Book Review: Magnolia

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Title: Magnolia
Author: Kristi Cook
Release Date: 08/05/14
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Looking for a fun, quick, read about classic southern families? Well you have found it in Magnolia. This was such a pleasant surprise. I requested it from Edelweiss, so I was interested in it and expected to like it, but it was so much more than I thought it would be. Something, maybe the cover, made me think it would be dark and melodramatic, and while it had its dramatic moments, for the most part it was a really good YA romance with some more serious moments thrown in.

Jemma and Ryder are the opposite of Romeo and Juliet, their families have been friends for generations, but Jemma and Ryder, the first boy and girl that are finally around the same age and able to marry and unite the families, can’t stand each other. They used to get along but after something that happened in middle school, Jemma can’t stand Ryder and thinks he’s a pompous ass. However, their families, especially their mothers, are convinced they belong together and pretty much never stop reminding them of it.

The story is told through Jemma’s voice, a totally normal, 17-year-old girl who’s into cheerleading, shooting (loved that part), and her family. I liked Jemma and her story, but there was also nothing really remarkable about her to make her a favorite character of mine. The same thing is true for Ryder, he seems like a good guy, but outside of being a fantastic quaterback, a good looking guy, a strong student, and an all around good guy, there wasn’t much about his personality to truly make him stand out. The story is told in a very conversational style and sometimes it did feel like there was more telling than showing, which was a bit of a disappointment, but given the style and nature of the story it didn’t hurt my opinion of the book too badly.

Through a series of tragic coincidences Jemma and Ryder wind up alone together in Jemma’s house to ride out a hurricane that has hit Mississippi. Maybe it’s because I read the book on a dark, about-to-be stormy day, but I had so much anxiety around the storm. I loved it! The crazy wind, rain, and tornado warnings have Jemma and Ryder, but especially Ryder, really freaked out, and I felt their nervousness as I was reading. If Kristi Cook gets tired of writing romances she should do suspense because I was really worried.

Even though I was so nervous, I loved the storm because Jemma and Ryder were trapped together and pretty much forced to work out their differences. Maybe it was a cheesy way to tell the story, but I thought it worked, especially for a fun, easy YA romance. At the time of the storm Jemma had gone on two dates with a guy named Patrick and Ryder had been carrying on a kind of flirtation with a girl named Rosie. I could have done without both of those storylines. The Patrick storyline especially made the book feel more melodramatic than necessary and caused the story to be stretched out a bit too long.

What really worked, and I would be curious to hear what actual southerners think, was the whole southern life aspect of the story. Jemma and Ryder both live in historic southern homes and their families are both big on southern traditions like Sunday suppers, college football, and Greek life at college. Their families are very close knit and Jemma’s friends call her mom Miss Shelby and she calls Ryder’s mom Miss Laura Grace. It was all very gentile and fun for this northerner to read about. Some less than favorable southern things were touched on, too, like racism and gossiping/judgmental attitudes, but for the most part, besides the storm and some family problems the story wasn’t too serious.

Bottom Line: If you’re looking for something else to add to your summer reading list I highly suggest giving Magnolia a go. It’s a good blend of serious and fun and while it’s not a new favorite, I still enjoyed reading it. The look at small town southern life was great and I was biting my nails with anxiety (in a good way) over the hurricane that hit Jemma and Ryder’s town.

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 Book of Broken Hearts


July 2014: In Review

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If I had to pick a favorite month of the year it would be July. The first half was so busy and so stressful because I was finishing my super intense summer class (aka when I didn’t blog for a week!), but I finished (and didn’t have to take the last exam because I already had an A, woohoo!) and then pretty much just got to work and relax and enjoy time with friends.

But the relaxation will come to an end in August because, big news, got a new job! I actually had already accepted the job at the end of June, but I hadn’t told my current job so I didn’t want to mention it on the big, bad internet. The new job is more hours, amazing benefits, and something I will hopefully really like. And, if I don’t, it’s a great way to save a bunch of money before I (fingers crossed) start grad school next fall. Plus, this is all I’m going to say about it, I am super happy to get away from my old job (energy vampires for the loss!).

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I made two trips into NYC where I got to see so many friends (including the lovely Estelle).

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My vegetable garden continues to grow (and grow, and grow), although my zucchini have stopped producing zucchini, cue sad trumpet. But my tomatoes and peppers look great. Can you believe the change over just two months? And that I started all of these plants from seeds!?

