Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mixed Review: Once Was Lost

Once Was Lost
by Sara Zarr

The Short Story
Sam is the preacher's daughter in her tiny town, and on the outside she has the model family. Except her dad is actually never around. And her mom is an alcoholic and (not so) secretly in rehab. And Sam doesn't know that she actually believes in anything anymore. When a local girl is kidnapped, Sam is forced to confront things she'd been hoping to ignore.
A good book that I couldn't quite relate to.

Come for the....
plot. When I think of why I love Sara Zarr's books, it's honestly because of her characters. I love being in their heads, hearing their thoughts and fears. Once Was Lost was different for me. It's the first time I've read a Zarr book and not been able to find myself in the character. But I still enjoyed the book. I knew going into it that it had been inspired by several things, including the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart. And it was very easy to get wrapped up in the kidnapping plot line, and the whole mystery surrounding it. I was positive about two separate characters being the kidnapper, and then was totally wrong. And of course did not suspect who it actually was.

Of course, the kidnapping story unfolds all while Sam is trying to deal with feeling abandoned by her parents and her faith. I could see how frustrating it would be for her pastor dad to have all the right things to say about everyone else's problems, and nothing to say about his own. Or the pressure to keep up appearances with her alcoholic mom. So I waied for Sam to explode all her frustration and confusion on someone. And waited. And waited.  That aside, I thought it was cool to have a non-preachy take on spirituality. And the writing is just as good as all of Zarr's other books.

Don't Think About This Too Hard

  • I would have liked to see a little more character growth from Sam. By the end of the book I felt like her situation was different not because of her, but because of other people's decisions. It was frustrating that a lot of things seemed to happen to her, instead of her taking a more active role.

The Big Three:
Language: one or two bad words
Sex and Stuff: not an issue
Violence: a kidnapping

There are some really interesting clips of Sara Zarr from the launch party for Once Was Lost that I watched on Natasha's blog, if you're interested.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Confessions!

Today's Top 10 Tuesday is bookish confessions! Head over to The Broke and The Bookish to play along.

1. I basically never buy books. The last book I bought was for my Sara Zarr giveaway, but before that, the last one was Mockingjay. On the day it came out.

2. I have access to an amazing public library that has nearly every YA book I've ever wanted to read. I am very lucky.

3. I prefer a print book over an ebook. I don't have an ereader, so when I get ebooks I'm stuck reading them on my computer. Not super convenient.

4. I don't go out of my way to get ARC's. When I posted more regularly I used to request books from NetGalley. But I wasn't super good about reading them. (see #3)

5. I will use any random scrap of paper as a bookmark before I'll dogear a page. That's like blasphemy to me. I once let a friend borrow a book and she dogeared every 5-10 pages of the thing. I was shocked!

6. Sometimes I think I'd like to write a book, but then I can't even keep up a journal.

7. One time I thought I was reading an online preview of a book... you know, the first 100 or so pages that authors/publishers occasionally post online. It was actually the whole book. Probably illegally on the interwebs. I still feel bad about that one.

8. I'm kind of horribly judgmental of the characters I read about. After I finished a certain book, my review consisted of "this book is full of horrible people doing horrible things." I decided it'd be better not to review it...

9. In general, I like to read about people and situations that I can relate to. I know reading is good for expanding your understanding, but most of my favorite books are about people I think are like me.

10. Sometimes I don't pay attention to physical (or racial) descriptions in books. And then I just make them up. I was positive St. Clair from Anna and the French Kiss was black. Like, absolutely positive. Apparently he's not? Also, Mags from Catching Fire is actually the grandma from Disney's Mulan.
At least in my head.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Utah Books in the Wild

This is my entry for the lovely mini-challenge Penelope at The Reading Fever is hosting. Basically, you take a picture of a Utah book, out in the wild.

Crossed by Ally Condie. In my zucchini plant.

Hey, look! It's my blurry baby holding Surrender.

Surrender by Elana Johnson, at swim lessons
I'll be bringing Crossed for the book exchange at the Utah Book Month social tonight! And my kiddos. Look how happy they are about it!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Two For One Reviews

I just finished two very enjoyable books for Utah Books Month. And they're kind of alike. And I'm kind of running out of August to post about them. So I'm doing a little combo dealy.

