationship between Grace and the Dr. was perfection! There were loads of dark, creepy moments too!

17Project 17 by Laurie Faria Stolarz

This book was given to me by my #OTSPSecretSister. I found it very fitting that it ALSO took place in an insane asylum, and I decided to read it right after I’d finished MADNESS. Not sure if that was the best idea or the BEST idea… but there was a point where I was home alone in the dark and had to put it down because… yeah… ghost children. This book was really fun because it takes place in Danvers, MA, which isn’t too far from where I live! And it was based on a real place. FREAKY!

curiousThe Curiosities by Stiefvater, Gratton & Yovanoff

This is a book that I’ve been slowly reading and finally just sat down and tore through one afternoon. It’s not really a scary book, but there are tons of freaky stories in this! I mean come on… just look at the authors… hahahaha! There was one that took place on Halloween, but there were so many other dark stories with ghosts and vampires and zombies… I loved this book so much and I’m really glad that I decided to finish it this month.

bsBlood and Salt by Kim Liggett

I went to Boston Teen Author Fest last month and only allowed myself to buy one book… and this was it! I have been so excited to read this and wow was it good! Cults and blood and sacrifices and immortals and ancient rituals… I love all of that and this book had ALL of that! I couldn’t put this down and I am so glad that I grabbed it and had a chance to meet the author as well!

pieceAnother Little Piece by Kate Karyus Quinn

I didn’t read this one this month, but it is one of my most favorite freaky books and I read this for Halloween a few years ago and I will never stop recommending it as a Halloween read. It is twisted and bloody and freaky and mind-fucking and I just love it so much. If you need to read one book to freak yourself out this season… read this!

So tell me what are some of your favorite #WickedReads??? And what are you going to be for Halloween? (I’m going to be Wednesday Addams… there WILL be photos!) Leave me your answers in the comments!

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Summer of Sarah Dessen – Along for the Ride

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I was so shocked when Penguin Teen contacted me and asked if I wanted to participate in the Summer of Sarah Dessen read-along! I was asked to review Along for the Ride for week four, so here I am! I want to thank Penguin Teen SO MUCH for sending me a copy of the book and for asking me to participate. Sarah Dessen is one of my favorite authors and one that I’ve had the longest “relationship” with.

To be honest, I don’t even know how to review books of authors I love. Because I just LOVE their words too much to even know what to say other than a bunch of adjectives and OMGs. So I thought that along with an attempt to a review I would talk about what Sarah Dessen’s books mean to me.

Years ago, when I was in high school, I did not get along with my younger sister. We were too different. She was super girly and into boys and clothes and make up. I was into vampire books, horseback riding and Japanese culture. I could not connect with my sister at all. We eventually became obsessed with Harry Potter together and slowly became friends. I started to grow into myself and became interested in more feminine things. She gave magic and wizards a try.

When my sister and I would go to the bookstore we would head to different sections. I would get things with paranormal demons in it and she was grabbing books like Gossip Girl. I thought those kinds of books were stupid. I had no interest in ‘chick lit’. I didn’t care about girls and parties and romance.

In one pile of books my sister had a book by Sarah Dessen. I remember to this day that it was Dreamland. For some reason my sister left it in my room and in between vampire and demon books I picked it up. Read it in secret.

And loved it.

Along with Harry Potter my sister and I began to share a love for Sarah Dessen’s books. We’d go to the bookstore and grab the newest one and share it. Even years later, after graduating high school and college we still were sharing Sarah Dessen books. I’d get the newest one and pass it on to her. She’d dig up an old copy and we’d share our memories over it. Now I read about 85% contemporary. I have long let go of my vampire and demon loves. I still enjoy a good paranormal romance here and there, but my love is YA contemporary. There’s just something about it.

But there is nothing like a book by Sarah Dessen. And re-reading Along for the Ride felt like coming home. I just felt so happy and safe and warm while reading it. I haven’t had a chance to grab Saint Anything yet, but I have a copy coming soon and I will dig in as soon as I can.

Sarah Dessen and Harry Potter are the reason that my sister and I are best friends now when we were once sworn enemies. And that is something amazing. Books can save lives.

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Title: Along for the Ride
Author: Sarah Dessen
Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: It’s been so long since Auden slept at night. Ever since her parents’ divorce—or since the fighting started. Now she has the chance to spend a carefree summer with her dad and his new family in the charming beach town where they live.

A job in a clothes boutique introduces Auden to the world of girls: their talk, their friendship, their crushes. She missed out on all that, too busy being the perfect daughter to her demanding mother. Then she meets Eli, an intriguing loner and a fellow insomniac who becomes her guide to the nocturnal world of the town. Together they embark on parallel quests: for Auden, to experience the carefree teenage life she’s been denied; for Eli, to come to terms with the guilt he feels for the death of a friend.

In her signature pitch-perfect style, Sarah Dessen explores the hearts of two lonely people learning to connect.

Review: Sarah Dessen does two things well: complex family issues and friendships. She does romance perfectly, but there’s just something about the family dynamics in her stories that really makes me think. In this book Auden’s comes from a very academically affluent family. Her mother is a popular professor with many books and awards under her belt and Auden’s father is an acclaimed writer. Both of her parents are selfish people who, while they do love their children, have aspirations for them that might not be their own.

Auden has only known academics. She’s god at them, and never felt the need for a social life. Her brother is the opposite, he’s wild and charming and runs off into the world to do whatever he wants. And his charisma lets him get away with it. Auden, on the other hand, cannot seem to get the attention of both her parents. She works hard, studies, but it’s just not something that either of them really see because it’s what is expected.

So during the summer before her first year of college, Auden decides to go stay with her father, who is living with his new wife and newborn baby, in a small ocean side town. Auden dislikes her super-girly-annoying stepmother and isn’t necessarily looking forward to spending time with her. Auden instead imagines spending time with her literate father who is working on his new best seller.

Only when Auden arrives she finds her stepmother, Heidi, stressed out to the max while trying to care for the new baby, and her father hiding away in his office working on his book. The father made me SO MAD in this because he is just THAT selfish. While the mother was also incredibly selfish, at least her actions didn’t directly impact anyone the way that the father’s did. There were SO many times I wanted to scream at him, and when Auden finally let go and told him how she felt I cheered for her.

Along with spending time with her family, Auden takes a job at Heidi’s clothing shop where she’s surrounded by girls and girly things. Things that Auden doesn’t like, understand, or respect. Slowly over the summer though she becomes friends with the girls who work there and is even surprised when she finds out that the girls aren’t as shallow as originally perceived. I loved that Auden slowly learned that her judgements were off and that she actually had a lot more in common with the girls than expected.

And finally the romance between her and Eli was perfection. I loved the way that he slowly opened up to her and how he shifted her view on life. How they were having fun spending time together and that the ultimate goal wasn’t getting into bed together. I loved the slow burn and how he helped Auden discover things about herself that she didn’t even know she wanted or needed.

As I’ve said before, Sarah Dessen’s books make me feel so warm and happy and I just love them so much.