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Green beans almost ready // Cherry tomatoes that will never get red // One big tomato starting to get red

I did lots of cooking, including Easy Chicken Enchilada Rice + Spicy Tex-Mex Special Sauce (very good), Baked Zucchini Parmesan (pretty good), Crunchy Buffalo Chicken Salad (just ok), Grilled BBQ Chicken Pizza (very good), Coconut Zucchini Chocolate Chip Bread (good, but very heavy), and Yogurt-Zucchini Bread with Walnuts (good, but a little bland).

What else? Oh, after a Facebook friend posted a clip of American Ninja Warrior I have become obsessed with the show. I am not a reality TV watcher, but this is a show that really requires skill and a crazy amount of athleticism. Pretty much everything anyone does blows me away.

Two songs I’ve been really into this month (it’s been a while since I featured any music on one of those):

Cry, Cry, Cry by Nicole Atkins

Crushed and Created by Caitlyn Smith (I love the line “…there are times that I underestimated all the grief and goodness found in something new”)

Things From the Internet That Caught My Eye
- Dude Where’s My Horoscope: I love Susan Miller
- 23 Signs You’re Secretly an Introvert: It’s like my personality explained
- Noisy Predictors Put Plants on Alert: Fascinating
- This Awesome Teen Girl Fought Body Shaming with a Selfie: I love that she did this
- 9 Ways Women Can Become Better Women: Part of me loathes this article, but I also think there are some good points
- 8 Things All Women Literally. Just. Must. Stop Doing: Really good points and it made me laugh
- The Bro-Country Backlash is Here: These girls remind me of Open Road Summer

- The 10 Commandments of Grocery Shopping: NUMBER 6!!!!!
- Why you should (really, seriously, permanently) stop using your smartphone at dinner: I have legitimately stopped being friends with people over this.
- People Kept Complaining This Restaurant Sucked, Look What They Found: Sad, but not shocking
- 5 Way Fitbit is Ruining My Life: #5 pretty much made my life
- Texts You Need to See Before You Die: So overdone, but I love stuff like this
- 27 Ice Cream Shops You Need to Visit Before You Die: Bad that I’ve already been to five of these?

On the Blog:

Reviews:

5 stars:
- The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta

4 stars:
- The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas
- Graceling by Kristin Cashore
One Past Midnight by Jessica Shirvington
- Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
- Shattered by Teri Terry

3 stars:
- Better When He’s Bad by Jay Crownover
- Boomerang by Noelle August

2 stars:
The Bridge From Me to You by Lisa Schroeder
- Since Last Summer by Joanna Philbin

Top 10 Tuesday posts:
- Favorite Classic Books
- Favorite TV Shows
Characters I Would Want with Me on a Deserted Island
Authors I’ve Read the Most Books From

My Week in Books recaps:
- Weeks 1 & 2
- Week 3
- Week 4

Other:
- Why Buying Books Terrifies Me

Reviews Just Post on Goodreads:
Boys and Toys by Cara Lockwood (4 stars)
Burned by Sarah Morgan (4 stars)
- Five Ways to Fall by K.A. Tucker (3.5 stars)
- The Good Girl by Mary Kubica (3.5 stars)
- Suddenly Last Summer by Sarah Morgan (2 stars)

Things to Look Forward to in August:

Life:
- Enjoying the last of my downtime
- Vacation with two good friends
- Getting to see one of my good college friends on my way home from the vacation
- Starting a new job (also really nervous!)
- More ripe garden vegetables
- US Open (maybe the first time in years I don’t get to go because of my job new :()

Books:
- Magnolia by Kristi Cook
- Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover
- Cancel the Wedding by Carolyn T. Dingman
- The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin
- Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
- Dangerous Boys by Abigail Haas
- Can’t Look Away by Donna Cooner
- Six Feet Over It by Jennifer Longo
- A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall

Previous 2014 Monthly Recaps
January
February
March
April
May
- June 

One Year Ago: Book Review: You Look Different in Real Life


Book Review: The Assassin’s Blade

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Title: The Assassin’s Blade
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Release Date: 03/04/14
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Since all of these novellas take place before Throne of Glass you can still read this review even if you haven’t read Throne of Glass. In fact, I read the novellas prior to reading Throne of Glass.

After I read Graceling I threw it out there on Twitter that I might want to read more fantasy. Enter Brittany from A Book Addict’s Guide who sent me an amazing list of other fantasy books I might want to read. Throne of Glass was on the list, a book I had actually been considering reading after seeing all the excitement about Heir of Fire during BEA. Brittany suggested reading the novellas first, since they all take place before Throne of Glass there are so spoilers, and she said it would help with world building.

