Book Review: The Break-Up Artist

Posted on

breakup

Title: The Break-Up Artist
Author: Philip Siegel
Release Date: 04/29/14
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

The Break-Up Artist was one of my most anticipated books of 2014 and sadly it just did not live up to my expectations, at all. The entire time I was reading I was outlining my issues with the book in my head, but I kept telling myself that if it ended in a certain way it would make up for everything I didn’t like along the way, but sadly that didn’t happen.

Maybe I’m crazy, but I thought the concept of a girl running a business that breaks couples up would be funny, not sad. I do think that Philip Siegel was trying to be funny, but mostly it just really depressed me. Becca, the main character, is 16-years-old, but she’s the most jaded person I’ve ever met (and I say this as someone who mostly thinks sappy love is over the top and ridiculous). Becca’s hatred of love started several years before when her BFF at the time, Huxley, dumped her in favor of a guy. Add in Becca’s older sister being left at the alter and Becca has made it her mission in life to destroy love. Maybe if Becca was 45-years-old and divorced that whole attitude could have worked for a humorous angle, but because she’s so young and so inexperienced (she’s never had a boyfriend) it just combined to make her seem holier-than-thou, naive, and unnecessarily bitter.

Not to mention that pretty much every character in this story is a caricature. My hunch is that the personalities are supposed to be exaggerated to make a point, and I will readily admit I prefer more realistic stories, but still, I don’t think the characters in this story worked, especially the male/female dynamics. As a woman I was offended that pretty much every girl in Becca’s school not only immediately dumped their girlfriends upon getting a boyfriend, but seemed to think the only way they would be a worth something as a human being would be to have a boyfriend. I’m not saying that isn’t what some people do or how some people feel (I’m at the age where all my friends are getting married so I know), but this story took that idea to such ridiculous lengths. Then there are the guys who all are pretty much such sleazy losers that as a woman I was upset on the guys’s behalves.

This story is also filled with tons of overused teen stereotypes: the dumb jock, the catty popular girl, the comic book nerds, clueless teachers, and disengaged parents. Combined with the whole caricature thing the stereotypes made the characters in this book feel one-dimensional and I never connected with them or rooted for them at all. Well, that’s not true, I actually rooted for the couples that Becca was trying to break up because I felt so bad for them.

Which brings me back to the whole idea of what Becca was doing. Much like the main character in Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend, Becca’s lack of self-awareness made her seem kind of like a sociopath. But, since she’s young and is under the influence of her crazy, bitter older sister, I kept telling myself to reserve judgement, I mean maybe the whole point of the book was Becca coming to realize what she was doing isn’t right and getting to see the other side of love. I’m not going to ruin the ending, but that’s not quite what happened. In my mind Becca was unequivocally the bad guy for breaking up all these couples and the fact that some of them would have broken up anyway doesn’t change the fact that what she did was wrong. There’s also a secondary plot line that features Becca becoming the “other woman” in her best friend’s relationship. I was sad for Becca that her best friend was ignoring her for a guy, but I don’t think I could ever sympathize with someone who’s trying to steal her best friend’s boyfriend and it was just another reason for my to dislike Becca and struggle with the story.

Bottom Line: The Break-Up Artist was just too over the top for me. Maybe I’m taking it too seriously, but the extreme stereotypes and caricatures and the ridiculous nature of the story just didn’t work. Not to mention that the main character was immature and seriously misguided. I still think the idea of the story has potential, but this version of it lacked the elements to pull it all together.

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

One-Year Ago: Book Review: Going Too Far


Book Review: Don’t Call Me Baby

Posted on

dontcallmebaby

Title: Don’t Call Me Baby
Author: Gwendolyn Heasley
Release Date: 04/22/14
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars

Right off the bat I feel compelled to say that I have been a blog reader for many years, not just book blogs, which came more recently, but many years ago I started reading “healthy living” blogs, cooking blogs, fitness blogs, and the occasional “mommy” blog. Don’t Call Me Baby very much lives in the kind of blogs that I enjoy reading so I’m not the objective source to be able to say that you’ll enjoy this book if you’re not familiar with these styles of blogs. However, I think there is enough to this book to make it enjoyable no matter your blog background.

Because I’m familiar with these blogs I actually think I’m a tougher critic and I give lots of credit to Gwendolyn Heasley for creating an authentic blog world. Imogene’s mom is a mommy blogger and has been blogging about Imogene since she was a baby (and before that she was a “healthy living” blogger), her mom even let her blog readers vote on Imogene’s name. When Imogene was a baby this was ok, but now that she’s fifteen and going into ninth grade she’s had enough. Imogene feels like her privacy is constantly being violated with her mom posting pictures of Imogene just rolled out of bed, the news of Imogene’s first period, and speculation about which boy Imogene will attend the big ninth-grade dance with. And really, it’s hard to argue with Imogene’s opinion when you hear the evidence. When Imogene’s English teacher assigns a project where each student needs to create their own blog and maintain it throughout the year, Imogene, and her best friend Sophie, whose mom also has a blog, are horrified by the idea. The girls eventually decide to make their own blogs called “The Mommy Bloggers’ Daughters” where they tell their own version of their lives.

