Our Top Ten Favorite Moments of 2013

2013 has been an awesome year for The Girls in Plaid Skirts. We’ve seen our blog grow, we’ve been given incredible opportunities, and we know there is so much more to come in 2014. Here are some of our favorite moments from 2013 (in no particular order).

1. Watching our blog grow. It’s been incredible to see how much our blog has grown this year, watching our followers increase and “meeting” fellow bloggers and readers. Thank you all for your support!

2. Austin Teen Book Festival 2013. This was our second year attending ATBF, but our first year to attend as bloggers and volunteers. We met fellow bloggers, interviewed one of our favorite authors (see below), and got our very first ARC! This was kind of our “coming out” event {We were recognized for the first time! That incited some serious happy-feels 🙂 }  When we got back home we saw an exciting increase in our stats!

3. Interviewing Marissa Meyer. We were so excited to find out that one of our favorite authors (whom we met at ATBF12) was attending again, and there was actual squealing happening when we found out we would be able to interview her!  She was awesome and funny and basically Rachel’s twin. We decided to make her our best friend when we realized she’s just as obsessed with peanut butter as we are. (Read our interview with her here.)

4. The release of the last Gallagher Girl book. September 17th was a very emotional day for us. We became Gallagher Academy alumni. The series that brought us together six years ago has finally come to an end, but we will always keep our classmates in our hearts. A big thank you to Ally Carter for taking us on this awesome adventure. We wouldn’t be The Girls in Plaid Skirts without her, after all. (Read our story to see how the Gallagher Girls series influenced our friendship.)

5. Meeting William Joyce. An impromptu decision caused Rachel and me to race across town for William Joyce’s release party for The Mischievians. We were the last in line and waited for several hours to meet William Joyce so Rachel could cross it off her bucket list.  We must have made an impression on both him and his marketing director, because they recognized us at another one of his signings a few weeks ago. He introduced us to his coauthor and even showed us a sneak peek of his works in progress!

6. Buying a cart-load of scrap wood at Ikea and stuffing it all into my tiny car. On our way home from ATBF, we stopped by Ikea and left with a car full of scrap wood that we bought for $10. We got a lot of funny looks and were cramped for a five-hour drive home, and then we had to unload it all in the rain, but now we have a good story to tell the grand kids. (This was also when we decided we all need pocket knives.)

7. Planning for 2014. We have some absolutely incredible things planned for the new year! Book parties (where you can WIN STUFF–coming up in just a few weeks!), giveaways, events, guest bloggers. Y’all better get ready, because we are BRINGING IT in 2014.

PERSONAL FAVORITE MOMENTS IN 2013

8. Rachel: Hiking into the Grand Canyon, white water rafting, touching a Saguaro cactus (they are old and special), making it to the saddle of Humphrey’s Mountain, horseback riding, making all As, reading a Christmas Carol over Christmas break

9: Julianne:  Living with her sister in NY for a month (she owes y’all a post on all those adventures), seeing Wicked on Broadway, going to a national youth convention in North Carolina (15 hrs in a van of girls = memorable),  seeing her friends perform at the Grand Ole Opry, having an impromptu serenade by some very talented train hoppers… it’s been a big year. 

10. JB: In 2013, I graduated college with honors (woo hoo!), celebrated two years of marriage to Mr. Dork, became a Bible Quizzing coach (which I love), and crossed the following off my List of Dreams: see a Broadway show, own my perfect car, ride an elephant, try being a pescatarian, see Eloise at the Plaza, grow a plant (though it died), compete a 30×30 style challenge, own a record player, eat food from a food truck.

Once again, we want to thank everyone who has supported us through this journey. We couldn’t have done any of this without you.

We say farewell to 2013, and here’s to our bright future ahead.

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10 Adjectives for Cress

We had the wonderful surprise at ATBF to be given an ARC of CRESS! We’ll be posting an actual review (and lots of other fun Lunar Chronicles stuff!) closer to its release date (February 4, 1014), but in the meantime, here are ten adjectives that we feel describe Cress.