At the time of writing this review I’m about a quarter of the way through Throne of Glass and I’m having a difficult time imagining how would I know what was happening if I hadn’t read the novellas. Obviously lots of people read Throne of Glass without having read the novellas and loved it, but still, it’s weird to me now. I’m going to talk about each of the novellas separately below (this book is a compilation of all five, but they can also be read separately), but I wanted to talk about the perspective I got from the novellas as a whole.

Part of me thinks the novellas should be read after reading Throne of Glass. There is very little explanation of the world or characters and I was turned off at first because I felt like I had no idea what was happening. But, even though I was turned off at first, the chance to spend another year with Celaena and figure out how she came to be imprisoned seems so valuable for understanding Throne of Glass. All of the background I now know about Celaena seems so important and I think it’s definitely helping me relate to and like Throne of Glass.

The novellas go in chronological order and all build up to Celaena being imprisoned. I didn’t expect them to be so cohesive. Reading all give novellas was kind of like reading a single, slightly disjointed, book. That said, you could also pick and choose which ones you read or read them out of order because, although they tie into each other and go in order, I think you could still enjoy them separately.

The Assassin and the Pirate Lord
I’m probably slightly biased about the first novella in the book because it was the one where I was trying to figure out exactly who these people were and what they were doing, but it’s one of my favorite of the novellas. Celaena and Sam, both teenage assassins, have been sent by their master, king of the assassins Arobynn Hamel, to broker a deal with the pirate lord. Celaena and Sam aren’t quite sure what the deal is, but when it turns out to be something neither of them expected and something they both morally object to they take matters into their own hands.

When Brittany recommended this series to me she talked about Celaena’s bravado and that is on full display. But, not going to lie, I kind of really loved it. Celaena is a brilliant assassin and she knows it and watching her brag, trick, connive, and fight was so much fun. Despite all of that bravado Celaena’s actions in this book make it clear that she has a big heart and a sense of right and wrong, which I think, given her profession, was something that needed to be established early on.

The Assassin and the Healer
This is my least favorite of the novellas and the one that I’m just not sure I get the point of. The only thing I can think is that the healer Celaena meets comes back to figure in in the novels eventually? If that’s the case then I can see the benefit of reading the novella second. After Celaena and Sam take matters into their own hands in The Assassin and the Pirate Lord Arobynn punishes her by sending her to the Red Desert. On the way to the Red Desert Celaena stays in a tavern where the healer is working as a barmaid having been forced to leave her native land due to the ongoing war on the continent. The story is told through both Celanea and the healer’s perspective which I didn’t care for, but now that I’ve started Throne of Glass I see that that’s Sarah J. Maas’s style. Part of me thinks the point of this story was to humanize Celaena and convince us she’s not just a cold-blooded assassin, but I was already convinced of that after The Assassin and the Pirate Lord so this novella just felt pointless and weak.

The Assassin and the Desert
Celaena finally reaches her destination in the desert, the home of the Mute Master, another trainer of assassins. Celaena needs to train with him for a month and get a letter of recommendation from him in order to be able to return home. This is another one where part of me suspects we’ll eventually revisit some of these characters in the novels, but I also really liked the story for its own merits. The training Celaena undergoes is important and will obviously help her down the line. I also liked the quasi-romance with the Mute Master’s son and the the lessons Celaena learns about friendship.

The Assassin and the Underworld
This is my favorite of all the novellas. Celaena returns home to Rifthold, the capital, having successfully trained with the Mute Master. After spending time in the chaos of the pirate world, the disgusting healer’s tavern, and the starkness of the desert it was fun to explore the opulence and sheer fun of the capital. We are also reunited with Sam, which made me really happy, he’s a great foil for Celaena and I loved the different side of her that came out around him. The story was also more kind of wantonly sexual than I expected, but I thought it really worked.  The mission in this story was also the first time we really got to see Celaena go on an assassin mission and it was interesting to see how the assignments from Arobynn worked and how she, and Sam, went about carrying out a mission.

The Assassin and the Empire
Part of me was really happy to get to this novella and part of me was sad because I figured whatever was going to happen to land Celaena in jail wasn’t going to be good or easy to read about, about it wasn’t. Tears were shed. As much as I didn’t understand The Assassin and the Healer, there were a lot of questions that The Assassin and the Empire raised which made me not exactly love it. For the other four novellas I had thought the assassins that Arobynn were training were working for the government, or at least sanctioned by the government, but I guess that isn’t the case? The king of Ardalan does seem fickle so I guess things change, but that still surprised me. Somehow this also felt like the least focused novella and Celaena made some decisions that, given her intelligence and street smarts, really surprised me. I didn’t have to fully suspend disbelief, but I was surprised at how at how things happen and how they wrapped up.

