Pub Date: Halloween

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It’s my fourth Pub Date installment, yay! I did a pumpkin beer last month and I’m going to do a kind-of pumpkin beer this month, too. Because there is no such thing as too much pumpkin beer. (Side note: I saw seasonal winter beers in Target last night and it made me so sad.)

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I debated what to pick for this month and I am still kicking myself for never taking a picture of the Leaf Pile ale I’ve had to drink this year. Leaf Pile is a local beer from Greenport Harbor Brewing. Leaf Pile is kind of like a pumpkin beer without the pumpkin. As the graphic above says all of the fall flavors are there, but it’s not as sweet as a traditional pumpkin beer. I’ve had it a few times this year out at bars and at the Greenport Harbor Brewery and I would highly recommend it.

And then it was time to pick a book. Why don’t any books include Halloween? Can I blame the fact that I don’t like scary books? But wait, I remembered a book with Halloween!

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I was surprised to fall in love with Lara-Jean in Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before after not liking her Summer series at all. Lara-Jean is hilarious and in one of my favorite parts of the book, that I can’t believe I forgot about, she talks about how hard it is to dress up for Halloween when you’re Asian because everyone just thinks you’re an anime character. I actually took a picture of the paragraph and sent it to one of my good friends, who’s Asian, who always complains about stuff like this (you know, like racism).

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I actually can’t remember what Lara-Jean ended up going as, which means I just have to re-read the book! Which is fine with me because it’s a great book and there’s a sequel coming out next year so a refresh will be good!

And make sure you check out my other pub dates for this month:
Brittany
Estelle
Andi

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

One Year Ago: Book Review: Sex & Violence


Book Review: Picture Perfect

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Title: Picture Perfect
Author: Alessandra Thomas
Release Date: 03/26/13
Genre: New Adult Contemporary
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Picture Perfect is a book that’s been on my TBR list for a while, I’ve owned the e-book for a while, and I even up the series it starts off as one of the series I want to start. Even with all of those positive things I went into Picture Perfect with pretty low expectations because it’s a new adult book and it’s self-published, two things that often cause me some issues. Sadly even with my low expectations I had many issues with Picture Perfect.

The story follows Cat, a former model, who is recovering from a terrible horseback riding accident that left her with a steel rod in her leg, unable to wear heels, and, most importantly to Cat, about 60 pounds heavier. This is a story about how Cat comes to terms with her new limitations and body, but about 25% of the way in I was so tired of hearing about how enormous and disgusting Cat was I’m not even sure why I continued reading. I appreciate that the way that Cat thought is probably pretty accurate to the way a lot of women feel about their body, but it was just annoying and even though I felt for her at first I quickly grew tired of hearing her complain.

There’s one thing about Picture Perfect that I really appreciated. Once Cat meets Nate her life immediately gets better (but the complaining about her weight obviously don’t stop) and I rolled my eyes that this was a book where the guy immediately solves all of the girl’s problems. But then, much to my surprise, the therapist that Cat is seeing calls her out on this and tells her that she can’t rely on a guy to be happy because if the relationship ends what happens next? Even though Cat didn’t really listen to the therapist (something I found fairly realistic) I still appreciated that the point was made.

Sadly that’s pretty much the only thing I liked about Cat’s relationship with Nate. Honestly I felt bad for Nate, besides being an architecture student, a transfer student from USC, and an athlete with a hot body he had no personality. There was very little action between Cat and Nate that showed their attraction or chemistry (this book was pretty much all telling and no showing) and I just never understood their relationship. Nate was a mystery and I didn’t understand why anyone would want to date someone as annoying as Cat. I will say I did like Nate’s scandal at the end, I thought it really fit the story and at least gave us some more insight into Nate as a character.

One of my biggest problems with the book was some discrepancies I came across while reading. From the beginning of the story Cat swears up and down that she was just naturally thin in her modeling days and that she didn’t need to starve herself or have an eating disorder to have a model body. But then in the second half of the book she mentions that she used to not eat a lot and exercise all the time to maintain her physique. It happened again when Cat was talking about the guy she was hooking up with before her accident and she talks about how the sex was never really satisfying but that he’s the only guy she’s slept with. Then later on in the book Cat talks mentions all of the other guys she’s been with. I don’t care which one it is but be consistent.

