June: A Month of Classics

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There are so many books we want to read, but between new releases, pop literature, and classics it seems we just never have time to read the books we want. And there are an overwhelming amount of classics we keep meaning to read, but they just take a longer to digest (at least to me).

So, The Girls in Plaid have set aside June (Julianne’s and my birthday month!) to read a few of those classics we have always been meaning to read!

Those include Emma, Persuasion, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Sherlock Holmes.

We would like to invite our readers to join us on our Month of Classics reading spree and share what you will be reading!

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Review: Curses and Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii

curses and smokeAuthor: Vickey Alvear Shecter

Age: Young Adult

Genre: Romance, Historical Fiction

We received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Click here to read summary from Goodreads.

A book about Pompeii? Yes! This was a first for me and I was super excited to be approved on Netgalley for Curses and Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii.

I enjoyed this book and rushed through it in two days. There were some twists I didn’t see coming, even up to the very end of the novel, which, yes, ends up with the volcano erupting. (Not a spoiler… obviously.) The entire time I was wondering, hoping that Lucia and Tag would be able to escape the city before the eruption. I was kept on my toes until the end and still thrown for a loop in the last few pages.

I truly appreciate the research that went into this book. Shecter not only visited Pompeii, but also consulted experts about the time period, staying as true as possible to the cultures and practices of that day. At the end, she includes some of the research behind the book, and I found myself googling Pompeii graffiti for a while. It’s actually quite fascinating and humorous.

Overall, Curses and Smoke was a cute love story and had an unexpected ending despite already knowing the fate of the city of Pompeii. 3 ½ stars.

Content Advisory:
Language: 3
Less than 10 uses of d, h, and a
Sexual: 3
some kissing; talk about being a virgin
Violence: 3
Gladiators have swords, and her dad owns a gladiator school. Hence, some violence.
Other:
some mentions of “exposure,” which was leaving an unwanted newborn outside the city walls to die

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Was “Forced” to Read

We found this post forgotten in drafts and decided to pull it out since today’s Top Ten Tuesday is a freebie. Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Thanks to school, I could name 50 books I was “forced” to read. One of my favorite memories of High school is my English classes and my teachers. You see, I was an honors student and by Junior year an AP student. So I had English (and other courses) with the same kids pretty much and we became close. We got to read some pretty cool books. Then again, I’m really nerdy, so I like an excuse to read.

1. The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

Talk about a tear jerker! This book we read freshman year, and I remember crying and worrying how things would turn out for Corrie and her family.

2. Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

I tried to read this over the summer before freshman year to get ahead, but I kept falling asleep with in the first three chapters. So, I went and bought the Great Illustrated Classics version. Once I read that version, I re-attempted to read the book and was successful. I loved it! It was this book that taught me to love stories with complex plots, foreshadowing, symbolism, and confusing character webs.

3. 1984 by George Orwell

My sophomore year I had to read this book. It and The Road by Cormac Mccarthy was my introduction to Dystopian Society stories. I must say these are more serious and darker than the Dystopian YA books written now. It opened up great discussions about human nature, politics, and our future.

4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I was forced to re-read this book my sophomore year, so actually I was really excited to read this novel. Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite stories. I own five different versions of this beloved classic.

5. The Crucible by Arthur Miller

Can I just slap Abagial please? This book (or play, technically) evokes strong emotions in the reader. It was an interesting story to read to kick off my Junior year of English.

6. “The End of Solitude” by William Deresiewicz (read here)

Some of things I read in school have a way of haunting me like a familiar song. Where one line of poem I read or a thought from a story gets stuck in my head. This is technically an essay. In our AP course, we had to read a mix of essays and novels. This essay finds its way into my thoughts every so often and I have to google it and re-read it. I wish there was a way I could download it on my Kindle or buy it in a pamphlet.

7. My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Piccoult

Not everything we read in school was…well….appropriate. This book was probably my first introduction to the scandalous books. Maybe The Road was first, but this was different from even that. It also made me cry myself to sleep.