Cress

Author: Marissa Meyer

Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Synopsis:(From Goodreads)

Rapunzel’s tower is a satellite. She can’t let down her hair—or her guard. 

In this third book in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.

Their best hope lies with Cress, who has been trapped on a satellite since childhood with only her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker—unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing stop her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only ones who can.

The Girls’ in Plaid Skirts response in 10 adjectives:

1. Dreamy

2. Enchanting

3. Mesmerizing

4. Breathtaking

5. Thrilling

6. Speechless

7. Shocking

8. Perfection

9. Enthralling

10. Captivating

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We were given the ARC of Cress for review purposes only. We were not compensated in any way and all opinions are our own. 

Review: Nobody

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Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Genre: Action

Synopsis: (From Goodreads)

There are people in this world who are Nobody. No one sees them. No one notices them. They live their lives under the radar, forgotten as soon as you turn away.

That’s why they make the perfect assassins.

The Institute finds these people when they’re young and takes them away for training. But an untrained Nobody is a threat to their organization. And threats must be eliminated.

Sixteen-year-old Claire has been invisible her whole life, missed by the Institute’s monitoring. But now they’ve ID’ed her and send seventeen-year-old Nix to remove her. Yet the moment he lays eyes on her, he can’t make the hit. It’s as if Claire and Nix are the only people in the world for each other. And they are—because no one else ever notices them.

Rachel’s Rambles: 

I found the book slow and actually a little difficult to get caught up in the story. However, the plot and situation of the characters was wonderfully intriguing. I just had a hard time finding an attachment to the characters (which sort of reflected the plot). I loved the references to The Little Prince. One of my favorite quotes was from a romance scene between the two main characters and it had a reference to the fox (daawww) from The Little Prince. If you like sci-fi and action – I recommend this book! Reminded me a lot of the TV show Alphas!! Ally Carter fans will enjoy reading a work by her best friend, Jennifer Lynn Barnes.

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-Liz (aka Rachel)

Review: The Naturals


The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn BarnesAuthor
: Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Genre: thriller, mystery, romance

Age: Young Adult

Cassie is a natural profiler. After a few minutes of observing you, she can tell you if you tend to be messy or clean, which sports you prefer, how you like your eggs cooked. It’s a skill she learned from her mom, who was brutally murdered five years ago, and the murderer has yet to be found. Cassie joins a team of fellow Naturals, teens with abilities to read people, hoping that she can learn more about her skills and perfect her abilities in order to find her mother’s murderer. Of course, it’s easy to get distracted by the two cute boys on the team, the cocky, emotion-reading Michael, and brooding, glooming Dean, a profiler like her. The team manages to get themselves involved with an active case and must use their abilities to stop a serial killer.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Naturals. A lot of readers (or at least a lot of reviewers on Goodreads) seem to think that this book is about supernatural powers, but everything in it is based on real science. You can read more about what Barnes (who has a PhD in psychology) has to say about that here and here. If you plan on reading the book, I’d highly suggest reading what Barnes has to say about the science of what’s in the book to avoid any confusion such as, “Why do these people have superpowers?” It’s not magic—it’s science—which makes it way cooler.

I always love to learn something new when I read a book, even if the book is fiction. I absolutely loved learning about the abilities that the Naturals have. Cassie’s ability kind of reminds me of Shawn Spencer from Psych. He convinces people he’s psychic, but really he’s just reading the details about them, like she does (though Cassie doesn’t pretend to be psychic). I enjoyed getting to be inside her head and see how she profiles people.

Cassie is a great MC. She ultimately joins the Naturals because she hopes she can use her gift to help track down her mother’s killer. She’s never fit in with her Italian family, because she always is playing a part, trying to keep everyone happy. She joins the team, not necessarily looking for a place to fit in, but to do some good. She feels like she owes that to her mother.

The rest of the Naturals are a fun group and I enjoyed reading about their abilities as well. My favorite secondary character was Sloane, whom I like to think of as a mix between Liz from the Gallagher Girls and Parker from Leverage. She’s super smart and enjoys blowing things up and should never be given caffeine. Ever. (But she’s actually quite amusing after a cup of coffee and can easily be bribed with a cup of joe.) Lia can catch any lie (think Lie to Me) and she’s also an impulsive liar. I like the relationship she has with Dean, because she truly cares about him and tries to protect him.