Bottom Line: Sadly Picture Perfect was not for me. The idea of the story was good and there were a few aspects I liked, but most of it just didn’t work for me (although I appreciate that it didn’t fall prey to some of the other common NA tropes). The main character was whiney, the romance fell flat, and there was a whole lot more telling than showing (A LOT OF TELLING). Skip this one.

One Year Ago: Waiting on Wednesday: Pointe


Top 10 Tuesday: Characters Who I Would Totally Want To Be For Halloween

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Top 10 Tuesday is a meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. You can see all the topics here.

Happy Halloween! I am not a fan of Halloween and I mostly try to avoid Halloween celebrations, but I have to admit that the idea of dressing up as a character from a favorite book does sound pretty cool. Unfortunately I’d probably go crazy because none of my friends would have any idea who I was (I need more real life bookish friends). I already attended the one Halloween 2014 party I will be attending this year last weekend and I was a Macy’s balloon handler, aka the easiest and best costume ever.

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But let’s talk about what I would be if I lived in a different world (where I’m still lazy and cheap).

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1. Cath from Fangirl: I could just wear all things I already known. Or make a Simon Snow teeshirt. Done.

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2. Annie from Breathe, Annie, Breathe: I actually went as a marathoner one Halloween: running clothes, race number pinned to my shirt, voila.

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3. Hallie from Take Me On: Gym clothes, boxing gloves, done.

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4. Kestrel from The Winner’s Curse: Pray the thrift store has a bad-ass puffy dress and I’m all set.

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5. Cleo from A Death-Struck Year: Long shirt, dress shirt, surgical mask, easy.

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6. Elise from This Song Will Save Your Life: Big headphones, maybe a record or two, and some casual clothes.

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7. Lala from Burning: Loose/hippie/Gypsy clothes are easy enough to find as are tarot cards and a crystal ball.

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8. Hudson from Bittersweet: Some old ice skates and a few cupcakes (always good to have at a party) and I would be good.

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9. Katniss from The Hunger Games: Maybe overdone at this point, but some black, a bow and arrow, and a braid.

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10. Lynn from Not a Drop to Drink: Dress kind of shabbily and carry around a bucket and maybe string some bottles of water together and attach them to my outfit.

One Year Ago: Top 10 Tuesday: Scariest Looking Book Covers


Please Don’t Stop Writing Negative Reviews + Other Thoughts on Kathleen Hale

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I was late to the whole Kathleen Hale show. A good friend actually texted me the article last Saturday and I remember clicking it and thinking it was too long to read at the time and just never going back to it. I was catching up on Jamie’s blog on Wednesday and I started reading her thoughts on the KH situation and I was blown away by what KH did. I tried to compose some intelligent thoughts about the situation on Wednesday night, but I just didn’t have time. I ended up being out late Thursday night which turned out to be good because it gave me the weekend to digest things and work through my thoughts.

But first I would highly suggest giving these great articles about the KH situation a read:
On the Importance of Pseudonymous Activity | Dear Author
The Choices of Kathleen Hale | Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
Kathleen Hale vs. Blythe Harris, and the Breach of Online Ethics | Alex Hurst
How to engage your critics (if you must) in a safe and productive way | Paula Stokes
Do Not Link link to KH’s original Guardian article

On the importance of critical reviews: Earlier this year I wrote a post about the importance of criticism in book reviews. I want to once against stress how important I find (constructive) criticism to be and to encourage everyone to keep on being honest and to keep on writing reviews. The thing that scares me the most about the whole KH situation (besides the stalking, obviously) is people saying they might not blog, might not write critical reviews, or might make their reviews/blogs private. I am all in favor of protecting your privacy (being smart is important), but please don’t let this clearly rare behavior by one disturbed individual scare you away.