If you have not read it…word of advice. DO NOT SKIP TO THE END! I have a bad habit of doing this in books, and this book almost broke that habit. Almost.

8. Hamlet

I read a lot of Shakespeare in high school. Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, King Lear, MacBeth, and his sonnets. I actually didn’t finish King Lear and MacBeth because I had to read them the right after Hamlet. My senior English teacher, Mrs. Ross, loves Shakespeare. Hamlet was her favorite, so we spent a lot of time covering the play. We watched the Kenneth Branagh (she loves him too and now so do I) version of Hamlet. It is probably my favorite Shakespearean play that I have read.

Remember when I said poems and parts of a stories get stuck in my head like familiar songs? This poem from Hamlet is one of those:

Doubt thou, the stars are fire,
Doubt, that the sun doth move,
Doubt truth to be a liar,
But never doubt I love.

9. All The Pretty Horses by Cormac Mccarthy

It took me a while to get adjusted to his writing style, but I enjoyed this more than The Road.

10. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

I thought I was going to be reading The Invisible Man, but I was sadly mistaken. This definitely was a forced read…I’m not sure if I finished or not now that I’m thinking about it. I probably skipped to the end.

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What books have you been “forced” to read? Have you read any of these books?

-Liz (aka Rachel)

Top Ten Books About Friendship

Top Ten Books About Friendship

I guess it’s understandable that three best friends love books about friendship. Here are some of our favorites! A few are new favorites, but friendship is as old as the stars, so there are a few classics as well. 🙂

1. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein: The ULTIMATE friendship story. We all cried over this one. Several times. One of our favorite friendship quotes is in this book: “It’s like being in love, discovering your best friend.” We wholeheartedly agree.

2. False Memory by Dan Krokos: One of the things that sticks out most to me in this book is the relationship between the four main characters. They’re really more like brothers and sisters, and the familiarity between them seems so natural.

3. The Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter: Surely you didn’t expect a list about friendship books from us that DIDN’T include The Gallagher Girls. Cammie, Bex, Liz, and Macey support each other through thick and thin, whether life is throwing boys or bombs at them.

4. The Outsiders by S.C. Hinton: The brotherhood at the center of this novel shows that sometimes you can choose your family.

5. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares: Friends before the pants, friends forever. While the pants did bring them closer, it isn’t the basis of their relationship. The girls realize how much the truly need each other as they face their individual twists of fate. Apart they find their own selves, but know they always belong together. (btw, just found the sequal to the series, when the girls have all grown up… eep! TBR!)

6. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli: Because when you go by names like Pocketmouse and Stargirl and you just don’t care what people think, people think you’re crazy. But crazy people can make great friends. When another person gets close enough to see the amazing beneath the wild eyes and carefree attire, there is a bond beyond words. (I always wanted to be as cool as Stargirl)

7. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery: “Bosom friends.”

8. The Winniethe Pooh stories by A.A. Milne: Because these toys became real and were friends long before Toy Story (which is also a great story about friendship). If you never read these as a child, do it now. The pure innocence of friendships and simple, honest wisdom is incredible.

9. The Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle: The clash of character, buttoned-up and cautious versus haphazard (yet calculated) and brilliant, is delightful to watch, makes their friendship even more fantastic. I love how Watson always trusts and sticks with Holmes through his most curious antics.

10. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer: I know we talk about this series a lot, but it’s awesome!! The way that the the characters come together, each stepping in, slowly building more than just a friendship, but a team. Of course there are differences, but they bridge them and see each other’s strengths and become a force unstoppable! (still waiting on book 4… ahh)

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What books remind you of your best-friendships? What great books out there with stellar friendships would you rec?

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Review: Delirium

Review and Content Advisory for Delirium by Lauren OliverAuthor: Lauren Oliver

Age: Young Adult

Genre: Dystopian, Romance

Click here to read summary from Goodreads.