The books:
My Ridiculous, Romantic Obsessions
by Becca Wilhite

Back When You Were Easier to Love
by Emily Wing Smith

The sameness:
Everyone can see what's going on but the main girl
Everyone can see what's going on but the main girl, and they try to enlighten her
Boys have feelings, too
Also, a jerk face boy
Dramatic reveal in verse

The Short Story:
MRRO - Sarah is a new college freshman and can't believe her luck when she starts hanging out with Ben.  He's cute and funny and nice and way out of her league. But he doesn't seem to think so.
A cute new adult romance. 3.5/5

BWYWEtL - Joy is a California transplant to a tiny Utah town. When her boyfriend Zan up and leaves senior year, she doesn't know what happened. So off she goes on a roadtrip with Zan's ex-friend Noah to try to win him back.
Smart and occasionally biting, but only for the right audience. 4/5

Why I Liked It:
MRRO - Sarah is such a funny character! I spent most of the beginning of the book reminiscing on her (and my) dating mishaps. She's very likable, and all her scenes with Ben are cute. I was a bit annoyed at first by her calling herself chubby/hippy/etc, considering her actual size. But as the book went on I could see where she got those kinds of ideas about herself. And I could relate to that more than I wanted to admit. Also, the misunderstandings and mishaps in the book made me say "no!" Out loud. More than once. I was very invested in the characters.

BWYWEtL - This is totally a Utah book. I loved the themes of identity and religion vs. culture (which is a big thing in Utah. It can be tough to figure out where doctrine ends and habit/style/personal opinion begins) Joy was an interesting character, who was sympathetic but also pathetic. In a way I had to admire her desire to to have what happened with Zan spelled out for her. As a reader, you know it's going to be a train wreck, and it doesn't disappoint. But I could relate to her misguided hopefulness, too. (Have I mentioned how happy I am to be out of the dating game? Being married is all the good things) Noah was also flawed but cute. His Homecoming scene was one of my most favorite parts of the book.

Don't Think About This Too Hard:
MRRO - The level of Sarah's denial about Ben's feelings got to be a bit much. It was a little frustrating to read about. And like most cute stories like this, I wanted more at the end.

BWYWEtL - I don't know how well this book would work if you aren't at least a little familiar with Utah culture. I mean, the book will make sense, but I think a lot of the tone and feeling (and sarcasm) won't. I read one review on Goodreads that said they couldn't figure out if the book was making fun of Mormons or trying to be supportive of them. It's too bad. It's an excellent book if you're familiar with what it's about.

The Big Three:
MRRO - no issues
BWYWEtL - a few h-e-double hockey sticks

Saturday, August 18, 2012

It's A Party!

Although most of the UBM celebration happens online, some of it actually takes place IN UTAH for REAL! Please come and join us for our summer social! Whether you're a blogger, author, or anything in between WE WANT TO SEE YOU! Here are the details:

Utah Book Blogger Bash
Friday, August 24, 2012 at 7:00 p.m.
Wines Park in Lehi*
Pavilion #3, SW corner

  • Bring a dessert to share; we'll provide plates/forks/napkins/cups/water. If you can, please consider bringing a gluten free dessert.
  • We'll be having a book swap again, so bring a book(s) to give away!
  • You may also want to bring chairs and blankets for sitting on the grass.
  • Families welcome

*From I-15, take Lehi Main Street Exit. Turn west onto Main Street (toward Lehi Roller Mills). Turn right onto 100 East. Turn left onto 500 North.

PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD! We don't have long to let everyone know this is happening! Don't be shy! Post on blogs, twitter, etc! And please feel free to use the banner image. Copy the code here:

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Three Things


Kami from Kami's Library Thoughts is hosting an interview with me on her blog today. Check it out! And her awesome giveaway.


It's the last day to enter my giveaway for a Sara Zarr book. I cannot properly explain how incredibly good her books are. You'll just have to win and read one for yourself.


Holy molies, all my hold books from the library became available at the same time. Help me pick which ones to read? Tell me your pick(s) in the comments, por favor.
The options are:
My Ridiculous Romantic Obsessions
The Catastrophic History of You and Me
Once Was Lost
Shadow and Bone
Social Suicide turns out this is the second in a series I haven't started
Monument 14

I also have checked out:
Withering Tights  I'm about 100 pages into this
Girl of Fire and Thorns

Monday, August 13, 2012


All the Utah Book Month posts have made me want to share some other fun little things about the state I call home. Here are some things that say Utah to me:

The Neon Trees
Yep, they got together in Provo.
Also, if I could have hair like anyone, it would be their drummer. Doesn't it look cool?