Which leads us to the boys: Michael and Dean. Michael reads emotions. He uses this to his advantage and likes to be contrary. He doesn’t want people to read him, and therefore changes how he speaks, walks, acts, and dresses to fool those around him. But he’s ultimately cocky. Dean couldn’t be more opposite—he’s quiet, and therefore a bit intimidating. He also has a past that he doesn’t want to talk about which makes him different from the rest of the Naturals. It was hard for me to like him because he is such a mystery.

I really loved this book. I loved seeing how all the pieces came together, like how the serial killer’s POV came into play. As I continued to read, I could put more and more pieces of the puzzle together, and I figured a few things out before I got to the end (I felt like Rachel, who almost always correctly guesses the ending). Some things though, nope. Didn’t guess.

I’m definitely looking forward to the next book. I cant wait to see what case the Naturals get to work on next and what happens between Cassie and the boys. This book gets four out of five stars!

Content Advisory:
sexual: some kissing
violence: some graphic scenes from the serial killer’s POV

Educational Review: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

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Author: William Joyce

Illustrations: William Joyce and Joe Bluhm

Genre: Fantasy

Ages: 5-7 (I say – all ages will love this book!)                                

Lexile Level: AD650L

ISBN13: 9781442457027

Synopsis:  (From Goodreads)

Morris Lessmore loved words.
He loved stories.
He loved books.
But every story has its upsets.

Everything in Morris Lessmore’s life, including his own story, is scattered to the winds.
But the power of story will save the day.

Rachel’s Rambles:

First off – you haven’t seen the Oscar winning short film that this story inspired. Stop. And. Watch. NOW!!

This film was how I was introduced to the story. I cried, watched it again, cried some more, and then shared it with everyone who would stop long enough to watch it!

Then one day past spring, I found this beautiful book in Barnes and Nobles (autographed) and snatched it up quickly, excited of my discovered treasure.When I got home and started reading the book, I somehow discovered the app that accompanies the book. My teacher wheels started spinning, and I realized how perfect this book is for the classroom. The book promotes reading and the importance of sharing stories. If that message can get relayed to a child, that child has suddenly been empowered with a great idea that can change their world!

Sunday, JB and I had the honor of meeting William Joyce again and his co-illustrator Joe Bluhm. Both genuinely nice people!! Thank you Moonbots studios for putting Shreveport on the map and making us proud!

Curriculum Uses:

Science: Weather. Tornadoes. Hurricanes. Watch movies about storm chasers and predicting storms.

Social Studies/Language Arts: Study the importance of stories being passed down in history. Like Oral stories, hieroglyphics, Cave paintings and how sharing this stories helped future people.

Social Studies: Louisiana history and Hurricane Katrina. Our local science center, Sci-port has a wonderful film about Hurricane Katrina.

Language Arts: Have the students write their stories down in a journal. If they wish they can share them in the publisher’s chair.

Fine Arts: Study the different types of animation. Stop motion, 2D, and 3D animation are all used in the film. Have the students make a flip book or their own stop motion film based off their grade level.

Fine Arts and Math: Create a venn diagram comparing The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore to The Wizard of Oz. (film or movie)Is there another story that comparisons could be made with?

Group Discussion: How did the people turn color again after the storm? What do you think this symbolizes? What importance does the old book play in the story? The children’s books? What do you notice about the seasons and Morris Lessmore’s age?

Technology: The IMAG-N-O-TRON app promotes the use of technology while reading. I love how it brings the pictures of the book to life while reading the story aloud. This is perfect for the visual and auditory students who need additional support while reading. If you have a student in a RTI situation – please check this app out!!

Bottom line: 5 out 5 stars!!!