Bottom Line: Since I’ve only experience reading the novellas first it’s hard for me to say which is better, reading the novels or the novellas first, but I would absolutely recommend reading the novellas, either individually or as The Assassin’s Blade, prior to reading the novels. Even though it took me a while to figure out what was happening and I liked some more than others, I still got invaluable information on Celaena’s background that’s helped me to just jump to and immediately like Throne of Glass.

One Year AgoWaiting on Wednesday: New Money & Gayle Forman Read Along: If I Stay: Week 2


Top 10 Tuesday: Authors I’ve Read The Most Books From

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

If you read my post from last Thursday you know that I am not a buyer/accumulator of books. And because of that I own very few and maybe only two or three by the same author at the very most. I still wanted to do Top 10 Tuesday today so I decided to do authors which I’ve READ the most books from rather than own.

This is a little tricky because I only have Goodreads to rely on and Goodreads only encompasses the last four years or so of my reading life. So I’m dividing it into two groups: lifetime (guesstimate) and according to Goodreads.

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A childhood of obsessive reading probably means I’ve read hundreds of books by each of these ladies:

Gertrude Chandler Warner: Boxcar Children anyone? Is it weird that as a kid I dreamed of living in a box car? In the books it seemed cool but I’m glad it didn’t work out.
Francine Pascal: I’ve never read the Sweet Valley High books, but I was obsessed with the Sweet Valley Twins series. I thought it was so cool that they were twins and I hated Jessica for dumping Elizabeth to join the Unicorns.
Bonnie Bryant: I rode horses for a long time and I was obsessed with the Saddle Club girls. I loved Stevie and I remember when she started dating that movie star I was so jealous. Also, a great example of diversity in childrens books.
Ann M. Martin: Is there anyone around my age who hasn’t read a Baby-sitters Club book? Stacy was always my favorite, I thought it was so cool she was from NYC, but I was also jealous of Mallory’s big family.

2

Kristan Higgins (9): She’s literally like crack. They’re not the greatest books, but for some reason I keep going back for more.
Colleen Hoover (6): Most of her books have been hits for me and it’s really interesting to see how she’s developed as a writer over such a short period of time.
Sarah MacLean (6): To me she is the queen of historical romances. They’re smart and funny and sexy and I love them.
Miranda Kenneally (5): I know that when I want what I think of as YA standards I can always trust Kenneally to deliver.
Christina Lauren (5): To me they are the queens of new adult, their books are funny, sexy, and the right amount of ridiculous.
Jay Crownover (5): The Marked Men series is one of my favorite discoveries and biggest surprises of 2014.
Sarah Dessen (5): Another one I go to for classic YA.
Cora Carmack (5): Good, but not great new adult. Her last book, the football one, was a big disappointment.
Gayle Forman (5): The queen of YA. I literally can’t imagine her writing a book I don’t like.
Tammara Webber (5): Up until I attempted to read Breakable I was so impressed by her. Now I don’t quite know what to think.
Jennifer Echols (5): She’s so hit or miss for me. I’ve read some books of hers that I love and others which I can’t stand. Part of me fears she might be past her prime.

One Year Ago: Top 10 Tuesday: Favorite Beginnings and Endings


Book Review: Better When He’s Bad

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Title: Better When He’s Bad
Author: Jay Crownover
Release Date: 06/17/14
Genre: New Adult Contemporary
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

First thing’s first, let’s get one thing straight: it’s not you, Better When He’s Bad, it’s me. This is a book that I probably should have never picked up in the first place seeing as I hate, what I perceive as, cheesy situations and ridiculous amounts of drama. You might remember that I absolutely adored nearly every part of Jay Crownover’s Marked Men Series, but the parts that involved drama, criminal activities, and threats on peoples’ lives, etc., etc. were my least favorite parts of that stellar series. Well, this is kind of like taking everything I hated in the Marked Men series and making a book of only those parts. But I read it because of how much I liked the Marked Men series and while I didn’t personally love Better When He’s Bad I see why other people might.