Letters on Mountains
They're all over the place in this state.
This is probably one of the better known ones.

Fry Sauce
If mayo and ketchup had a baby, it would be fry sauce.
Actually, that's exactly what it is.
I think it's disgusting, but my husband is quite the fan.

The Provo Library
I drive past another library just to go to the one in Provo.
That's honestly a hallway in the library. With some cool lighting.

Which is why I came out to Utah in the first place. So many things I could highlight, but I'll go with Divine Comedy, a campus comedy group:
This isn't letting me add their video (grr!) But you can watch one here.

And The Hundred Hour Board.
Basically you ask them whatever you'd like to know, and they'll find you an answer in about 100 hours.

What says Utah to you? Or what things are unique to your home state?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Blogger Interview: Lorren from The Story Girl

I'm so excited to host fellow Utah blogger, Lorren today! Lorren was the first person to ever comment on my blog, and is seriously one of the nicest people. If I could describe her blog The Story Girl in one word, it would be cultured. You will feel smarter just by visiting.

Get to know Lorren better!

Lorren is in the middle & her husband is on the right. Sorry I don't have a better picture!

Why did you decide to start The Story Girl?
I actually had no idea that there were other book bloggers. My sisters-in-law had this really cool craft blog ( and because I liked to write, I started thinking of what I could ever blog about, not really thinking I would seriously do it. I read a lot and thought that it would be fun to write about the books I read so I started to blog about them. 

What's the hardest part about blogging? The best?
I think the hardest part is justifying the time that I spend doing it. Because I am so busy with school and everything else in my life, at times I think maybe I should just let blogging slide and focus on the other responsibilities that I have. However, I find blogging really rewarding. It is combining two things I love -- reading and writing -- so taking the time to do it is actually relaxing to me even though it takes time. 

You have a good mix of adult/young adult and new (netgalley) books and classics. Do you have a favorite genre? Have you always read a variety of books?
I think I go through phases with my favorite genre. When I was in middle school I only read fantasy and when I was in high school I only read classics. Now I think I have discovered a wider range of books and really like experiencing all of them, although I definitely have phases (right now I am in a fantasy phase). 

Is there a book or series you like that you wish more people knew about?
My favorite book of all time is Kartography by Kamila Shamsie, and not many people have heard of it. I think for me it might be kind of like the fictional book The Imperial Affliction that Hazel in The Fault in Our Stars loves -- I don't know if it is a good book or just an okay book, but for some reason I had a huge emotional connection with it and I absolutely love it. I wish more people would read it (and love it, of course). 

What book character do you think is most like you? Your husband?
My husband is easy to characterize -- he has a lot in common with Peeta in The Hunger Games (but think book Peeta, not movie Peeta, because my husband is 6'4"). He is really sensitive and caring, but also really strong and willing to defend me. :) Also, he loves to cook, although I can't say I've ever seen him decorate a cake.
For me, the only one that is coming to mind right now is Kvothe from The Name ofthe Wind, which is maybe a weird choice since he is male and I am not. Also, he is very heroic, and I am not -- but he is also obsessed with learning and books and has an insatiable thirst for knowledge, which I could really relate to. 

If you could have any author write a story based on your life, who would you choose?
If Madeleine L'Engle was still alive, I would choose her. Most people haven't read her adult books, which are contemporary, rather than the fantasy that she is known for in her YA books. She writes with a lot of sensitivity and beauty, and the topics that she tends to focus on are music, science, and religion, which are all really big focal points in my life, so I think she would be a perfect choice. 
I don't know if these 11 would be good at breaking into a casino, but 11 characters I think are awesome are:
1. Liesl from The Book Thief
2. Kvote from The Name of the Wind
3. Lyra from The Golden Compass
4. Karou from Daughter of Smoke and Bone
5. Andi from Revolution
6. Harry Potter
7. Anne from Anne of Green Gables
8. Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter books
9. Finnick Odair from the Hunger Games books
10. Hawkeye from The Last of the Mohicans
11. Briony from Chime
Kind of a motley crew and mostly from YA fantasy novels, I'm noticing... but they're the ones that came to mind. :)
Thanks to Lorren for answering my questions! You can find her online at:

Friday, August 3, 2012

Happy (Follow) Friday!

Follow Friday is hosted by Parajunkee and Alison can read. Play along here:

This week's question is

Q: Do your reading habits change based on your mood? Do you read a certain genre if you are feeling depressed or happy?

Mine totally do! I just posted about "comfort books" awhile back, and how I was in the mood for some of my favorite rereads. A lot of times I'll stop reading a book if I realize I'm just not in the mood to appreciate it. Although I almost never go back to them...

If I'm in a bad mood I try to go for something light or funny. If I'm in a happy mood I usually can go for any type of book.

What about you?
And have you entered my international giveaway?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Utah Book Month Author Interview: Sara Zarr

I'm fortunate to host the lovely Sara Zarr on the blog today! Sara was a National Book Award finalist for Story of a Girl, and is also the author of Sweethearts, Once Was Lost, How to Save a Life, and the upcoming The Lucy Variations.

She's been a favorite author of mine ever since I read Sweethearts. Why? Because I could so relate to the characters, in ways both good and bad. The more I read, the more I thought "this is exactly what it feels like." Sara's characters are so real. They make for some of the best contemporary YA out there. I was so excited to have her answer a few questions:

About her books -
Your books deal with a lot of emotional topics. What do you hope readers will feel, or take away, from your books?

Primarily, my hope is always that readers will get totally absorbed and have a great reading experience. I'd love for them to connect with the characters and the story, to be invested. Beyond that, there's other stuff to be taken away from the stories, I think, about more universal things like the nature of love and family, and how we're generally our own worst enemies, the gray areas of human relationships...but I want readers to be able to pick up those things themselves, if they want, and not have them shoved on.

Unlike a lot of YA novels, parents play a big role in each of your books. Is it important to you to include relationships with parents?

I never set out to do that, but it does seem like my books always turn out to be about family. Adolescence is a time of such tension between our own needs and desires and plans--our independence, basically--and what our parents hope and expect from us, which are often different things. So I think whenever I'm writing a young character's emotional journey, parents just tend to be a part of that.

In How To Save A Life, both of the main characters start out being a bit difficult to like. Did you like writing characters that the reader might not initially sympathize with?

This question always makes me wonder if I'm totally out of touch with this issue of "likeable", because I don't intentionally write characters who aren't. To me, they are just complex humans, with good days and bad days, and since fiction is about conflict, we happen to catch them in the midst of a lot of bad days. But I do like the process, in every book, of getting down underneath whatever the shell is to the vulnerable person beneath, and figuring out what they truly hope and fear, and what it is they're longing for.

About her -
photo from Now I wish I'd ask where that jacket is from...
What were some of your favorite books as a teen?

I loved anything by Robert Cormier, and there were a couple of Madeleine L'Engle books that really affected me. House Like a Lotus, particularly. For less literary fare, I was basically obsessed with VC Andrews. And I loved paperback YA stuff about girls getting makeovers--ugly duckling stories

What are some of your favorite recent reads?

The List by Siobhan Vivian, and The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando. Two very different books. The List is a great feat of craft, and so smart in what it has to say about the culture of girls and beauty. Tara's book has her usual poignancy and poetry, but this one is also a fun read, perfect for summer.

What are some things you like to do in Utah?

Since moving here from San Francisco, my love for and appreciation of nature has increased about a hundredfold. I live pretty near City Creek Canyon, and love to walk or hike up there on the various trails, and watch for birds (which is different from birdwatching - that takes way more patience than I have). Even the cemetery near our house is full of beauty, and has great views of the valley and mountains. As for indoor things, I like seeing movies at The Broadway, going out to breakfast at Oasis, and trying out all the coffee shops in town.

Can you share anything about what you're working on now?

I'll have two books out in 2013. The Lucy Variations is about a 16-year-old pianist having a creative crisis. I've also got a collaborative novel with Tara Altebrando, currently called Roomies, which is sort of two stories in one and involves email correspondence the summer before college, between two girls who are to be each other's roommate. When all the work on those is done, I'm taking a break!

Thanks again to Sara for answering my questions! You can find Sara online at:

And now, because I love her books so much, I'm giving away a copy of paperback Sara Zarr book of your choice from The Book Depository!

a Rafflecopter giveaway