On Internet Trolls: Based on what I’ve learned about Blythe Harris’s behavior I don’t think she behaved in a troll-like way towards Kathleen Hale, but we all know that Internet trolls exist. If you are someone who trolls websites and people, making personal attacks on people for absolutely no reason or stupid reasons and/or goes around calling people names you are a moron who needs to get a life. The end. (But they obviously don’t deserve to be stalked.) Anyone who has half a brain (quarter of a brain? eight of a brain? sixteenth of a brain?) can tell a real review from a troll review and therefore we should ignore the trolls and let them live their own miserable lives. Don’t feed the trolls. Oh, and of you are one of these people giving Kathleen Hale’s published book or up-coming book a one-star review having never read it I put you in this category.

One representing yourself as someone different on the Internet: I want to preface this point by saying I put very little trust in KH’s version of the Blythe Harris story, but I was bothered by the idea that someone who claims to be a teacher, an expert on teenagers, could actually not even work with or have any inside knowledge into teenagers. I don’t trust teacher or librarian bloggers more than I trust bloggers in other professions, but I do appreciate their insight and look at their reviews through a different lens. If you don’t want to share your job on your blog, fine, don’t, I don’t share mine, but I think claiming to be reviewing books from the eyes of a teacher and then not actually being a teacher is wrong. Like writing a travel blog claiming to be a travel agent, but actually being an accountant who’s never been on a plane.

On authors’ rights to defend themselves: Hearing people say negative things about something you’ve probably spent countless hours/days/months/years on must really suck, especially because writing a book is such a personal thing in many cases. But part of being an author is writing a book and putting it out there in the world for people to read and form opinions about. Chances are some of those opinions will be positive, others will be negative, and most people probably won’t give a crap. I never see a reason to defend yourself to a troll, someone who’s being an a-hole for the sake of being an a-hole, but I do think there are times when an author, if they’re inclined, can stand up for their work. If someone writes an intelligent, critical review and takes issue with how you represent a type of person/experience/place and talks about how you know nothing about it and you feel you have experiences/insight/whatever that make you uniquely qualified to write about it I don’t think there’s anything wrong with writing the reviewer a professional email to clear things up. If I wrote something about an author or book that was plain wrong I would want to be corrected and I would put that correction on my blog.

On being happy rather than right: One of my favorite lines from a movie is from a little film called Celeste and Jesse Forever. Celeste is very type-A and always wants to be “right” and at one point another character tells her that “it’s better to be happy than right.” That really resonated with me and it’s something I try to keep in mind. One of the many striking things about the KH article is that she did what she thought was “right” (clearly very, very wrong) and it still didn’t make her happy. Let go, do yoga, accept the things you cannot change (you will never be universally liked, some people will always be a-holes), and move on.

On Kathleen Hale being the Ray Rice of YA literature: (I realize that’s an inflammatory statement, but I stand by it.) I’m sure there are people that will say knocking your fiancee out in an elevator and then dragging her limp body down a hotel hallway is worse than stalking someone, but IMO they’re both pretty terrible things and inexcusable behavior. This whole week I’ve been calling KH the Ray Rise of YA literature in my mind and it’s a comparison that I stand by. Which brings me to…

On Harper Collins: On some level, the level that used to work in publishing, I feel bad for HC. I’m sure most people there think what KH did was wrong and crazy, they’re probably pissed they’re stuck with her because her soon-to-be mother-in-law is their boss, and they had nothing to do with what she did. But Joe Flacco (quaterback) and John Harbaugh (coach) didn’t tell Ray Rice to go knock out his fiancee and they still had to deal the fallout from the Ray Rice scandal and losing one of their best running backs. Silence isn’t consent, but it’s also not condemnation. The Ravens didn’t keep a fiancee-beater around and Harper Collins shouldn’t keep a stalker around. Cut her loose.

On the boycotts: I will never read another Kathleen Hale book. I will never read another book by an author that has come out in support of Hale (I came across a list earlier in the week, but I can’t seem to find it now, I will add the link when I find it again). I will never read The Guardian. I fully support whatever boycott/blackout/etc. that any blogger is doing in response to KH’s behavior. I would honestly like to boycott all Harper Collins titles for the near future, but, to be honest, I don’t have plans to read or review another Harper book until the end of December so that doesn’t really seem like much of a statement (although I realized there are a few William Morrow books I want to read and an Avon book coming out in November I’m excited for and those are both imprints of HC). I’m sure people will say boycotts of HC are unfair since as far as we know HC had nothing to do with Hale’s behavior, but Radisson still suspended their sponsorship of the Vikings after the Adrian Peterson scandal and the players, coaching staff, and other employees of the Vikings had nothing to do with Peterson beating his child (sadly so many NFL comparisons).