First, let’s talk about the good stuff. The story revolves around Dovie, a community college student with a rough upbringing who’s just trying to make a better life for herself in the rough and tumble world of the Point, a crime-ridden inner-city-like neighborhood. Dovie’s older half-brother, Race, who she only recently learned existed has vanished, pissing off the crime lord of the Point and his lackeys are coming down hard on Dovie to try to track down Race. Enter Bax, Race’s former BFF who’s recently been released from a five year stay in prison, time he served because of something Race did. Bax is also eager to find Race and in trying to find Race he crosses paths with Dovie, someone he didn’t even know existed.

Cue unbridled sexual tension between the bad, bad, bad boy Bax (seriously he has few redeeming qualities) and the sweet, not exactly innocent, but mostly innocent, Dovie. Here’s where I have to be honest and say that I found pretty much nothing about Bax to be attractive. Criminal behavior and face tattoos don’t really do it for me, but if they do it for you I’m going to bet you’re going to love Bax. That said, I also didn’t dislike Bax as much as I anticipated. Jay Crownover does a great job of humanizing Bax and showing a not sweet and sensitive side of him under all of the fight and rage, but at least a side that gave insight into who he is and why he is the way he that way.

A huge part of Bax not being just a monster is Dovie. She could have easily been the stereotypical innocent, annoying girl who falls for a bad boy, but she wasn’t at all and that was probably my favorite part of the book. Dovie grew up in a tough world and even though she’s a dreamer who wants to make the world better for kids who grew up like she did, and even though she doesn’t have all of the experiences (both sexual and criminal) of Bax, she is very strong-willed and more than happy to stand up for herself and go after what she wants. Jay Crownover pretty much had to get Dovie perfect for this book to work and she really hit the nail on the head.

The actual story I’ll always be hesitant about because of the criminals, drama, and fighting (I will pretty much roll my eyes at any book that involves a character participating in a paid fight where someone then pulls out an illegal weapon), but there were parts that worked really well. The search for Race and Bax’s conflict between wanting to find his best friend to keep him safe and wanting to find his best friend to make him pay for putting him in jail was interesting and really a pretty good mystery. Unfortunately that mystery kind of never went anywhere. All the sudden we find out where was Race and what happened and that’s pretty much it.

The biggest issue with the story, and really the biggest negative besides my own personal feelings about the story, was how much it dragged. It’s a pretty long book, 384 pages, and the beginning was pretty well paced and went by quickly, but then for maybe 150 or 200 pages between pages 100 and 300 it really dragged. At first I thought it was just me and my own feelings about what was happening, but as I got closer and closer to the end I started flying through the book, eager to know what was going to happen and I realized it’s because things were actually happening. As much as I wasn’t into the fighting and posturing that went on in the world of the Point, the long stretch of time where it was pretty much just about Dovie and Bax wasn’t particularly exciting and that’s what really hurt this book.

Bottom Line: If you are into bad boys and somewhat innocent, but still smart and strong girls then Better When He’s Bad is definitely a book for you. If you’re like me and not really into the criminal world you’ll probably roll your eyes at some parts, but hopefully, like me, but able to appreciate what Jay Crownover did with the characters. The pacing of the story could use some work, there’s a lot of action at the beginning and the end, but the middle seriously dragged, not enough to make me talk you out of reading it, but enough where it gives me some pause to recommend it.

One Year Ago: Book Review: Sean Griswold’s Head


My Week in Books

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Welcome to My Week in Books!

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Finished:

betterwhenhesbad

Better When He’s Bad by Jay Crownover: The story never grew on me, but I did like the characters. If you like bad boys you should definitely read this book. Review will be up Monday.

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The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas: On Brittany’s suggestion I read these novellas before starting Throne of Glass and I’m really happy I did for perspective and because I really liked them. Review will be up Wednesday.

Started:

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Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas: I am really enjoying this so far. I like Celaena, the supporting characters, and the world a lot. Yay for giving fantasy a chance!

Added to my TBR List:

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Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Downloaded from NetGalley/Edelweiss:

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Not in the Script by Amy Finnegan

Have a great week, everyone!


Why Buying Books Terrifies Me

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I hope it goes without saying, but this post represents MY views on MY life. It in no way, shape, or form reflects any feelings about the way you live your life or the choices you make.

(Although I will admit that sometimes when I see how many books people acquire I have to take a few deep breaths and say a silent prayer that they have a large home and that they’re not in debt.)

This is a post I’ve wanted to write for a while because it’s something that I think about all the time and something that really makes me feel like an outcast in the whole blogging community (not really a bad thing, but still).

My name is Maggie and I have absolutely no desire to buy/own books. This includes books I buy, gifts people give me, or freebies from publishers/contests.