Each chapter of the book opens with a post from Imogene’s mother’s blog and Imogene and Sophie’s blogs. I can’t really speak to the authenticity of Imogene and Sophie’s blogs, but I fell head over feels for Imogene’s mom’s blog. From the linking back to other posts, to the shout-outs to sponsors, to the trying to get readers to participate in discussion, it read so much like the real-life blogs I read it was (good) creepy. I’ll admit I try to read blogs that are slightly less annoying than Imogene’s mom’s, but all of the elements were there to make her blog seem authentic.

As much as I loved the blogging aspect of the book the family dynamics were my favorite part and left me wanting to run out and read Gwendolyn Heasley’s other books ASAP (and I’ve since read Where I Belong and really enjoyed it). When I first started reading I thought Imogene’s mom must be a single mom, but she’s not, Imogene’s parents are married and her dad is very much present, even though he mostly defers to her mom on major decisions like what her mom will feature on the blog. The story of Imogene’s parents and her mom’s blog is complicated by the fact that her dad’s architecture business is suffering during the recession and her family increasingly relies on her mom’s blog for money. Even though I wished Imogene’s dad would stand up to her mom more I still very much liked him, but my favorite family member was Imogene’s grandma, Hope. Grandma Hope was amazing. She lives with Imogene and her parents, but she’s very much independent. She grills her own food, she shuns technology like the internet, and she’s a championship golfer. Plus she’s incredibly wise and ridiculously funny. The journey and growth that Imogene’s family underwent over the course of the book was so interesting and relatable, I came to really care for her family, even her boundary-defying mother. In many ways I was reminded a lot of the families in Lindsey Leavitt’s books and that is very high praise.

Before I read Don’t Call Me Baby, the lovely Estelle kept telling me that the main character is very young and (obviously) Estelle was right. I knew from the beginning of the book that Imogene was fifteen and just going into ninth grade, which is much younger than most of the characters that I typically read about. Throughout the book there would be things that Imogene did or said or things that happened at school that gave me pause and made me wonder what was wrong with these people, but then I reminded myself that the characters and young and that fifteen year olds have stupid fights and make up quickly and make silly decisions. With that in mind, I also really enjoyed the subplots about Imogene’s friendship with Sophie and how that relationship grew over the course of the book. Imogene also has a crush on a boy and I loved how he wasn’t always perfect and how Imogene was willing to stand up to him when he said or did something that bothered her.

Bottom Line: I could go on gushing about this book for many more paragraphs, but I’m going to cut myself off now and say that this a great book. The questions about technology and the information we and other people put out there were fascinating and thought-provoking and the family and friend relationships were dynamic and true-to-life.  Even though Don’t Call Me Baby features younger characters than I’m used to it’s just further proof that if the story, characters, and writing are there age is only a number.

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

One-Year Ago: Book Review: Unremembered


Book Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns

Posted on

girloffire

Title: The Girl of Fire and Thorns
Author: Rae Carson
Release Date: 09/20/11
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars

This was a different book for me. I’ve talked before about how difficult I find it to be to review books outside of my normal genre because I just feel this lack of knowledge and background and like I’m picking all the wrong things to discuss. Therefore, this review is going to be for all the people out there who ever imagined reading a fantasy book.

It’s not as thought I have anything against fantasy, I’m just someone who enjoys reading things that I can personally relate to. Even when it comes to historical fiction or dysoptian stories I feel like I can relate to them as long as they’re well done. But fantasy? And magic? Those are two things that are very difficult for me to grasp, but I am here to tell you that The Girl of Fire and Thorns is worth giving them a shot for.

Can I take a time out to say that the books in this series suffer from a case of terrible descriptions? After initially reading the description I had virtually no idea what the book was about and even after reading the book and re-reading the description I still question if it’s really describing the book I just read. Here’s how I would describe this book: Elisa, the youngest of two princesses in an imaginary land is married off, on her sixteenth birthday, to a king of a large and wealthy empire. Elisa is not sure why she’s being married off, her father and older sister have always kept her in the dark, especially about the special mark she carries a “godstone” that was placed in her stomach by god at her naming ceremony (think of the troll dolls from the 80s/early-90s). This is a great honor that only occurs every 100 years, but Elisa has never felt great and she’s unsure of how she is supposed to live up to the mark of greatness that was bestowed upon her. In her new home Elisa comes to learn that there are people who want to her godstone, whether it means taking her alive or killing her. A war between her homeland, her new home, and people to the north and south looms and Elisa has figure out if she can indeed rise to greatness.

Major props to Rae Carson for immediately selling me on Elisa, I’m someone who needs to really be able to get behind a character to enjoy a story, but in this case it was even more important because of the fantasy aspect. Elisa has this gift from god, but she’s also so insecure. She’s overweight in a world where most people are thin and she’s never felt very special. Even though I could have done without the seemingly constant descriptions of Elisa as a morbidly obese whale at the beginning of the book, the fact that she was struggling with who she is and who she wanted to be did really help me connect with her. I was bothered that things only start going well for Elisa after she loses some of her weight and feels more confident in her appearance. Granted she wasn’t trying to lose weight, it was a result of taking a long, arduous journey with very little food, but there were a few times where I got a The Princess Diaries-like feeling. I will say I’m conflicted about it though because losing weight certainly made Elisa healthier and she wouldn’t have been able to get around so easily and move quickly, things she needed to survive, if she hadn’t shed some of the weight.