Those are my thoughts. Thank you for reading. If you wrote a post about the Kathleen Hale situation or have an interesting post you think I should see please link it below. I’ve really enjoyed reading peoples’ opinions on the whole situation.

One Year Ago: Book Review: Palace of Spies


Book Review: The Good Sister

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Title: The Good Sister
Author: Jamie Kain
Release Date: 10/07/14
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars

The Good Sister was one of my most pleasant surprises of 2014. Obviously I found the idea of the story interesting, otherwise I wouldn’t have picked it up, but I never expected to as taken in by the story as I was and to count it among one of my favorite books of 2014. Before I picked up the book the whole hippie family and the dead-sister perspective gave me pause, but the way that Jamie Kain handled those two parts of the story, and the rest of the story, was so impressive, especially for a debut author.

The official description of this book is kind of awful and misleading and really sells the story short. At the beginning of the story Sarah, the “good” sister is dead and no one quite knows what happened. Sarah had been sick for much of her teenage life with cancer, but she was finally healthy and everyone thought she was going to live a healthy, successful life as the golden child. Her death is tough on her entire family, her former hippie parents are now divorced and have pretty much sold out and did a 180-degree turn to fancy, corporate lives, but Sarah’s death is especially hard on her two sisters, Rachel and Asha. Hands down the biggest surprise of the book was how the sisters just didn’t get along. Sarah and Asha had been close, Asha had given Sarah a bone marrow transfusion years before and that experience bonded them, but they had grown apart towards the end of Sarah’s life. Rachel is difficult, as Rachel, Asha, and Sarah all acknowledge, and she never really bonded or got along with either of sisters. The story is told from the perspectives of all three sisters, Sarah from beyond the grave, and is really about fixing the sisters as individuals and their entire family.

Rachel was probably the most complicated character in the book, and there were lots of complicated characters, and also maybe the most damaged, and again there were lots of damaged characters here. Rachel graduated high school a semester early and now she walks at a coffee shop in their hometown outside of San Francisco. Sadly Rachel spends most of her time searching for attention she never got from her parents or from her sisters and to find it she looks to guys, more often than not guys she shouldn’t be dating including Sarah’s former boyfriend, a guy Asha thinks is a drug dealer, and a Buddhist monk. It’s when Rachel meets the Buddhist monk, a guy just a few years older than she is, that she starts to think she can change her life. Rachel was with Sarah the day she died and she blames herself for Sarah’s death. When she meets the monk she tries to seduce him, but he is steadfast in his celibacy and really just tries to show Rachel that she deserves happiness and is worthy of allowing good people to love and care about her.

Asha was another complicated and damaged character. She’s the youngest sister, still in high school, and even though she says and does thing beyond her years she’s still very much a child. Asha often skips school, spends her nights sleeping in a local park, and abuses drugs and alcohol. At the start of the book she’s trying to seduce her guy best friend’s older brother, but after her best friend gets angry at her about his brother she begins to think her best friend might have feelings for her. Even though her actions are often those of someone older her thought processes and her reaction to thinks were fairly young and I often wanted to just wrap Asha up and take care of her.

The sister that worried me the most going in was Sarah, I don’t normally read books from the perspective of dead characters, but I was immediately struck by how normal Sarah seemed. The way the story is told Sarah also doesn’t quite know what happened to lead her to her death so she’s uncovering the story the same way that Asha and Rachel are uncovering the story. Towards the end of the book Sarah’s voice did get a little cheesy and dramatic, but for the most part I was impressed by it.