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Those are all the books I bought in 2013 (three of them were bought used, seven of them I already read prior to buying).

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And those are all of the books I’ve bought so far in 2014 (one is used, three of them I already read prior to buying).

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Those are all of the books that I own, I would say 95% were freebies from my publishing days.

Why do I feel this way? Here are a few reasons I could come up with:

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1. Lack of money. I’m not exactly rolling in it so when it comes down to spending $18 or $26 on a book rather than going out for drinks with friends or trying a new fitness class or saving for a vacation a book will always lose.

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2. I’m a minimalist. My dream in life is to be able to pack up everything I own in two boxes. I absolutely hate the idea of having stuff. Not only because moving it is a bitch (I’ll get to that), but because it just seems so unnecessary to me. I learned a long time ago that things don’t make me happy, in fact accumulating more things just makes me feel anxious.

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3. Moving them. I’m at an unsettled place in my life, I don’t know where I’ll be next year or the year after that or the year after that. Moving sucks in general but moving books, big, heavy books that take up lots of box space is really not fun.

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4. No where to put them. For my entire life I’ve pretty much just had a room. A room at my parents’ house, a room in college, a room in my apartment in Brooklyn, and now a room at my parents’ house again. A room can only fit so many books, especially when it also needs to fit a bed, dresser, etc..

When it comes down to really, for me, I think buying books is just such a waste. I’ve read 120+ books in 2014 so far, where would I get the money to buy them and where would I put all of them? Out of the 120+ books, many of which I’ve very much liked, there’s probably five, maybe 10, that I can actually picture myself wanting to pick up and read again. So for me it makes sense to borrow a book from the library, test it out, and if I like it and want to permanently add it to my collection, buy it.

I literally cannot imagine buying a book I haven’t already read. Last week I was in Target and I went to the book section because I’ve really been wanting to read The One and Only by Emily Giffin and Landline by Rainbow Rowell. I’m on the hold list for both at the library, but sadly for me so are many other people. I stood there looking at both books, holding them, considering them, but in the end I just couldn’t justify spending all of that money for something I’d enjoy for a couple hours and then, probably, never look at again.

Do I feel guilty for not supporting authors and an industry I used to work in? No, I really don’t. First, when I worked in publishing I never bought books and I can say the same thing for nearly all of my former colleagues. Most people in publishing just trade with their friends at other houses to get the books they want. Second, it’s not like I’m stealing books or pirating electronic copies. I’m reading review copies, borrowing physical and electronic books from the library, and sometimes borrowing books from friends. The library market is a big part of publishers’ bottom lines and by taking books out of the library and also requesting my library buy certain books I am absolutely contributing to authors and publishers. And by leaving reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, and this blog I am hopefully encouraging other people to buy books or take them out of their library.

Do I think I will ever change? I don’t think I’ll ever make a drastic change, but yes, I think as I get older, settle down, need to decorate a house, and make more money I will absolutely buy more books. I love books, I just don’t love being in debt and living with clutter. I grew up in a house with a lot of books and in my mind a home is a house with a lot of bookshelves. My bookshelves will just be heavily curated and have some knickknacks in addition to books.

Anyone else out there not a book buyer? I feel like we need to band together!

One Year Ago: Book Review: Forget You


Book Review: The Bridge From Me to You

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Title: The Bridge From Me to You
Author: Lisa Schroeder
Release Date: 07/29/14
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

The Bridge From Me to You isn’t a bad book, it’s just not a book for me and I honestly don’t think it’s a book that will appeal to many of my YA-reader friends or the people who read this blog (who I also like to think of as my friends). It’s not poorly written or silly, but it felt very outdated and, this is really evil of me to say, but kind of like what people must be referring to when they talk about how YA books aren’t “as good” as adult books.

I was pretty much immediately set up not to like The Bridge From Me to You when I started reading and realized that the chapters from Lauren’s perspective are written in verse. Not like rhyming verse, but just in verses. They’re also pretty short. As I read more I realized that Lauren’s chapters are actually excerpts from her journal (at least I’m pretty sure that’s what they were, it was never explicitly made clear) and while I actually was pleasantly surprised to find myself not loving the chapters in verse, but also not hating them, there was this dichotomy between Lauren’s chapters and the chapters from Colby’s perspective, which are written in traditional prose.