Then there’s the world that Rae Carson created. In a lot of ways it reminded me of how Veronica Rossi presented the world she created in the Under the Never Sky trilogy, the world just existed. There wasn’t a lot of explanation or background, it all just happened and places were referred to and words were used and I had to figure it all out. Even though that’s jarring, in the end I appreciate it because it makes for a much more natural, easy-to-read story. Beyond presentation, the world Carson built was so strong. Even though it’s not a real place I felt like I knew it, its history, and the rules of existing there. The fact that Elisa was kept in the dark for so long also helped since as the reader we’re seeing the world through Elisa’s eyes and discovering things right alongside her.

As I got towards the end of the story and there were more magic aspects I’ll admit my interest wavered somewhat. I’m glad I gave a fantasy book a try, but the fantasy aspects of a fantasy book will probably never be something I take a real interest in. I’m not citing them as a negative because fantasy is what I signed up for when I started reading this, but for any other non-fantasy fans, you’ve been warned. The only real negative I took away from this book was my lack of emotion. I’m a big crier at books, but I didn’t cry or even tear up once while I was reading and there were some very sad moments.

Bottom Line: If you’re like me and don’t typically read fantasy I highly encourage you to give The Girl of Fire and Thorns a chance. Rae Carson does an excellent job at creating a strong, feisty, relatable main character who I can’t imagine anyone not rooting for. Carson also built a world that felt so complete I have a difficult time believing it doesn’t actually exist. Don’t be like I was for many years and let genre-bias stop you from reading a great story!

One-Year Ago: Waiting on Wednesday: Leap of Faith


Top 10 Tuesday: Bookish Things (That Aren’t Books) That I’d Like To Own

Posted on

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

I’ve been hoarding things away for this topic forever, but somehow I still haven’t managed to come up with ten. Little known thing about me: I don’t like buying things or having clutter around, which makes it hard for me to rationalize wanting things, even things I’ll never actually get. But I did manage to come up with eight things so I’m patting myself on my back.

i-workout-so-i-can-carry-more-books.american-apparel-unisex-tank.white.w380h440z1

1. I Workout So I can Carry More Books tank: I am slightly obsessed with Skreened and they have some great book tanks and tees, like this one!

my-favorite-workout-is-heavy-reading.american-apparel-unisex-v-neck-tee.athletic-grey.w380h440z1

2. My Favorite Workout is Heavy Reading: Ok, another shirt. Not quite true, my favorite workout is beating the crap out of a boxing bag, but I still like the tee shirt!

il_570xN.354821803_qp6x

3. Karen Blixen Wall Art: Not exactly a book thing, but she’s an author and I love this saying.

bookstationery

4. Book Stationery: I may or may not have an unhealthy obsession with personalized stationery.

janeeyrebookscarf

5. Jane Eyre Book Scarf: I love this idea. And she has a bunch of other great classic books, too!

card-catalog-at-Boston-Public-Library-in-Copley-Square-667x1024

6. Card Catalog: I absolutely love old card catalogs, my parents have two in their house and I think they’re beautiful pieces of furniture and also great storage. (Image from here)

tennisbookends

7. Bookends: I want bookends so I was searching Etsy for an example and low and behold these appeared. How amazingly gaudy are they? I love them.

built-in-library-shelving

8. Built-In Bookcases with Ladder: Hello dream room (minus those ugly arm chairs), how are you? The only thing you’re missing is some tennis racket bookends. (Image from here)

What’s on your list this week?

One-Year Ago: Top 10 Tuesday: Rewind: Favorite Heroines


Let Me Sell You: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

Posted on

Let Me Sell You is a new feature I’m trying out. Many know that in my previous life I worked in sales for a book publisher and I sold books to lots of different stores: Barnes & Noble, Target, gift shops, independent bookstores, educational wholesalers, and many others. I thought it might be fun to incorporate my selling skills to do a different kind of review, one where I give you my sales pitch for a book with a vlog! Below you’ll find my first attempt. There’s my actual sales pitch in the vlog and then my “tip sheet,” the one-page sheet of information sales people pass along to buyers. There’s the keynote, the one-sentence summary of the book; the selling points, 3-4 reasons that the book will be successful; the description; comparative titles; and the author’s previous books.

toalltheboysivelovedbefore

Title: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
Author: Jenny Han
Pub Date: 4/15/14

(This is really long–six minutes–because I do some introductory stuff, my aim is to keep these around three minutes because we all lead busy lives and I don’t kid myself that anyone wants to watch me babble on for half an hour. My diction is really weird for the first 30 seconds or so, I think I was nervous so if I seem really annoying, keep going, my enthusiasm wanes somewhat, I promise.)

Keynote: A charming young adult coming of age story featuring a person of color main character, a tight-knit family, and an adorable romance.

Selling Points:

- SUCCESSFUL TRACK RECORD: Jenny Han is the best-selling author of the SUMMER series which has 120,000+ combined ratings on Goodreads.
- MINORITY MAIN CHARACTER: Lara-Jean is an Korean-American teenager and her heritage is very important to her and her family. This is a great example of a person of color in a mainstream young adult book.
- STRONG FAMILY DYNAMICS: Although Lara-Jean’s mother passed away when she was younger, she has a very close family. Her father, a doctor, does his best to be the mom and dad, and her older sister has filled the mom role the best she can for Lara-Jean and her younger sister.
- HUMOR: Whether it’s Lara-Jean’s letters mistakenly being sent to her former crushes, her adorable younger sister, or her crazy plan to get the boy she likes to like her back, this book will have you constantly laughing out loud.