I wasn’t totally sure what to think about Delirium going in, but was intrigued by the idea of love being a disease, and that was enough to get me going. Lena wasn’t my favorite as far as main characters go. She was certainly interesting, don’t get me wrong. She’s dealt with tragedies in her family that have convinced her that having the procedure and getting cured is the best thing for her, and she counts the days until she turns eighteen. Then, of course, she meets a boy before her birthday.

Alex has secrets that he can’t share with Lena. He’s sweet, though not really swoon-worthy (but I tend to prefer spies and princes for my fictional boyfriends as opposed to normal guys), and he is able to show Lena the world in a way she’s never looked at it before. I love how awkward their relationship is—dating is pretty much prohibited because everyone is assigned a person to marry, so Lena has absolutely zero experience with guys. The awkwardness is totally realistic and relatable.

I also really liked her friendship with Hana. It had its ups and downs, just like any friendship. I like how Hana would hang out with her and Alex, so the emphasis wasn’t only on the lovey dovey relationship, but also on friendship. I think this is important because friends are still important, even when you have a boyfriend.

Delirium gets three out of five stars. While I liked the unique idea of the book (love is a disease), I felt like there were many similarities to other dystopian trilogies I’ve read, so it seemed too familiar.

I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy the Matched and Eve trilogies.

Content Advisory:
Language: 4
Some cursing scattered throughout and two uses of the f word
Sexual: 3
kissing; he removes her shirt at one point; they lie in bed together (nothing happens—not even kissing)
Violence: 3 (I think–it’s been a while since I read it. I don’t remember how graphic the scenes were.)
Regulators beating people (and a dog) with clubs and shooting at them (some people don’t even deserve it); flashback to the suicide of Lena’s mom (jumping off a cliff into the water)
Other:
Suicidal thoughts

Review: Beta

Review of Beta by Rachel CohnAuthor: Rachel Cohn

Age: Young Adult

Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Romance

Click here to view a synopsis from Goodreads.

My Summary: Elysia is one of the first teen clones—a Beta, as she is called—created to serve on the Island of Demesne, which is paradise on drugs—literally. Feel-good substances are piped into the air to give local residents a constant euphoric feeling. As a clone, Elysia is immune to the euphoric atmosphere, as are all of the other soulless clone workers on the island. Clones have no feelings, desires, or thoughts of their own.

But Elysia does. If anyone were to find out, she would be eliminated.

Not all on Demesne is as it appears.

Review: Well. They had sex. I won’t tell you who they is, but it still upset me. The Girls in Plaid Skirts are anti sex before marriage, so YA books that go there kind of disappoint. Once again I repeat, not all the teenagers are having sex. I’ll stop before I rant.

However, the ending—it definitely didn’t disappoint. For most of the book I felt like I was trudging along. It wasn’t quite going fast enough and it seemed like one of the most thrilling parts didn’t happen until the middle. That hooked me a little bit, but as I got closer and closer to the end, I found myself becoming more and more enthralled, all the way until the very last page.

Wow. Wow. Wow. The very last page was worth trudging through the entire book.

And when I say last page, I literally mean the last four lines of the book.

As much as I would like to know what happens after that lovely last page, I probably won’t read book 2 because I’m worried about sexual content.

I give Beta 3 out of 5 stars because it didn’t quite captivate me (even with that unexpected ending).

(Sorry no further content advisory. I read this book before I started taking notes for content advisories.)

 

Grammar Tips: When to Capitalize Directions

Is it North? Or north? This is one of those things I’ve struggled with personally, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Is there a difference? Yes! There is!

When do I capitalize directions? When referring to a region, such as the South, or the Northwest. The Girls in Plaid Skirts live in the South, not the south.

So when is lowercase used? When giving directions. For example, we often drive west to Texas for book events. (Though we’d love to drive south for RT that’s coming up!)

When to capitalize directions
Did you find this tip helpful? Let us know what you want to see for future grammar tips! And don’t forget to check out our previous ones here.

Dark Days Tour Recap

Rachel and I had a blast on Tuesday at the Epic Reads’ Dark Days tour featuring Kiera Cass, Kelley Armstrong, Kimberly Derting, and Danielle Paige. We drove three hours one way in order to attend the event, and it was totally worth it.