In both perspectives Lauren is no doubt suffering. Right before the start of her senior year of high school she’s been kicked out by her mother and forced to move in with her uncle, aunt, and three young cousins. While Lauren has always had a difficult relationship with her irresponsible mother she blames herself for her mother kicking her out and just wants to go back to her mom and her baby half-brother. Lauren’s verse chapters were sad and bittersweet and pretty tragic, but she was also never threw herself a pity party and that made me really respect her as a character. The Lauren we see in Colby’s chapters is funny, pretty confident, and a little flirty. The fact that she was interested in Colby came through in her chapters, but I didn’t see the self confidence or the humor in her chapters. While it does make sense that the confidence and humor were a front, the writing and the story in The Bridge From Me to You lacked the nuance for me to really accept those differences.

All that said I had a much bigger issue with Colby’s chapters than I did with Lauren’s. In no way, shape, or form do I believe a 17-year-old guy would think, talk, or act like Colby thinks, talks, or acts. It’s almost like Lisa Schroeder knew she couldn’t write in two distinct voices (bravo for self-awareness) so she made Lauren’s chapters into verse and Colby’s into prose to differentiate them. That might have worked if she could convincingly do a guy’s voice, but Colby’s way of thinking and interactions with his best friend Benny just didn’t ring true, or read as very young guy, like 12-or-13-years-old, rather than an almost-adult.

Going into the book I knew I was interested in the actual idea of the story and even after reading it I don’t think it was a terrible idea, I just didn’t enjoy the execution. Basically Colby is new to town and she’s not only trying to come to terms with what happened with her mom and find a way to get back to her family, she is also trying to make friends and fit into a new (small) town where people regard her with a level of suspicion. The idea of Lauren being an outsider really appealed to me and I was sorry that Schroeder didn’t choose to explore it further. It’s kind of mentioned and then goes away and mentioned again at the end. Colby on the other hand is the down football darling, everyone is always stopping him to talk about football even though he actually doesn’t see football as his future. His father pushes him, another aspect of the story I liked and wanted to see more of, but it’s never really explored. Colby is obsessed with bridges and wants to go to college to study civil engineering, not play football, but he feels guilty squandering his talent and wonders how he will afford college without a football scholarship.

Writing this review has made me realize that the problem with the book is the fact that Schroeder starts to go places, but then never really finishes things. There were so many different aspects of the characters and their situations that could have been explored, but everything in the story pretty much just goes along on the surface. Even Lauren and Colby’s love story never really goes very deep. I wouldn’t call their feelings for each other “instalove” because I think they’re both more pragmatic than that, but they really don’t know each other that well, don’t really spend much time together, and even though they’re obviously interested in each other neither of them is getting carried away by their feelings which leads me to ask, what’s really the point? As a big reader and an intelligent person I think I realize what Schroeder was trying to do and as I was reading I kept trying to fill in the blanks and forgive her mistakes because I did enjoy some of the ideas so much, but assumptions and telling my own version of a story aren’t elements that make up a great book.

Bottom LineThe Bridge From Me to You is a great example of a nice idea for a story, but a not so nice execution of the story. I wanted to fall in love with the small town and the characters, but the story never gave me enough information or went deep enough for that to happen. Because much of the story is told in verse it’s a very quick read, I read it in about two hours, but, even getting through it that quickly, I just don’t think it’s worth spending the time with it.

I received an electronic review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. All options are (obviously) my own.

One Year Ago: Waiting on Wednesday: Meet Me at the River & Gayle Forman Read Along: If I Stay: Intro and Week 1


Top 10 Tuesday: Characters I Would Want With Me On A Deserted Island

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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 think this might be one of my all-time favorite Top 10 Tuesday topics. I made my choices based on several criteria: hotness, survival skills, and potential to entertain me/be my friend.

Island TTT

1. Nash from Nash: Pure hotness factor.
2. Katsa from Graceling: I mean, her whole thing is survival, why would I pick anyone else?
3. Aria from Under the Never Sky: She has a knack for survival, plus I think we’d be good friends.
4. Lynn from Not a Drop to Drink: Again, survival.
5. Julian from Stir Me Up: Yummm, hot ex-soldier.
6. Regan from Fangirl: How funny would that be?
7. Anna or T.J. from On the Island: They did it once they can do it again, yeah?
8. Ansel from Sweet Filthy Boy: Hotness and humor. Plus the bike trip probably taught him some survival skills.
9. Jenny from Why Can’t I Be You: I think we would be besties.
10. Danny from When You Were Here: I just love him.