Description: Lara-Jean Song is a dreamer. She dreams about many things, but boys are often in the forefront of her mind. For years, to get over her crushes, she’s wrote a letter to each boy explaining why she loves them and why she can’t love them any more. The letters are then kept in her special memory box that her mother, who died when she was younger, gave her. One day the box, and the letters go missing and then disaster strikes, the boys Lara-Jean wrote the letters to, letters the boys are never supposed to see, start receiving the letters.

Not only is Lara-Jean dealing with former crushes, she’s also trying to manage her family now that her older sister Margot has left for college in Scotland. Margot, as the oldest child, took on the role of mom after their mom died, keeping the house in order, helping their dad, and taking care of Lara-Jean and their younger sister, Kitty. But now that Margot is gone that role has fallen to Lara-Jean who, as a dreamer, doesn’t have the same maternal instincts or organizational skills as Kitty.

As the boys start questioning Lara-Jean about the letters she becomes more and more stressed, especially because, despite her best efforts, she’s still crushing on one of the guys. Will Lara-Jean be able to pull herself together to help her family? Will the boy she’s liked forever finally like her back? Jenny Han does a beautiful job of telling the story of a girl who’s forced to grow up, confront old feelings, and do things she never imagined before.

Comparative Titles:
- Open Road Summer by Emery Lord
- Roomies by Sara Zarr
- The Distance Between Us by Kasie West
- Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway

Other Books by Jenny Han:
- Shug
- The Summer I Turned Pretty
- It’s Not Summer Without You
- We’ll Always Have Summer
Burn for Burn

One-Year Ago: Book Review: Me, Him, Them, and It


My Week in Books

Posted on

I’m not going to lie, lately I feel like a book review writing machine. Which isn’t to say I don’t like writing reviews, I do, a lot, especially when I manage to get all my thoughts together and write something I’m really happy with (probably happens about 80% of the time). It’s not actually the writing of reviews that bothers me, it’s the fact that day after day after day my blog is all reviews and, if sometimes that’s boring to me, how can I expect it to be interesting to anyone else?

I hate myself for this because I feel like I’m hopping on the bandwagon and I hate a bandwagon. I’ve seen lots of talk lately about how reviews are bloggers’ least popular posts and how many people prefer to do other types of posts than reviews. Since I feel similarly I’m not judging anyone, although I do think my blog will stay primarily reviews, but I do want to try harder to add in some other features, like this one!

“My Week in Books” will kind of be my own version of a weekly recap. I’ll still do my monthly recap which will be more inclusive, but this feature will be about what I read that week (because I’m going to stop reviewing everything I read), what I  added to my TBR, what books I took out of the library/bought, and other bookish things that caught my eye. Let’s try this, shall we?

This week I finished one book, read one book, and started one book.

Finished:

catchafallingstar

Catch a Falling Star by Kim Culbertson: I will probably review this one on here (the review is written). I liked so many things about this book, but the romance completely fell flat for me and when the book is supposed to be a romance it’s hard to endorse a book that fails at its main mission.

Read:

whathappenedtogoodbye

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen: No review for this one, I liked it a lot, the pacing is probably my favorite of any of Dessen’s books that I’ve read. I also liked the main character, the overall story, her family situation, and the town where she lives, but I thought the characters, who were supposed to be at the end of their senior year in high school, seemed so young. Like 14-or-15-year-olds and that made it difficult for me to really connect with them. I’d still give the book 4 stars (although the more distance I put between myself and the book the more issues I come up with).

Started:

pointe

Pointe by Brandy Colbert (thanks for the ARC, Estelle!): I’m liking this, I think it’s different in a way that’s really important to YA lately (minority character, how drugs/drinking/partying are portrayed), but I also haven’t fallen head over heels for it like a lot of people.

Added to my TBR list:

canceltheweding liberation onebrokegirl

Cancel the Wedding by Carolyn Dingman
- The Liberation of Max McTrue by Kim Culbertson
One Broke Girl by Rhonda Helms

tocharm unraveled whateverlifethrowsatyou

- To Charm a Naughty Countess by Theresa Romain
- Unraveled by Jen Fredrick (thank you, Estelle!)
Whatever Life Throws at You by Julie Cross

famousinlove starattraction yearwefelldown

- Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle
- The Star Attraction by Alison Sweeney
The Year We Fell Down by Sarina Bowen

 Borrowed from the Library:

rebelbelle

- Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

Returned to the Library Unread:

edgeoffalling

- The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle: I was so excited to read this, but after my friend committed suicide almost two weeks ago I’m just not in the place to read this book right now. I will borrow it again.

This was a quiet week for my book-wise. Most of the time I’ll read one book from Monday-Thursday because I’m so busy with school and then read a few weeks on the weekend, but I don’t know, I just wasn’t feeling reading this week. I’ve definitely been in a bit of a stress bubble, but I’m starting to feel like things are starting to calm down (which probably means it’s the calm before the storm!).

I’m ending with a post on Challenging Your Personal Narrative by a “healthy living” blogger I’ve been reading for years. Personal narrative is something I spend a lot of time thinking about and I am a big believer that our thoughts have a huge impact on our life. Plus, I am kind of a sickeningly positive person who has no problem cutting out energy vampires and other people who try to bring me down. So basically this post was written for me.