We were especially excited because it was the release day for The One! They had a local bookstore selling books and… they ran out. Rachel was lucky enough to get the last copies of The One for us. They brought over a few more and sold all of those too. I hope everyone who was there was able to get a copy!
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The Irving Library hosted a fantastic event. The decor was perfection with red and pink lights and pom poms lining the walls and ceilings of the auditorium. There was a super cute dessert table (unfortunately I didn’t get a photo) and the cupcakes had mini edible book covers on them! By the time I made it to the table, the cupcakes were gone, but I managed to get a creeper pic of Kiera’s cupcake. (I meant to ask if I could take one and forgot.)
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One of our favorite parts about events is getting to meet fellow bloggers and readers! We got to meet Matt and his friend Bex (we Gallagher Girls love her name), and I ran into Alex as she was leaving. We also met some awesome fellow Selectioners (I’m trying to make this a thing) while we were waiting in line, and they were wearing cute tiara rings in honor of The One.

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The panels were fun (panels are always fun), and poor Kiera had to be super careful to not spoil, but she hinted at some unexpected friendships to come in The One. When asked how she felt about her series, she said, “I’m stupid in love with this book.” And of course everyone awed when she confessed both boys were based off her husband!

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The signing line for Kiera was the longest (not surprising, as it was her book birthday), so we were able to zip through meeting the other authors (we didn’t have any of their books to get signed) and talk to them and get some bookmarks, and Rachel had them sign her Kindle cover and a tote bag.

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We finally got to meet Kiera, who was in high spirits and super excited. We told her that we were finally getting to check “own an entire signed series” off our bucket lists, and she gave us high fives.DSC_0649 - Version 2 DSC_0670

We posed with our tiaras and complete trilogies in the parking lot, then headed back home as we sang songs from Frozen. (In case you don’t follow us on Twitter—which you should—Rachel likes to sing the Frozen songs in Dutch. Sort of…)

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Plaid style! We’re always easy to spot at book events.

plaid styleA huge thanks to Epic Reads and Irving Public Library for such a successful event! We definitely see some books being added to our TBR list (like Taking)

 

Book Review: Steelheart

Review for Steelheart by Brandon SandersonAuthor: Brandon Sanderson

Age: YA

Genre: Science Fiction, Spy, Superheroes

Click here to view a synopsis from Goodreads.

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson Oh. My. Gracious. So much awesome!! I must admit, my main reason to read this one was because he was at Austin Teen Book Festival, and I had heard it was really great. I’m not usually a superheros person, more espionage and adventures unknown. But, much to my delight, Sanderson has delivered all that and more in one incredible package.

It has a futuristic setting, but with a good amount of familiar elements (they still drive cars and eat regular food). After the appearance of an unknown object in the sky, some regular humans developed powers. As we well know, “With great power comes great responsibility.”* But the changed humans, called Epics, reject responsibility and abuse their powers to control the unaltered populace.

An underground force called the Reckoners is fighting back. They study the Epics to find their unique weakness and strike. We follow the main character on his journey to become one of their team and seek exact revenge on one of the strongest Epics, Steelheart. I greatly appreciated Sanderson’s use of replacement words, instead of active swearing. Very refreshing.

The focus of the main character, and written in first person, the entire book is on a specific goal. There is very little inclusion of emotion and sex is not an issue at all. This certainly does not mean the book lacks spice! Au contraire! There is enough action and intrigue to keep the reader rapt. I finished at 2:15 in the morning. Also, it is not gory, there is blood of course, but it does not near the point of gross.

Another great aspect is the presence of a kind, wise, likable leader. This proves a keen alternative to the common domineering power figure, fostering a certain sense of trust that becomes very important to the main character and the reader. Something I found just delightful is the main character’s ability to create unusual, and very entertaining analogies. I love a good analogy like a cat loves a string. A very satisfying ready I can‘t wait to get my hands on the sequel, Fireflight!

*Stan Lee