One Year Ago: Top 10 Tuesday: Topics That Make Me Not Want to Pick Up a Book


Book Review: The Piper’s Son

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thepipersson

Title: The Piper’s Son
Author: Melina Marchetta
Release Date: 03/08/11
Genre: Adult (new adult?) contemporary
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The Piper’s Son is a special book, one of those special books that’s so special that whatever I say about it will not be able to do it justice. Seriously, you should just go and read this book right now.

Tom, who you’ll know if you’ve read Saving Francesca (which I don’t think is vital to read before The Piper’s Son, but certainly helpful for the Tom portion of the story), is now in his early-20s and not in a very good place. He’s taken a leave of absence from college, lives off the Australian welfare equivalent, has terrible, sketchy roommates, and has fallen out with the crowd of friends that had developed by the end of Saving Francesca. His downward spiral started after his favorite uncle was killed in a terrorist attack in London and Tom’s family fell apart. His father started drinking more and more and his mother left, taking his sister with her until Tom’s father can get his life together. At the start of the book Tom hasn’t spoken or seen either of his parents in over a year. Tom also hasn’t seen or heard from Tara Finke since his uncle died and he essentially blew her off after they spent a few amazing nights together.

Tom’s story is all about putting his life back together and getting his family, both blood and not blood, back together. As part of doing that Tom stays with his aunt Georgie, who, at 42-years-old, is pregnant even though she refuses to acknowledge it to those around her. After Tom’s uncle died Georgie was the one who went to London to get him and years later she is still very much bogged down in grief. She also feels guilty because, for reasons that are explained in the book, she feels she wouldn’t have had the opportunity to get pregnant if her brother didn’t die. The father is an ex-boyfriend of hers who she still loves, but she doesn’t feel like she can take back, despite both of them obviously wanting to be together, because he betrayed her years ago and she’s trying to save face. At first I was skeptical of the Georgie storyline, I wanted to read about Tom, Francesca, Will, Tara, Siobhan and all the other great characters I remembered from Saving Francesca, but in the end I liked Georgie’s story as much, if not slightly more, than I liked Tom’s.

The thing about The Piper’s Son is that it’s such a complete story. Melina Marchetta completely immersed me in these characters’ lives and I came away feeling like I knew them and their world so intimately. Much of Tom and Georgie’s stories overlap because the family Tom wants back together is also Georgie’s family and having both of their perspectives on Tom’s parents and grandparents and uncle just made the story so much richer. This is a book where there are so many characters, but I never felt overwhelmed or confused by any of them (except maybe Georgie’s group of friends). I also really felt like I knew all the supporting characters. It’s somewhat easier because I already knew a handful from Saving Francesca, but new ones, like Tom’s parents and grandparents each had their own story and personality come through.

Since the story is about a family that’s fallen apart, death, loss of friendship, and a lot of other serious themes it would be easy for it to be depressing, but the feelings I took from this book were hope and joy, but even as I was reading it I never felt saddened. Honestly, as I was reading the primary emotion I felt was humor. Tom and Georgie as both smart, funny, witty people and even in their sadness and depression and tough times, all of that intelligence and wit really came through.

I originally picked up The Piper’s Son for the romance. At the New York City Teen Author Festival Gayle Forman recommended it, and I can’t remember exactly what she said, but she mentioned the amazing romance or story of first love. The biggest surprise for me was how much of a backseat the romance took to the rest of the story for me. Tom’s pursuit of Tara Finke was fantastic and his desire to show the woman he loves how he’s changed and how he’s sorry is definitely up there with Adam for me, but I honestly think I liked The Piper’s Son more for the stories of family and friendship than I did for the romance.

All that said, I did have my moments of swooning over the emails Tom sends to Tara, who’s working abroad. He spends a good amount of time thinking about her, but it’s through his emails, which are all included in the book, that Tom and Tara really start to reconnect and he starts to win back her trust. I loved Tom from pretty much the moment I started reading, but his emails just took him to an entirely different level. Georgie’s relationship with her ex, Sam, was a totally different kind of relationship. While there was betrayal in both relationships Georgie and Sam are both older and less impulsive and more realistic (and negative) about love and their ability to be together. Georgie had up a lot of walls and at times it wasn’t easy to like her, but her emotions and actions were so raw and real that watching her knock down the walls and figure out what she wanted with Sam was made even better.

Bottom Line: The Piper’s Son is a complete joy to read. Every single character in this book has their own story and is allowed to shine through and will wiggle their way into your brain and heart. It’s not only one of my favorite books of 2014, but one of my favorite books of all time. I can’t recommend that you read it (and Saving Francesca if you so desire) fast enough.

One Year Ago: Book Review: Audrey, Wait!