I’m trying something else new tomorrow (that includes a vlog!) so swing back around then!


Book Review: Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend

Posted on

brokenhearts

Title: Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend
Author: Katie Finn
Release Date: 05/13/14
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

First, let’s talk about why I read Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend a few months before its pub date. This book takes place in “the Hamptons,” an area I know well, I grew up there and I’m back living there before I start grad school. I had such an amazing experience reading Rules of Summer, another YA book that takes place in “the Hamptons,” I hoped I could read this one and do some kind of teaser post with a tour of Hamptons’ spots from the book. Pretty much from the moment I started reading I realized that was not going to be the case. I tried to keep my negative feelings about this to a minimum because I realize that anyone not from here will be happily oblivious to these things, but this book provides a terribly inaccurate description of “the Hamptons.” (I was originally going to type all my points about that here, but it got kind of long so I’ve moved it to the end of the review so it’s easier to skip over my rambling.)

When the book first started I actually had really high hopes for it. Gemma, the main character, had a great voice, I liked the writing, and I was frequently laughing out loud. Gemma gets dumped by her do-gooder boyfriend (in a Target, it was really funny) and, because she was supposed to build houses in Central America with him during the summer, she now has to find alternate plans. Enter “the Hamptons,” where her dad, who normally lives in Los Angeles, will be spending the summer working on a screenplay with his producer. Gemma spent the summer there once before, but is hesitant to go back because of something terrible that happened there with someone she used to be friends with.

This whole storyline was my first inkling that I might not be blown away by this story. For those who doesn’t know Katie Finn is a pen name for Morgan Matson, author of Second Chance Summer. In that book a girl returns to somewhere she used to spend her summer vacation and is nervous about seeing former friends she feels she wronged. If this storyline came up in any other author’s book I probably never would have thought twice about it being similar to Second Chance Summer, it’s not like it’s a totally unique thing, but in books by the same author? It seems strange to me.

Sadly, my positive feelings towards Gemma quickly dissolved when I learned about the terrible thing that ruined her friendship with Hallie, her former friend. (I’m not going to spoil it, but I’m going to give some background.) The summer that Gemma was 11-years-old she also went to the Hamptons with her dad during her parents’ initial separation. Gemma is positive her parents will get back together so she doesn’t think anything of it when her dad starts spending time with a woman, she’s actually happy because the woman has a daughter, Hallie, who’s Gemma’s age. Gemma eventually finds out that her dad is dating this woman and she becomes determined to break them up and she decides the best way to do that is to make her friend Hallie’s life a living hell so that Hallie makes her mom leave early. Maybe I’m taking this too seriously, but oh my god I was horrified by this. Like mouth hanging open, horrified. I guess because Gemma regrets what she did that means she’s not a sociopath, but really, the things she did and the deliberate, premeditated manner in which she did them, were insane and just beyond anything I would imagine an 11-year-old, who isn’t going to grow up to be the Unabomber, doing.

On the train to “the Hamptons” Gemma meets this cute boy, Josh, and when they get off the train she discovers that Josh is Hallie’s brother. Even worse Hallie is at the train station to pick Josh up. Thinking on her feet (like the little sociopath she is) Gemma lies and says she’s Sophie Curtis (her best friend back in CT) and then decides this is actually a good thing because by lying to Hallie she can become her friend and be nice to her, thereby showing Hallie what a good person she is and making Hallie forgive her. Seriously? I get why someone who’s not fully matured might think this, but wow, and she continues to think it for the rest of the book. At one point she even says how she better tell Hallie the truth soon because otherwise it might turn into her lying (I’m paraphrasing). Turn into lying? I’m pretty sure it was lying from the moment she gave someone else’s name.

The second worst part about this book (first: what a sociopath Gemma is) is how much I had to suspend disbelief. First, that Gemma would meet Josh on the train (the imaginary train mind you, see my Hamptons ranting below). Second, that she could really carry off this whole “Sophie” thing (she’s not even a good liar, for someone who created such an elaborate plan at 11-years-old, she’s constantly almost slipping up and hasn’t really seemed to put any forethought into this plan (like change your friend’s name in your phone to something else so it doesn’t look like you’re always calling or texting yourself!)). Third, I wish I had counted the number of times people’s cell phones went off and interrupted an important moment; I would guess the number is somewhere between 30 and 50 in a 350ish page book, it was crazy. Fourth, where was Hallie and Josh’s mother? They build this enormous house in “the Hamptons” and then she’s never there? Although their mother is maybe the only reason I would read the sequel to this, I think she’s the author of the vampire erotica book that’s constantly referred to throughout the story and I’m curious to know if I’m right.

If I thought it couldn’t get any worse than all of that, somehow the end managed to do it. I had suspected part of what came out at the end, but definitely not all of it. Suddenly crazypants Gemma is turned into the victim and there’s this Mean Girls/horror film moment (I saw someone on Goodreads refer to it as Cruel Intentions-like) that left me shaking my head. Seriously, these people deserve each other.

Bottom Line: I can say, with almost 100% certainty, that is has to be one of the strangest books I’ve ever read. I feel like this is one of the most bizarre reviews I’ve ever written, but I just didn’t know what to say, the whole thing was dumbfounding. To recap: writing good and it had its funny moments (throughout, not just at the beginning), but the main character is a future serial killer and I had to suspend disbelief a lot.