If I had one criticism of the book it would be that Jamie Kain tried to do too much. It’s a very full, complicated, layered story and there were times things didn’t feel fleshed out enough or moments when a new character or situation would just appear, like Rachel’s drug dealer boyfriend who literally isn’t mentioned for more than half the book and then is suddenly in two or so scenes. In the acknowledgments, which were at the beginning of the book (which I hate) Kain talked about how she worked on the book for a while and had so many ideas she had to narrow down and sometimes the story really felt like that was the case.

Bottom Line: The Good Sister is one of my favorite books of 2014 and certainly one of the most impressive debuts I’ve read. The characters are flawed and the situations are complicated, but Jamie Kain handles both of those beautifully. I wanted to keep living in the Kinsey sisters’ world, it was so interesting and well done and I just felt like I knew the sisters and loved and cared about them, faults and all. This is a must-read that I hope more people will be picking up.

I received an electronic review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley (thank you!). All opinions are my own. 

One Year Ago: Waiting on Wednesday: Heartbeat


Top 10 Tuesday: New Series I Want To Start

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Top 10 Tuesday is a meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. You can see all the topics here.

I can’t believe I came up with ten series I want to start. I’m also kind of scared I came up with ten series to read.

theyoungelites

1. The Young Elites by Marie Lu

buryingwater

2. Burying Water by K.A. Tucker

legend

3. Legend by Marie Lu

theartoffalling

4. Oceanside High by Jenny Koczorowski

theboyfrendlist

5. Ruby Oliver by E. Lockhart

canton

6. Canton by Viv Daniels

delirium

7. Delirium by Lauren Oliver

confessions

8. Confessions by Louise Rozett

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9. Grab Your Pole by Jenn Cooksey

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10. Picturing Perfect by Alessandra Thomas

One Year Ago: Book Review: Letters to Nowhere


Book Review: Whatever Life Throws at You

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Title: Whatever Life Throws at You
Author: Julie Cross
Release Date: 10/07/14
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

I have to talk about this book in two separate ways because I read Julie Cross’s Letters to Nowhere. I liked Letters to Nowhere and I liked Whatever Life Throws at you, but, sadly, when consider them together I end up not really respecting either book because they are, in so, so, so many ways, a very similar story.

Both stories have to deal with the world of professional sports: Letters to Nowhere gymnastics and Whatever Life Throws at you baseball. The main adult character in each one is a professional coach, Jordan’s dad in Letters to Nowhere and Annie’s dad in Whatever Life Throws at you. The difference is that Jordan’s dad acts as the mentor to Karen, the main character in Letters to Nowhere, and Annie’s dad acts as the mentor to Jason, the love interest in Whatever Life Throws at You, but is that really a difference? There are also complicated parental relationships in both books, Karen’s parents have just passed away which starts the Letter to Nowhere story and in Whatever Life Throws at You Annie’s mother has abandoned the family and Jason’s mother has completely written him off. Also the images on both covers are very similar.

As I was reading Whatever Life Throws at You I noticed all of that and it bothered me, but I was willing to overlook it because it wasn’t like a carbon copy, it was just similar, and still, it was well done and I enjoyed it, but then something happened that blew my mind. I don’t want to say too much about it because it happens very close to the end of Letters to Nowhere, but the setup for the moment when the romantic relationship between the main characters is EXACTLY THE SAME in both books. EXACTLY! It plays out differently because it happens more in the middle or last third or so of Whatever Life Throws at You, but it was insane. Mind blowing in the worst possible way.

If I had to give Whatever Life Throws at You a rating just on its own as if I never read Letters to Nowhere it would probably be 3.5 or 4 stars, I did really enjoy the story, but I enjoy Julie Cross’s writing and I enjoyed Letters to Nowhere so it makes sense that I would like another similar book that she wrote.

(I wanted to write about how the two books are different, but at the moment I’m having a difficult time thinking of the differences.)

Obviously the main characters are different. Jordan is the athlete and Annie is the daughter of the coach who’s interested in the the athlete. Jordan couldn’t be farther from a normal teen, but Annie is really just a normal girl, who’s been thrust into the world of professional sports, who worries about moving, making new friends, and school. Julie Cross does a great job of handling the complicated family situations in this book with both the blood families in the story (Annie’s, Jason’s, Annie’s friend’s, and the team’s publicist’s) and the family dynamics that develop between the players and staff of the baseball team.

The romance in the story was also outstanding. In both of the Julie Cross books I’ve read she does an excellent job of developing the characters as people and then slowing building up to a romance between the characters. Even though Jason was a few years older it was still a really honest, refreshing romance that had the highs and lows of a normal relationship.

Oh! I thought of something else that drove me crazy. The story is obviously about baseball and there’s a fair amount of baseball in the book, but I don’t think it would drive anyone who’s not a fan or not interested in baseball crazy. I really liked how rather than telling us the name of everyone on the team Cross referred to some of them just by their position (“short stop,” “third base,” etc.). Towards the end of the book I was thinking how Cross did a pretty good job with the baseball sections but then, right at the end, the Royals (props to Cross for picking the Royals as the team in the story, they are now in the middle of their first post-season run in a while) are playing a game in Yankee stadium and the Yankees bat in the top of the inning and the Royals bat in the bottom. Now maybe this will be changed in the final book (I read an ARC), but this little thing, which is such a basic baseball thing, drove me totally crazy especially because when the Yankees are up and when Jason has to pitch are so important to that moment in the story.

Bottom Line: On its own Whatever Life Throws at You is an solid book, it has interesting characters, a strong romance, and a compelling storyline, but having read one of Cross’s other books, Letters to Nowhere, the similarities are just too great to ignore. Both feature the world of a professional sports, a father in a mentor position, complicated family situations, and, most disturbing, the same setup for the pivotal moment in both romances. If you haven’t read Letters to Nowhere read this and enjoy it, but if you have be prepared to be underwhelmed.

I received an electronic review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

One Year Ago: Waiting on Wednesday: Side Effects May Vary


Book Review: Even in Paradise

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Title: Even in Paradise
Author: Chelsey Philpot
Release Date: 10/14/14
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

If I had to sum up Even in Paradise in one line it would be to say that it’s a more pedestrian, less beautifully written version of We Were Liars. That might sound weird, but the entire time I was reading I kept thinking of We Were Liars which has its fans, and I respected, but it was a little too literary and high-brow for my to really connect with the story, as beautiful as the writing was. I didn’t think Even in Paradise was perfect, it has its issues, but if I had to pick between We Were Liars and Even in Paradise I would go with Even in Paradise in a heartbeat. Let’s talk about why.

1. Chelsey Philpot goes the more cliche route and chooses to tell the story of the wealthy, powerful Buchanan family through the eyes of an outsider, the middle class Charlotte who’s a classmate of Julia Buchanan, the wild, free, mysterious Buchanan daughter who recently started at Charlotte’s school after a terrible accident that resulted in the death of her sister and her sister’s boyfriend. Charlotte and Julia quickly become obsessed with each other and the rest of their friends all fall away. Even though it was the more typical take on the story it was easy to see why the pretty plain Charlotte was drawn to the glamorous Julia.

2. As much as the fact the Charlotte was a normal girl made the story relatable it also made the story more cliched. The way that Julia’s family took Charlotte under their wing felt authentic, but there was always the feeling that they invited Charlotte into the fold and they could just as easily push her out. The Buchanan’s world was obviously a novelty to Charlotte, but, maybe because it wasn’t like she set out to be a part of their world, she never felt too much like the poor outsider. However, the Buchanans were obviously a thinly-veiled Kennedy family and sometimes they ventured into being caricatures.

3. The romance definitely left something to be desired. At first I wondered if the story was going to head towards a romance between Charlotte and Julia, but Charlotte ended up having a relationship with Julia’s brother. Because the story never dove too deeply into characters other than Charlotte and Julia (and even then it wasn’t very deep) I never quite understood the relationship between Charlotte and Julia’s brother. There was no chemistry and their moments together were few and far between.

4. All of that said it was still an entertaining (quick) book that I would say is worth taking to the beach or reading on a plane. Even though the writing lacked the beauty of We Were Liars it was still perfectly well written. The highlight of the book was Charlotte, who could have been a wide-eyed outsider taken in by a fancy, wealthy family, but Charlotte always had her own sense of self. I never quite knew what Charlotte was going to do, which made sense and really worked for the story.

Bottom Line: I’m not saying this is a book to run out and read immediately, but if you enjoy stories about old New England families and stories of outsiders in situations they don’t belong this is worth giving a try. It does sometimes fall into cliche territory and the romance wasn’t the best, but the story was interesting and the main character is especially strong.

I received an electronic review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss (thank you!). All opinions are my own. 

One Year Ago: Book Review: The Vow


Book Review: Kiss Kill Vanish

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Title: Kiss Kill Vanish
Author: Jessica Martinez
Release Date: 10/07/14
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars

If you haven’t read a Jessica Martinez book you are seriously missing out. I loved Virtuosity, I enjoyed The Vow, and Kiss Kill Vanish was just something else entirely. In a lot of ways  If you haven’t read one of Martinez’s book go read one now (after you finish my review, of course).

When I first started Kiss Kill Vanish I was 100% sure I wasn’t a fan. The beginning of the story immediately starts with Valentina/Jane’s life in Montreal, a really sad life working as a model for this creepy artist and living in what’s pretty much a closet in a crappy apartment. She’s on the run from her old life in Miami and it quickly comes out that she saw her father, who she always thought was a wealthy art dealer, and her boyfriend, one of her father’s employees, kill a man on her father’s yacht. After she witnessed the murder she immediately fled to Montreal to try to distance herself from her old life.

In Montreal Valentina goes by Jane and is pretty much just trying to find a way to make enough money to leave freezing, lonely Montreal and make a permanent escape to somewhere like Spain. When the story starts she’s already met a young artist who hires her to be his muse and who she thinks is a poser and a loser. Her life in Montreal, putting up with this guy she hates, having no money for food or a blanket, and have no friends is a far cry from her previously glamourous life in Miami where she had million-dollar art works hanging in her house, lots of money to spend, and went to parties all the time.

There were several things about the story and Valentina that seemed so odd at first, and I think were part of why I didn’t get into the story immediately, but, after I thought about them made sense. Valentina has a much older sense about her, she’s only 17 during the book, but she could easily be much older, probably because of the way she was raised. For someone who grew up in such privilege her survival skills really impressed me. But, I was kind of baffled by the fact that after witnessing her father order her boyfriend to murder someone that she wasn’t more curious about what was going on. I came to the conclusion that she must have been in shock and in the middle of some serious denial otherwise how could she not put all of it together or at least try to put all of it together through Googling or something?

I’m struggling with other things to say about this story because so much happens and changes so quickly over the story that I don’t want to spoil anything. Even though I was skeptical at first, probably 15% of the way in something happened that really surprised me and pretty much just sucked me in completely. I had inklings of the way things in the story would happen and some of them were right, but there were other things (especially a BIG thing towards the end that I did not see coming but was BRILLIANT) that just blew my mind and made me have so much (even more than I originally had) respect for Martinez.

You know how sometimes you read a book and you finish and it’s just kind of over? Well this is a book that in the five or so days since I finished it had just stayed with me. I almost want to go back and re-read it because there are so many layers and moving parts to the story that I’m sure there are things I missed. It would also be interesting to read the whole thing knowing how it ends. Also, the way Martinez handles romance is so amazing. Her romances are different and push the normal limits, but they’re also really subtle and real feeling.

All that good stuff said there was one major thing about the story that drove me crazy. Martinez used this kind of countdown storytelling device where a chapter or new section would pick up with Valentina waiting for something to happen or waiting for it to be time to do something so it would start with eight minutes left and then spend the next eight minutes in Valentina’s head as she waited around. It was a good way to show the emptiness and desperation of Valentina’s life, but I just wanted to shake her and tell her to get out of her own head and shut up and leave and be early! Also, no spoilers, but I wish there had been more closure with her father and boyfriend at the end. There’s closure with other parts of the story, but not having the closure for those relationships made it feel like something was missing.

Bottom Line: I loved Kiss Kill Vanish maybe even more than I loved Martinez’s other books because I struggled with the beginning, but then Martinez sucked me in, got me hooked, and made me respect her even more. Not only is this a really interesting well done story about a fantastic character in a tough situation, it’s also a great thriller/mystery full of intelligent twists and turns. If I had to compare Jessica Martinez to another YA author it would be Gayle Forman, that’s how much I like her, so if you haven’t read one of her books go to it ASAP because you’re in for a treat.

I received an electronic review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss (thank you!). All opinions are my own.

One Year Ago: Book Review: Parallel


Book Review: Not in the Script

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notinthescript

Title: Not in the Script
Author: Amy Finnegan
Release Date: 10/07/14
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Let’s just say that I enjoyed reading Not in the Script, but if you want a better version of this normal-people-in-Hollywood story you should definitely check out Tammara Webber’s Between the Lines series. That said, Not in the Script has a lot of redeeming qualities, but it also has its fair share of issues. I’m going to break it down a little differently than I normally do.

First, Emma, the main female character, was a joy to read about. Amy Finnegan managed to strike the perfect balance between Taylor-Swift-like huge Hollywood star known for her talent and romantic entanglements and also normal girl. Emma is a really talented actress who is super famous, like can’t go out in public she’s so famous, but in pretty much every scene of the book she seemed really down to earth, but also not sickeningly sweet.

Second, Jake, the main male character, had the same great, relaxed personality that Emma did, but somehow he was a more difficult character to know. Jake is a former model who has only recently broke into acting and the show that he and Emma are starring in is his first major job. Jake is eager to prove himself as more than a pretty face, he really just wants to make enough money to go to college and pay to take care of his mom who recently had a stroke. All of that makes Jake a pretty admirable guy who’s easy to like, but he also just seemed very generic. Even though the story is told from the perspective of Jake and Emma their voices are really similar and I often questioned the authenticity of Jake’s voice.

Third, the look at the Hollywood side of the story was really fun. Emma and Jake have recently signed on to a new TV show that’s filming in Tucson, Arizona. Even though the story took place outside of Hollywood there were still interesting behind-the-scenes looks at the process of making the TV show like the first table read, time spent in hair and makeup, and talk of long days and what really goes into filming one little scene. There are also trips to Hollywood and things like a media tour to really drive home the Hollywood idea. Also, I’ve never been to Tucson, but I am a long-time reader of a fitness blogger who lives in Tucson and lots of the places mentioned in the book are places she talks about on her blog so it seemed pretty authentic to me.

Fourth, there were sadly some things about the writing that bugged me or rubbed me the wrong way. There were many cases of showing rather than telling throughout the story, but especially at the end of chapters. There were probably five or more chapters that would have been so much better if they had ended just one sentence earlier. I got what happened, I’m sure pretty much anyone capable of reading the book understands what happened so really there’s no need to provide another sentence of explanation. There were also some moments, and I wish I had made better notes about them, where Jake made strange comments about Emma’s body and eating habits. The one I very clearly remember was him talking about how nice it was to be able to fit both hands fully around her waist. Not only did the comments seem a little creepy/unhealthy, they also just weren’t things I could really picture a guy saying (see point number two above).

Fifth, the part of the story where I thought Amy Finnegan really excelled was at building relationships. The romantic relationship, and friendship, between Emma and Jake was great, but she also did a great job at handling the other relationships in the story. Emma and Jake work primarily with two other actors, a diva girl and a kind of slightly washed up bad boy. The friendships/frenemy-ships work really well and each of those secondary characters really brought something to the story. Emma’s relationship with her parents was also really strong and even though she had some battles with her mother, who’s also her publicist, it was nice to see mostly normal parents as the parents of a Hollywood star. Throughout the story Emma’s relationship with her childhood best friend never quiet clicked, but I was pleasantly surprised by how that relationship ended up playing out and I came away respecting Amy Finnegan for what she did with it.

Bottom Line: Not in the Script is a fun, quick book about young Hollywood stars. It has some issues with characterization and the story telling, but it still provides a great behind-the-scenes look at the making of a TV show and an interesting look at the show’s young cast. I wouldn’t say to run out and read it ASAP, but if you’re looking for light and fun and you like Hollywood stories it’s worth giving a try.

I received an electronic review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley (thank you!). All opinions are my own.

One Year Ago: Book Review: Mostly Good Girls