-Liz (aka Rachel)

Finals, Vlogs, & Katniss

Hello December 5th, you mean one thing—6 MONTHS ‘TILL I’M 23! (Yes, I still count down till my birthday)

Due to the upcoming Finals (which are this week), I promised myself I wasn’t going to read anymore novels after finishing The Elite. A promise I kinda sorta actually kept (I only read a few chapters of Tiger Lily and The Book Thief).

HOWEVER, I did stumble upon Hank and John Green’s hilarious and funny videos*. Which was pointless if my point of not reading novels was to actually spend that time studying…I ended up learning about misconceptions, mispronunciations, the pointlessness of a penny, and how the front lawn will be the downfall of America thanks to the British. Thank you vlogbrothers, crash course, scishow, and mental floss. By the way, if someone wants to surprise me…I wouldn’t mind a subscription to Mental Floss magazine.

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I did get to study though and feel pretty comfortable with how a performed on my finals, but for better or for worse – THEY ARE OVER *commence happy dance*.

I had a wonderful study partner, my adorable kitty Katniss. Being the booknerdigan that I am, when I adopted my kitten at the beginning of the semester, I wanted to name her after a book character. At first, I named her Lucy after The Chronicles of Narnia. That just didn’t suit her right, so now she is named Katniss. The two things I love combined… animals and books! Anyways, Katniss has grown a lot throughout the semester, and I can’t believe she will be 17 weeks old this Saturday. She has helped study (aka nap or suck my finger when I study —she was bottle fed) and been my buddy. That made the studying hours not so bad. Now that it is over, I can read!! Now that I’m enrolled in YA Library Science for the next semester, there should be plenty to post!

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katniss collage

-Liz (aka Rachel)

* While their movies (and books) are intelligent and often humorous, they are not always “appropriate”. You often can gauge the appropriateness of their vlogs by their title. I have found their educational videos to often not be a problem. For books – use common sense media.

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Side Effects May Vary

SEMVAuthor: Julie Murphy

Publication Date: March 18, 2014

Summary from Goodreads:

What if you’d been living your life as if you were dying—only to find out that you had your whole future ahead of you?

When sixteen-year-old Alice is diagnosed with leukemia, her prognosis is grim. To maximize the time she does have, she vows to spend her final months righting wrongs—however she sees fit. She convinces her friend Harvey, whom she knows has always had feelings for her, to help her with a crazy bucket list that’s as much about revenge (humiliating her ex-boyfriend and getting back at her arch nemesis) as it is about hope (doing something unexpectedly kind for a stranger and reliving some childhood memories). But just when Alice’s scores are settled, she goes into remission.

Now Alice is forced to face the consequences of all that she’s said and done, as well as her true feelings for Harvey. But has she done irreparable damage to the people around her, and to the one person who matters most?

Why I’m waiting for this: How fun does this sound? Not the cancer part (nothng is fun about that terrible disease) but the oh-no-how-do-I-fix-this part. I can’t wait to meet Alice and Harvey. We met Julie Murphy at the Austin Teen Book Festival and she was awesome, so I’m excited about her debut novel!

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“Waiting on” Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Teaser Tuesday: The Outsiders

 

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Author: S.E. Hinton

I was just about asleep when I heard, as if from a great distance, a low long whistle that went off in a sudden high note. I was too sleep t pay any attention, although Johnny didn’t have any reason to be whistling like that. He was sitting on the back steps trying to read Gone with the Wind. I had almost decided that I had dreamed the outside world and there was nothing but baloney sandwiches and the Civil War an the old church and the mist in the valley. It seemed to e that i had always lived in the church, or maybe lived during the Civil War and had somehow got transplanted. That shows you what a vivid imagination I have.

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Although I haven’t gotten started yet, I know this is bound to be an interesting read for several reasons.

Firstly, it’s about the dark side of city life and how it shapes the young lives that face conflicts, create alliances and friendships, and fight to have a place and purpose in their world.

Secondly, it was written by a teenager.

Thirdly, it was written in 1967.

I know it won’t be a fairy tale, it won’t be pretty, and it won’t have a happy ending, but it’s still around, it’s history, and deserves to be read.

I’ll let you know how it goes.