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

Here are my thoughts on how the Hamptons are portrayed:

1. Gemma gets on a train in Connecticut and magically arrives in the Hamptons. What type of train is this? Why didn’t I know about this train when I was in college in Massachusetts? Gemma is from Putnam, Connecticut, which is in the northwest part of the state. She could, in theory, get on an Amtrak train, take that to Penn Station in NYC, and then transfer to the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), but that’s not what happened here. Also, after reading more, Finn claims that Putnam is on the coast by the Long Island Sound. If you’re going to make up a town wouldn’t you want to pick a name that wasn’t already a town? If she did live in a coastal town she could still take Amtrak, but it would be more likely that she would take MetroNorth to Grand Central and then need to get to Penn Station to get on the LIRR.

2. I’m still on the train stuff, Gemma talks about how a family with lots of beach stuff gets on at the stop before the Hamptons stop. That is not how the LIRR to the Hamptons works. This is how it works: you get on a train in Penn Station, you get off that train to change at Jamaica (a train station in Queens) to get on a double-decker diesel train (only diesel trains run past about the middle of Long Island), in the process of switching trains, during the summer, you fight very large crowds of people to get a seat and not have to stand on the two (to the farthest west Hampton) to three hour (all the way to Montauk). No one gets on the train after Jamaica (ok, a small handful of people do, but not summer people).

3. (Yep, still trains), Gemma talks about how the train she took to the Hamptons has three seats across, nope, those don’t exist, seats are in pairs and the overhead racks are about six inches tall (seriously, it’s the worst design in train history).

4. Gemma is staying in a made up area (I Googled it just in case it was some super rich people area I’d never heard of, it doesn’t exist) and Finn builds a whole town around the area. The towns in the Hamptons are so interesting and special, why not use what already exists? Also, the movie producer, her dad’s boss, whose house she is staying in, refers to the area as “the next Montauk,” what does that mean? Montauk is nice, absolutely, but it’s not really hip or cool. It doesn’t have fancy bars or restaurants or shopping, I wouldn’t say it’s the blue collar town of the Hamptons, because it’s not, but it’s not fancy or the place to be seen.

5. Hallie and Josh’s mother has just built an enormous house on the water front in the Hamptons. That would never happen that quickly or maybe at all. The house is new, so let’s so it’s been built recently, at most there was six years to build it, between the summer Gemma was 11 and the summer she’s 17. Waterfront property in the Hamptons isn’t easy to come by, especially undeveloped land so she’d need to find that, but more importantly she’d need permits. Building permits, especially to build on the beach, are not easy to get here. There would be hearings and environmental impact studies and lots and lots of inspections, I would say, to build a house like the one that’s described in the book would take at least ten years, probably more, to get approved and then built. For example, my parents wanted to put a larger deck on their house, they submitted plans three times, using three different contractors and the plans were still never approved (and someone came a year later to make sure they hadn’t just built one anyway). Or the bakery down the street from my office, one of the biggest draws on Main Street, wanted to expand by adding onto the back of his building, which was just unused space behind Main Street. It took him 15 (FIFTEEN!) years to get his plans approved by the Village and Town.

So basically the town/area portrayed in the book could be any beach town anywhere and bears no resemblance to the Hamptons whatsoever. If you want to read a remarkably accurate portrayal of the Hamptons give Rules of Summer a read.

One Year Ago: Book Review: Stealing Heaven


Book Review: Open Road Summer

Posted on

openroadsummer

Title: Open Road Summer
Author: Emery Lord
Release Date: 04/15/14
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars

If you are like me and anxiously awaiting summer you should go read this book. Before I read it I wanted this story to be summery and fun and it absolutely was both of those things, but it was also really deep in a way that I didn’t expect, even while I was reading it. This book is really about three things: Reagan’s friendship with Dee, Reagan moving on from her traumatic past, and Reagan’s attraction to Dee’s opener, Matt Finch. The thing about all three of these things is that they’re so easily made into cliches, and I really worried about that, but Emery Lord does an amazing job at keeping all of the story lines honest, real, and interesting. I’m going to break each of them down.

First, Reagan’s friendship with Dee who is known across the world as Lilah Montgomery, a huge country star who’s kind of like a cooler Taylor Swift. (I think Taylor Swift is really annoying, but I obviously find her music really catchy and secretly listen to it.) She’s only 17 years old, but she’s already a huge star and she’s about to launch her first headlining summer tour and Reagan is coming along to keep her company. I have to be honest and say that I did not expect to like Dee, best friends and I tend to have a bad track record. Plus, as I mentioned, I didn’t expect to like a Taylor Swift-like character. But this is not your typical YA-catty friendship. Reagan and Dee have a real, loving friendship and it was so amazing to read about it. I liked that Reagan was along for the tour as Dee’s friend and not getting paid to be Dee’s assistant or something. For all of Reagan’s flaws she’s an amazing friend to Dee and Dee is just a nice, sweet person and, even though she’s an imaginary character, all her success made me really happy.

Some of my favorite parts of the story were when the song that Dee wrote (yes, she writes all her own songs) about her and Reagan came up. The song, called Open Road Summer, has a line in it about “riding top-down with Reagan” and I just found that so adorable. There’s even a scene where Reagan is wandering around a venue before a concert taking pictures of fans and when she mentions that Dee will like a guy’s tee shirt one of the guy’s friends asks her if she’s “riding top-down with Reagan” Reagan (she’s wearing an all-access badge) and I just loved that. It’s such a small moment, but that’s when I knew I really loved the book.

Second, Reagan’s traumatic past. Reagan’s mother left when she was young and she was raised by her father. After her mother left they moved from Chicago to her dad’s hometown in the middle of nowhere Tennessee. For much of Reagan’s childhood her dad was an alcoholic and Reagan had to take care of him and herself. After her dad gets sober and goes on to marry a woman Reagan can’t stand, Reagan starts rebelling. She drinks a lot, dresses provocatively, and dates guys she shouldn’t. When the story begins we know that all of Reagan’s rebellion came to a head a couple months before she leaves to go on tour with Dee and she got arrested and then later broke her wrist. It takes a while for the truth behind the arrest and the broken wrist to come to light and like I often am with secrets, I was frustrated by that, but I also thought Emery Lord did a great job at making Reagan closed off and angry in a really authentic way so that the secrets felt appropriate and not like they were being lorded over my head.

Reagan is trying to move on from her traumatic past and be a better person. She wants to be the person Dee thinks she can be and she spends a lot of the book trying to resist temptation and resist sliding back into “Old Reagan.” I enjoyed watching Reagan try to be better. As a reader it was so easy to see all of the things that Reagan has going for her in her life, even with her rebellion she has a good relationship with her dad, she doesn’t get along with her step-mom but the woman only wants the best for Reagan, Dee and Dee’s family love Reagan like a daughter, she does well in school, and she’s a really talented photographer. Part of me feels like I should have been frustrated by Reagan’s inability to see all of the good things in her life, but her hurt and past seemed so real that I was able to understood where she was coming from.

Third, there’s Matt Finch, the opener the record label brings in for Dee to detract from a ridiculous scandal the media made up. Matt and Dee are supposed to pretend to be together, but they’ve been friends through the music industry for a while and while both are ok with going along with the idea that they’re together, neither of them is willing to outright lie. When Reagan first meets Matt she’s skeptical. She’s so protective of Dee that she doesn’t want someone to take advantage of her, but it doesn’t take Reagan long to realize Matt, who’s really flirty and cute, likes and respects Dee and has the best of intentions about joining Dee on tour. Reagan is attracted to Matt, who she remembers from his childhood days as a member of the Finch Four (a kind of Partridge Family/Hanson-like group of Matt and his siblings), but she’s determined to make this summer about her and Dee and not get involved with another guy where the relationship could end badly. Plus, she feels like that even though Matt and Dee’s relationship is fake, if she was to be with Matt she’d be betraying Dee on some level, especially if the press were to find out. I didn’t totally get that line of thinking, Dee and Reagan are such good friends and Dee is obviously not interested in Matt that I actually thought Dee would really want Matt and Reagan to get together, but I did understand Reagan’s worry about the press.

I loved Matt though and I was rooting hard for them to get together. Matt is such a good guy, he’s the rare childhood star that seems mostly unaffected by fame, he doesn’t take it very seriously and jokes about it. When he joins Dee on tour he’s also recently gone through some things with his family and an ex-girlfriend that he’s still trying to get over. While he’s not as closed off as Reagan, he is still pretty hurt and even though they coped with the grief in different ways it was nice to watch Reagan and Matt open up to, and get to know, each other. And there were some great kissing scenes.

As I was reading I kept waiting for the bottom to fall out. I wasn’t sure what it would be. Whether it would be some fake scandal (because she’s too good to have a real scandal) for Dee, a fight between Reagan and Dee, or a fight between Reagan and Matt. I didn’t want it to happen, but when it happened I really appreciated the way it happened and the way Emery Lord wrapped up the end of the story. All of the story lines had closure, but none of them ended too perfectly.

Bottom Line: Not only was Open Road Summer the great summery read I was looking for, it’s also a damn good book. It’s fun and funny, but it also has a depth I didn’t expect. Reagan and Dee’s friendship was so refreshing and Reagan’s rebellious past was handled beautifully. Plus the romance was perfect; it was sweet and fun and only added to the story of Reagan and Dee.

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


Book Review: The Geography of You and Me

Posted on

geography

Title: The Geography of You and Me
Author: Jennifer E. Smith
Release Date: 04/15/14
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I wasn’t originally going to review this book, I actually expected to hate it, but, maybe because I expected to hate it, I ended up really enjoying it. I thought of The Geography of You and Me as the book that would decide whether I ever read a Jennifer E. Smith book again. I liked The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, I thought it was a solid read with a fun premise and I happily gave it three stars. This is What Happy Looks Like did not make me happy, in fact, it made me very unhappy and made my list of the worst books of 2013. But The Geography of You and Me snuck up on me and really charmed me.

What made the story work for me? If I had to pick one thing I would say Lucy. I fell for Lucy head over heels. She’s a quiet, shy, sweet 16-year-old who lives in New York City. When the story starts her older twin brothers, really her only friends, have just left for college and her parents are jet-setting around Europe (their typical MO). I’ll admit I found Lucy’s friendlessness and isolation a little odd, but still, there was something about the way Jennifer E. Smith wrote her story that clicked with me and allowed me to really relate to Lucy.

Lucy is riding the elevator back up to her apartment when the building, and the entire east coast, loses power. I wasn’t living in NYC during the 2003 blackout, but I did lose power on Long Island, where I was living, and even though it was really annoying I also remember it being really fun. Trapped in the elevator with Lucy is Owen, the new superintendent’s son who is on his way to the building’s roof. Owen’s mother has just passed away and he and his father moved to NYC in the hopes of starting over both personally and professionally, but Owen hates the noise and hustle and bustle of the city and longs to see the stars at night.

The book’s description says that Lucy and Owen explore the city, but that’s not quite what happens. When they are freed from the elevator they head to Lucy’s apartment, they check out the neighborhood, get water and ice cream, and then spend the night on the building’s roof, where it’s cooler and Owen can finally see the stars. The next morning the spell is broken and Owen is gone and Lucy goes back to her normal life. That is until her parents suddenly decide to fly her over to Europe and then tell her they might be moving to London. Lucy’s family ends up moving to Edinburgh and Owen and his father leave to NYC to head out west.

Lucy and Owen do keep in touch, and Jennifer E. Smith draws parallels between what each of them is doing on different continents, but, even though they send each other the occasional postcard and think of each other often, they’re living very separate, different lives. Lucy’s family is very wealthy and they live in a nice house in Edinburgh and she goes to a fancy school (where she makes friends and meets a cute boy) and they travel all over Europe. Owen and his father, on the other hand, are barely making ends meet, moving from place to place to try to find work for his dad. Even though their very different financial situations were never mentioned I really liked how Jennifer E. Smith subtly wove them into the story.

One of the things that drove me nuts about This is What Happy Looks Like was the incredibly awkward third-person narrative. At the New York City Teen Author Fest Jennifer E. Smith talked about how she always writes in third-person and I don’t remember it about The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight so it must not have bothered me. In the case of The Geography of You and Me the third-person narrative really worked, it’s part of what made it so charming to me and was probably the most pleasant surprise about reading this story.

A friend, someone I used to work with and the person who leant me this ARC, told me that she liked this book, but felt like it had every recent YA cliche. I’ll admit I hadn’t thought about that before, but after she said it I gave it some thought and I don’t disagree with her. There’s the whole one-night, instant connection thing; the postcards and emails that they write back and forth; the kind of fairytale feel to the story; and the travel, both domestic and international that’s woven into Lucy and Owen’s lives. I debated whether I thought I should hold that against Jennifer E. Smith, but in the end I decided not to. Is there glory to be had in writing an interesting, entertaining book with story elements that aren’t currently in vogue? I don’t think that makes it better. Is there glory in writing an interesting, entertaining book with story elements that are currently in vogue? I would say so.

Bottom Line: After liking and disliking Jennifer E. Smith’s previous two most recent books I was pleasantly surprised by The Geography of You and Me and really fell for the Lucy character. If you’re like me and were disappointed by This is What Happy Looks Like give Smith another shot, I’m glad I did. I liked this so much that I actually looked into Smith’s earlier books and I’m considering giving some of them a read.

I received this ARC from a friend who had no expectations other than for me to read and enjoy it!


Top 10 Tuesday: Most Unique Books I’ve Read

Posted on

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

How great it this week’s topic? I don’t know about you, but I love a really unique, different book. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy a great version of a common story, but there’s just something so admirable to me about creativity. I am not creative and I’m ok with that, but it is a quality that I greatly admire in other people.

noggin

1. Noggin: Somehow I feel like I’m cheating because I just reviewed it yesterday and it comes out today, but holy hell is this a unique book. And a unique book that’s completely relatable, something extra special.

tyrants

2. The Tyrant’s Daughter: First, the idea of a middle eastern main character is pretty unique and second, the idea to make her the daughter of a tyrant, and then move her to the US, is really inspired.

andwestay

3. And We Stay: I wouldn’t say that the story of this is one is too unique, although it has its unique parts, but the more unique part to me is the way the author wrote the third-person perspective and the poems that were interspersed throughout the story.

sideeffectsmayvary

4. Side Effects May Vary: Julie Murphy really rewrote the book on cancer books and on bucket list books. Plus I loved how Alice just lived her life, everyone else be damned, something else I think is rare (probably because it makes people assholes).

roomies

5. Roomies: It’s odd that I’m calling this book unique because there’s really no reason it should be. However, as one of the only good books about college that I’ve read, it’s pretty damn unique.

truth

6. All the Truth That’s In Me: This is one I’ve put on the list because of the story and the writing. The story takes place at some unknown time in history and I’ve never read historical fiction like it. The second-person narrative, the well done second person narrative I should say, it so unique, and normally something I wouldn’t like, but it worked and I loved it.

burning

7. Burning: I would call all of Elana’s books unique, but Burning is probably the most unique. The idea of a small town going through hard times isn’t unique, but I loved the idea of a whole town closing and the fact that Lala was a Gypsy just made it even more unique.

orleans

8. Orleans: At this point it seems crazy to call a dystopian story unique, but this one really is. Sure, elements could probably be found in other stories, but the African-American main character, New Orleans setting, lack of romance, and many parts of the world felt new and different.

wildawake

9. Wild Awake: I challenge you to find another book like this out there. Yes, there are other books about mental breakdowns and dead siblings and unsupervised teens, but this one is so unique beyond any of those things.

bernadette

10. Where’d You Go Bernadette: Not only is this story unique, it’s wacky and fun while also being really touching.

One Year Ago: Book Review: Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour