Top 10 Tuesday: Book Characters That Would Be Sitting At My Lunch Table

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

Happy back to school! As I was making this list I realized I was probably making this list based on who I would like to be friends with more than who I was actually friends with in high school. I’ve talked before about how I was friends with lots of different people/groups in high school so it’s hard for me to pin down just one kind of person. So basically these are people I feel some kind of connection to.

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1. Annie from Breathe, Annie, Breathe: The thing about Annie I really connected with was her work ethic (and the fact that I just plain liked her). I always had a job in high school and sometimes that caused problems with my friends who didn’t want/need to have jobs. I wasn’t terrible athletic in high school, but I could picture myself being motivated to train for something like Annie did.

2. Lauren from After I Do: Lauren and I are just really similar, which could probably lead to some issues, but I do think we would be friends. Plus, both of us struggled when we first went away to college, but eventually found our niches and our ways.

3. Cricket from Nantucket Blue and Nantucket Red: Cricket is a really great example of someone I was friends with in high school. She’s a jock, she’s really smart, and she has an interesting family situation.

4. Mia from Sweet Filthy Boy: Maybe Mia would have been too focused on dance in high school for us to be friends, but the Mia we meet in the book and I would be great friends. We’re both trying to find our ways in life and figure out who we are/what we want and we both are hesitant about adventure, but enjoy it when it happens.

5. Brighton from Bright Before Sunrise: Brighton is another great example of someone I would be friends with. Yes, she’s a little annoyingly happy and friendly, but she’s a nice person deep down and her involvement with school mimics a lot of what some of my friends and I were like in high school.

6. Lauren and EB from Roomies: I’d probably be more likely to be friends with EB than Lauren, but I love them both. EB’s friends and the way she spends the summer before college reminded me a lot of me and my friends and I think we would get along really well.

7. Hannah from Beautiful Player: Hannah actually reminds me a lot of my first-year college roommate who’s also a big science geek. I like how awkward and bluntly honest Hannah is and even if we might not have had a ton in common I still think we’d be friends.

8. Maddie from The Summer I Became a Nerd: The combination of geek/cheerleader in Maddie is a lot like my friends in high school. Cheerleading was not a big thing in my HS, in fact, they almost got rid of the cheerleading team because no one wanted to do it. But, still, I knew lots of girls like Maddie who, thankfully, didn’t need to hide their inner geek.

9. Samantha from My Life Next Door: Sam doesn’t have many friends in the book, but I think she’s great. She’s a nice person, plus she’s smart and sweet like most of my friends in high school.

10. Chelsea from Past Perfect: A fellow history geek? Come on, I love how Chelsea was this smart geek over history, but then also a normal, social girl with lots of friends. I think we would have gotten along really well.

One Year Ago: Top 10 Tuesday: Contemporary Books That Would be Great Paired with a Required Reading Book


Book Review: Ugly Love

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Title: Ugly Love
Author: Colleen Hoover
Release Date: 08/05/14
Genre: New Adult Contemporary
Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars

I don’t know how Colleen Hoover does it. I really don’t. She takes a story that with another author more prone to cheese or less capable of developing characters would be terrible and writes books that, in spite of myself, I can’t help but love. When I reviewed Maybe Someday earlier this year I wrote a little about my experiences with Hoover’s books so check that out if you want to know more about what I mean.

But Ugly Love. I’ll admit I didn’t actually know a lot about Ugly Love going in, frankly I was kind of surprised that Hoover had another book coming out so quickly. And the premise of a girl and a guy hooking up, but the guy telling the girl she couldn’t ask about his past or expect a future with him, didn’t really thrill me. Despite all of that I put it on hold at the library and when it was my turn I eagerly dove in because that’s what Colleen Hoover makes me do.

Make no mistake, I loved Skye and Holder, but Tate and Miles are my new favorite Colleen Hoover characters. Actually, I probably like them just as much as I like Skye and Holder personally, but Tate and Miles are more mature, more nuanced, and less cheesy and therefore represent incredible growth by Hoover which I really admire. When we first meet Tate she’s moving in with her brother, Corbin, in San Francisco. Tate had been living in San Diego, but she’s decided to go back to school to get her master’s in nursing (she’s already an RN) and the program is in San Francisco. When she arrives at Corbin’s apartment Miles is drunkenly reclined against the door and she has to let him in and take care of him. He’s obviously upset by something and keeps calling her Rachel, but in the morning he doesn’t seem to remember any of it.

Tate is intrigued by Miles, but sober Miles doesn’t seem to take much interest in Tate, he plays his feelings very close to the vest, until he goes home with her and Corbin for Thanksgiving and they make their deal to have no-strings-attached sex. The story actually alternates between Tate and Miles’s points of view, but the Miles’s POV takes place six years prior. As we get to know Tate and Miles we’re also getting to know Miles and Rachel, then in their senior year of high school. Watching Miles fall in love with Rachel was such a strong contrast to what was happening with him and Tate and the dichotomy and the way Colleen Hoover presented it was really smart and interesting (even if Mile’s POV was a little too flowery and lovey dovey). As much as I loved reading about Tate and Miles I was often really eager to get to the high school Miles chapters because I was dying to know what happened with him and Rachel. Obviously it didn’t end well, but why? Was she alive? Dead? Sick? Maimed?

Luckily Tate and Miles’s whatever-you-want-to-call-it was more than interesting enough to keep my attention. They really were just having sex, there were some cute conversations, but virtually no getting to know each other. Their relationship was also complicated by Miles being Corbin’s good friend and Corbin being overprotective of his sister. It would have been really easy for Tate to be the clinging, annoying girl who’s trying to change Miles and make him love her. Even though she clearly wanted him to lover her and admitted it to herself, she was never clingy or annoying. She went into their thing with her eyes wide open and she constantly reminded herself of that. It’s always difficult to watch someone make self-destructive decisions, but Tate always seemed like she would come out ok in the end.

Then there’s the sex. Correct me if I’m wrong (I can’t really remember Maybe Someday), but I think this is the first Colleen Hoover book with romance-novel-like sex scenes between adults (Hopeless had sex scenes, but they weren’t romance novel-esque). The first time Tate and Miles have sex was H-O-T and maybe one of my all-time favorite sex scenes. Obviously these things are very subjective, but Hoover hit the nail on the head with this one and the rest of the sex scenes, of which there are many, but they’re never gratuitous, were also pretty stellar as well.

Going into the end of the story I tried to prepare myself for something terrible, it obviously has to be something terrible for Miles to be that closed off and unhappy, but when the truth comes out it was still heartbreaking. Hoover did a wonderful job bringing the story to a resolution. There were a few perspective changes I wasn’t sure about at first (I hate perspective switches, especially so close to the end of the story), but in this case they were perfect and really worked. They also allowed me to respect one of the secondary characters a lot more than I did for much of the book.

Like Maybe Someday my only criticism here is that the characters are so insulated. It improved a little bit here, but still, nearly all of the action took place in either Corbin and Tate’s apartment or Miles’s apartment. Tate and Miles both had jobs and Tate was in school, but otherwise they had no lives. It worked more here since Miles was so closed off and Tate was new to town and busy with school and work, but I still wish, despite my selfish wish to see more of Colleen Hoover’s couples, that she would make them a bit more well rounded.

Bottom Line: I feel like in a recent-ish post I called someone else the queen of new adult, but I think I have to take that back and give the distinction to Colleen Hoover. Her writing and stories only seem to get better and I really can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. If you’ve been hesitant to give her books or new adult a try pick up Ugly Love. It’s an extremely well done book, with likable characters, and lacks in the cheese and dramatics of many other NA titles.

One Year Ago: Book Review: Slated


My Week in Books

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Is it terrible if I say I didn’t finish any books this week? Because that’s the case. I wish it wasn’t but between the new job, working out, watching tennis, and trying to get enough sleep reading just wasn’t that high on my priority list.

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Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas: I did start this this week and I’m just kind of “meh” about it. I keep wanting to have the same connection to the novels that I had with the novellas but it’s just not happening for me.

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The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord: I received this in the mail from Bloomsbury this week, something I was super excited about. I didn’t read the note that was enclosed with it right away, but when I did I saw it said something about thanking me for liking Open Road Summer (ok…who didn’t?) and also letting me see my blurb. To which I asked “WHAT?!?!”

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I did not expect that. At all. Pretty much ever. But it is super cool and if I’m going to blurb any book I’m pretty happy it’s Open Road Summer because it really is a “damn good book.” (Not my most articulate statement…) Anywho, I like it so far, I’m maybe 160 pages in? I’m not feeling the same love/obsession I was with Open Road Summer, but I’m still enjoying it.

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Althea and Oliver by Cristina Moracho
No Parking at the End Times by Bryan Bliss
Love and Other Theories by Alexis Bass

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Better Than Perfect by Melissa Kantor
Lies I Told by Michelle Zink
Solitaire by Alice Oseman

Enjoy your Labor Day weekend, US friends! And to everyone else I’m sorry you don’t get a three-day weekend ;)


August 2014: In Review

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Last month I said July was my favorite month of 2014, well, sorry July, August has taken over. It was a whirlwind month leaving one job, going on vacation, starting a new job 11 hours after I landed from my vacation, but I seriously loved every minute of it. There were stressful moments and times when I wondered why in god’s name I had made the decisions I made, but life is a journey and you might as well enjoy it. At the beginning of August, before I left my old job, I was talking to a man at the art show my office runs about how he had been sick and he said to me “none of us get of this earth alive.” Obviously it’s true, but I never thought of it in terms of the every day, it seems like a line from a sci-fi book or movie. Anyway, my point is, we’re all going to end up underground soon enough (or scattered to the wind, thank you very much) so we might as well have fun now.

Let’s talk about why August rocked, shall we?

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Ok, this first thing doesn’t rock. My parents’ poor dog had a traumatic trip to the groomer. The groomer called to say she was having trouble breathing, something that happens when she gets nervous or excited, but when I went with my dad to pick her up it was obvious it wasn’t her normal thing. At the emergency vet they said it could be anything from congestive heart failure or pneumonia to an allergic reaction. A night in the hospital, a scope down her throat, and a ton of money later it turns out she had a collapsed trachea, something not uncommon for small dogs. After a course of tranquilizers, anti-anxiety meds, and a bronchodilator she’s doing much better and is back to her normal, crazy self.

I took an almost-weeklong vacation with friends. I went to Philly to meet up with one friend who lives there and another who was coming up from DC. Me and my friend from DC picked up our Philly friend and her new husband from the airport on their way home from their honeymoon and then we left nine-and-a-half hours later (4am!) for Cincinnati for the Western and Southern Open tennis tournament. This was my fourth year there and it was just as great as ever. Waking up at 3:30am, driving for nine hours, and then watching tennis for eight hours was exhausting, but so worth it. And the other two days we spent there were great, too.

Some images from our road trip: there were lots of sunflowers on the highway in Ohio // The “wild and wonderful” slogan gets me every time, West Virginia // This condom machine in the creepiest gas station I’ve ever been in in WV freaked me out to no end, my friend was waiting to go into the bathroom after me and when I came out she wasn’t there and my first thought was that she got kidnapped by the creepy condom people

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Me and cardboard Cris Collinsworth // Close-up shot of David Ferrer hitting the ball on an outer court // Four-way Skyline Chili (oh how the inner 13-year-old boy in me wants to order a three-way) // Me and my lovely friends // Night tennis is some of the best tennis and the sunsets we saw were amazing // Graeter’s aka the best ice cream ever (and I am a TOUGH ice cream critic)

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On the way back from our tennis trip we went to Washington DC for a friend and her boyfriend’s 30th birthday party. I spent the next day with a good friend from college checking out the Hirshorn Museum (where the first two pictures are from) and having a nice lunch somewhere I don’t remember the name (where the third picture is from).

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The week I came back from my vacation, also known as the week I started my new job, the woman who owns the studio where I workout, who’s also a friend, threw a surprise birthday party for her boyfriend. She rented out an old club right on the ocean and it was amazing. Besides being a little chilly it was perfect, the sky and sunset rocked, the food was delicious, the games where fun, and the company was even better (even if surprise parties give me anxiety).

July Recap Garden

My garden is still going strong-ish. My zucchini plants died (I think they got infested with squash vine borers), but the tomatoes plants are looking good (even if squirrels like to come and take bites out of too many of the tomatoes) and I’ve enjoyed lots of garden tomatoes on salads. The green beans were a disappointment and the peppers have been a mixed bag: the jalepenos are looking good, but the bell peppers are slow in coming.

The new job is going well. The first few days were so overwhelming and I kept asking myself what I had gotten into (the first three weeks are an intensive training). It’s weird to be working 40 hours a week (before I was working 20 hours and going to school part-time which together was probably about a 40 hour commitment). Part of me feels like I have so much less free time, but another part of me, I think the bigger part of me, really likes the routine and consistency of going into work five days a week. It’s definitely meant less time for reading and sometimes struggling to find time for “me” time, which for me mainly consists of working out and reading, but I feel like I have more balance in my life overall and that’s a good thing.

Things From the Internet That Caught My Eye
- Toxic Habits that Will Steal Your Joy
Fascinating Epiphanies About Everyday Moments

- Why is Trader Joe’s Wine So Cheap

- In a Balm of Space and Time, Healing
Give Me Gratitude or Give Me Debt
- Eight Ways to Stay Positive
Managing Anxiety

On the Blog:

Reviews:

5 stars:
- Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally
- Flat-Out Celeste by Jessica Park
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

4 stars:
- Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta
- The One & Only by Emily Giffin
- Summer of Yesterday by Gaby Triana
- Truly by Ruthie Knox

3 stars:
- Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park
- Magnolia by Kristi Cook
- Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
- Zac and Mia by AJ Betts
- Wildflower by Alecia Whitaker

Top 10 Tuesday posts:
- Books I’d Give to Readers Who Have Never Read New Adult
Books I’m Not Sure I Want to Read
Books People Have Been Telling You That You MUST Read
Books I Really Want to Own But Don’t

My Week in Books recaps:
- Week 1
Week 2
Weeks 3 and 4
Week 5

Other:
- Pub Date: Summer Beers
- These Are a Few of My Favorite Things
Checking In On My Resolutions

Things to Look Forward to in September:

Life: (August was pretty damn good, I’m not sure how September will top it)
- Getting into the crux of my job
- A trip to the US Open (technically still in August, but after this post pubs)
- Fall beers, fall clothes, other fall things

Books:
- Don’t Touch by Rachel M. Wilson
- 100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith
- The Jewel by Amy Ewing
- Just a Drop of Water by Kerry O’Malley Cerra
- Anatomy of a Misfit by Andrea Portes
- Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley
- Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang
- Falling Into Place by Fiona Wood
- Sway by Kat Spears
- The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey
- Every Time I Think of You by Tracey Garvis-Graves
- Blackbird by Anna Carey
- I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
- In a Handful of Dust by Mindy McGinnis
- Adrenaline Crush by Laurie Boyle Crompton
- In Your Dreams by Kristan Higgins
- The Fine Art of Pretending by Rachel Harris
- Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Previous 2014 Monthly Recaps
January
February
March
April
May
June
July

One Year Ago: Book Review: Leap of Faith


Book Review: Looking for Alibrandi

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Title: Looking for Alibrandi
Author: Melina Marchetta
Release Date: 05/09/06 (in the US)
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I am on a Melina Marchetta kick lately (I’m working my way up to On the Jellicoe Road) and the lady has not managed to disappoint me yet. However, when I first started reading Looking for Alibrandi, I wasn’t sure about it. I actually wasn’t sure about it until maybe the last 25% of the book. It’s a very character driven story and it kind of jumps around to all of the different things in Josie’s life (school, family, boys, friends) and I found it a tad disjointed at times.

Looking for Alibrandi was written in 1992 so it’s by far the earliest of Marchetta’s books. However, many of the things I loved about Saving Francesca and The Piper’s Son are present. Josie, the novel’s heroine is actually kind of a rougher version of Francesca. Josie is in the equivalent of her senior year of high school and her and her friends are all worried about passing the high school certificate test and what they’ll do next. Josie attends a very fancy, wealthy private Catholic school on scholarship so she often feels like she doesn’t fit in not only because her family is solidly working class, but also because she’s an “ethnic” of Italian ancestry (she’s a second generation Australian). She’s very much trying to find her place in life since she doesn’t feel like it’s fair that she has to be either Italian or Australian.

The story is told from Josie’s perspective and that did make the story a bit biased (not in a bad way) because we see everyone and learn about everyone from Josie’s point of view. Josie is the typical teenager in the sense that she’s kind of self-absorbed and a bit dramatic, but because the story is through Josie’s eyes that doesn’t necessarily come through.She is however constantly being told by the other characters–her family, her boyfriend–that she’s selfish and spoiled. To me she’s just being a normal teenager, but I also wouldn’t be shocked if some people were bothered by her behavior at times.

The whole Italian-Australian thing is one of the most interesting parts of Marchetta’s books. Having grown up in the United States in an Italian-American family I never really gave it much thought. I suppose the US is more of a melting pot and I am about 10 years younger than Josie, but even in Marchetta’s later books, with characters my age or younger, it still seems to be a big issue. Like Saving Francesca much of this story deals with Josie’s family. Her mother is a single mom who got pregnant as a teenager and was ostracized by her community and her family. After Josie’s grandfather passed away her grandmother forgave her mother and, even though her grandmother is big on the guilt, her grandmother, mother, and her are very close, even though they argue quite a bit.

Josie spends a lot of time with her grandmother, her conservative community doesn’t think it’s ok for her to be home by herself after school or do things like date non-Italians. At first I had a difficult time with Josie’s grandmother. She’s very old-fashioned and judgmental and she treats Josie and her mother very unfairly. But, as the story went on, we, Josie included, learn more about her grandmother and I really came to appreciate her. At first her stories about Italy and her early life in Australia seemed boring and pointless, but they actually came to be my favorite part of the story. Since it’s a character driven story I often struggled with what the book was really about and, in the end, I think it was about three generations of strong, feisty, interesting Alibrandi women.

The story is also about another member of Josie’s family, her father Michael. Josie has known her father’s name since she was younger (her mother didn’t tell anyone else his identity), but she’s never met him. Shortly after her mother got pregnant her father’s family moved to Brisbane (Josie lives in Sydney) and he left thinking that Josie’s mother was getting an abortion. Michael, a lawyer, returns to Sydney at the beginning of the book for work and is welcomed back into the fold of the Italian community not realizing he has a daughter. Josie and Michael’s relationship gets off to a bit of a rough start. She’s always wondered about her father, but actually meeting him is something different. Over the course of the story they build a relationship and it was so lovely and sweet and funny. Besides Josie’s relationship with her grandmother her relationship with her father was probably my favorite of the book.

There’s also a romance in the book. Josie has been in love with John Barton, the son of a wealthy politician, for many years. They see each other at debating tournaments or other functions their schools have together, but Josie feels inferior because John’s family is so rich and cultured. He’s also best friends with her archenemy at her school, Poison Ivy. Jacob Coote, the other guy in Josie’s life, is from a more similar background to Josie, he’s Australian, but his family is working class and he wants to be a mechanic once he finishes school. At first I was worried it would turn into a love triangle, but it didn’t. Josie starts dating Jacob and John stays a friend. I wouldn’t recommend this book as a great romance, but Josie’s relationship with Jacob had its moments, even if it was often pushed to the background. There’s a side story with John Barton that didn’t quite fit with the story to me, especially because you could go 50 or 75 or maybe even 100 pages and not hear anything about him.

Bottom Line: I didn’t love Looking for Alibrandi the way I’ve loved some of Marchetta’s other books, but, once I eventually settled into it I came to appreciate it as a character-driven story about three generations of interesting, opinionated, and slightly wacky women. Being a fan of Marchetta’s other books it was also nice to see the groundwork that was laid in this early book for her later work.

One Year Ago: Book Review: Truly, Madly, Deadly


Book Review: Wildflower

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Title: Wildflower
Author: Alecia Whitaker
Release Date: 07/01/14
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Wildflower was one of my most anticipated reads of 2014, but when I started reading it I wasn’t a fan. I made it 10% of the way through the story before I couldn’t take any more and had to put it down. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the story, the story of Bird, her parents, and her two older brothers on the road with her family’s folk/country band was fine, it wasn’t even uninteresting, it just wasn’t quite compelling enough to keep my attention. This is actually the problem I had with Whitaker’s first book, The Queen of Kentucky. I liked that book, but it was a very character-driven story that didn’t have anything in it to keep me turning the pages.

About a month and a half after I put Wildflower down I came back to it. I had been so excited to read it, and I wanted to know how it played out, so I decided to give it another shot. I’m glad I decided to revisit Bird’s story, but, full disclosure, as much as I came to like the story, there still wasn’t enough to it to really make me excited about it and or leave me dying to know what was going to happen.

While Bird is still on the road with her family she’s homeschooled and they literally travel from place to place in their van performing at different bars and clubs. One night her dad gets sick and can’t do lead vocals so Bird takes over for him. Even though she’s nervous at first she eventually settles in and gives a great performance. That night there happens to be a Nashville A&R executive in the crowd and he invites Bird’s dad to come and talk to him about Bird. The family thinks it will be a deal for them, but he only wants Bird. While this does create some resentment with Bird’s brothers, by and large the family is happy for Bird and supportive of her pursuing a solo career.

When Bird signs a record deal the family ends their life on the road and settles down in Nashville. Bird is excited to start recording songs, but as her album gets fast-tracked and she spends her days in the recording studio, gets makeovers, and does promotional stuff she starts to feel a lot of pressure and it all becomes less fun than she expected. Luckily Bird, who’s never really had friends, becomes friends with the daughter of a songwriter she’s working with. The time she spent with the daughter, Stella, were some of my favorite scenes in the book, it was just nice to watch Bird being a normal girl. Even when Bird wasn’t with Stella the part of the story that takes place in Nashville was more compelling than the earlier parts of the book. The long hours Bird spent in the studio and doing promotional stuff and her attempts to balance her new and old lives did get repetitive at times, but for the most part it was a pretty interesting account of a girl finding her way into being a celebrity.

There’s also a kind of romance in the story. Bird has known Adam, a fellow road musician, for many years, but she thinks he only sees her as his friend’s younger sister. She uses Adam as her muse to write songs and, with Stella’s encouragement, she starts to text and call Adam to build their own separate relationship. The romance was definitely more on the back burner and it was also a very chaste, innocent relationship. I read somewhere (forgive me for forgetting where) that this is the first in a series. There aren’t other books listed on Goodreads so we’ll see, but, if it is, it would make a lot of sense because this story didn’t really go anywhere and was left over open-ended.

Bottom Line: Even though I liked Bird from the start and eventually even came to like her family, there’s still something that held me back from really connecting with Wildflower. The story of Bird becoming a star was interesting, but still, like The Queen of Kentucky, it was lacking a hook to really draw me into the story. If you’re more ok with character-driven stories then I don’t think that will be a problem, but if you want more of a problem to be solved or change to occur than you might be disappointed with the story.

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

One Year Ago: Waiting on Wednesday: No One Else Can Have You


Top 10 Tuesday: Books I Really Want To Own But Don’t

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

By this point we all know that I don’t buy books. Especially books I haven’t read. So this topic pretty much doesn’t work for me, but no worries, I’m making to work. Rather than “Books I Really Want to Read but Don’t Own Yet” I’m doing “Books I Really Want To Own But Don’t” which is a slightly traumatic topic for me, but I will muddle through. I also had a difficult time coming up with 10, how crazy is that?

Books I'd Like to Own

1. Holier Than Thou by Laura Buzo: This is one of the best stories I’ve read about how chaotic and amazing life right after college is. I wish desperately that it would be published in the US.

2. When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney: I loved Danny’s story and it’s one I’ve been wanting to re-read for a while.

3. All the Truth That’s In Me by Julie Berry: I honestly don’t know if I would re-read this, but it’s such a unique, interesting book that I would be proud to see it on my shelf.

4. Roomies by Sara Zarr: A great story about life on the cusp of college, I can definitely see myself re-reading this.

5. How to Kill a Rockstar by Tiffanie DeBartolo: Another book that I’d really like to re-read. Tiffanie DeBartolo is such a master with words and characters, it’s so sad she’s only published two books, but at least it’s easier for me to own all her books!

6. The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta: Just a masterpiece, I need to own this sooner rather than later.

7. Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour: When I returned this book to the library I was actually sad. Another book I can easily see myself re-reading.

8. Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally: I enjoyed the other Hundred Oaks books, but I’ve never wanted to own them, but Annie’s story really resonated with me and I’d love to have this one on my shelf.

9. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell: Another book I would like to re-read, I enjoyed it the first time I read it, but I feel like I would learn more going back and re-reading it.

10. The One and Only by Emily Giffin: I just loved this book, it made me so uncomfortable, but in such an amazing way. And I actually own a lot of Emily Giffin’s other books.

One Year Ago: Top 10 Tuesday: Most Memorable Characters


Book Review: Zac and Mia

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Title: Zac and Mia
Author: A.J. Betts
Release Date: 09/02/14
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I haven’t read The Fault in Our Stars. I felt like I had to get that out there before I review this book. Yes, The Fault in Our Stars is obviously the cancer book, but cancer is a big topic that, as Zac frequently reminds us, affects one out of two people worldwide so I’m personally of the mind that the world, even the YA world, can handle more than one (or two or three) cancer books.

I’m glad I got that off my chest. Zac and Mia is a complicated book for me. When I first started reading I definitely wasn’t sold on the story. At the beginning it’s pretty much just Zac, stuck in an isolation room, with his mother and a rotating cast of hospital staff. He’s had a bone marrow transplant and he has to be in a germ-free environment for a number of days (I think it was 50) before his new marrow is making enough white blood cells to be able to combat pathogens. That sucked. It sucked for Zac and it sucked for me reading it (obviously it sucked more for Zac). Even though Zac is funny and charming and geeky and optimistic it was still a struggle to feel so stuck and alone. And yes, that is how Zac felt, but still, it dragged and for a while I wasn’t sure if I would be able to keep reading.

Even after Mia moved in next door to Zac the story was still a struggle. Since Zac can’t go talk to Mia and Mia can’t come in to talk to Zac they communicate by knocking on the wall between their rooms (neither knows morse code so it’s not terribly effective) and through a few slightly confusing notes passed between by the nurses. Eventually they become friends on Facebook but even their chats there are stilted and not exactly thrilling. Mia has osteosarcoma in her ankle and Zac looks at her as being incredibly lucky even though Mia, who’s always been a bit of a party girl, feels anything but.

The story is divided into three parts, the first is solely from Zac’s perspective, the middle from Zac and Mia’s alternating perspectives, and the final only from Mia’s perspective. Even though I had a difficult time getting into the story it was still very well written and I was intrigued by Zac’s voice. Once we get to know Mia in the middle part I was slightly taken aback. By the time we meet her she’s busted out of the hospital and run away from home. She’s lying and stealing and isn’t a particularly empathetic character. If Zac and Mia reminded me of any book it would be Side Effects May Vary. Mia’s anger, terrible decisions, and general unlikability reminded me a lot of Alice in that book, although overall Zac and Mia isn’t quite on the level of Side Effects May Vary.

Once the switch to alternating between Zac and Mia’s perspectives I was more drawn into the story. It never fully clicked, but at least with Mia, even if she was a huge rhymes-with-witch (though I liked her), things were happening. Much of the story still happened in Mia and Zac’s heads and I did wish for more action and more talking, but I did come to enjoy and was interested in the story a lot more than I was for the first third.

As I was reading I kept going back and skimming Goodreads reviews because I wanted some hint of what happened at the end of the story. Did they both die? Did one of them die? I didn’t even care who may or may not have died, I just wanted to know because I felt like I needed a better take on the overall tone of the book. As I was skimming those reviews I came across one (a negative one) that noted that the story isn’t a romance. Up until that point (and I was probably more than halfway through by this time) I hadn’t even noticed that it wasn’t a romance and I loved that. Guys and girls can be friends and although there was some attraction of Zac to Mia and Mia wanting him to find her attractive because that’s how she’s used to finding validation, there was no kissing or romance in the book.

As implied above I kept playing out different scenarios for how the book would end. Lots of different things went through my mind, but what actually happened was a surprise to me and I really enjoyed that. It was also a really fitting ending given the tone of the story and I was left with the pleasant feeling that Zac and Mia were both given their due.

Bottom Line: Even though the beginning dragged and I wish the rest had had a little more action and conversation, I still enjoyed reading Zac and Mia. It’s one of those books that, even with my issues, makes me look forward to seeing what A.J. Betts does next because the concept, characterization, and overall way the story played out were all really strong.

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

One Year Ago: Book Review: All Our Yesterdays


My Week in Books

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This is actually two weeks in books since I didn’t get to do a post last week while I was away. But while I was away I read zero books, started zero books, borrowed zero books from the library, and didn’t download anything from NetGalley/Edelweiss so really this is one week. Confusing… ;)

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2   summerofyesterday

Summer of Yesterday by Gaby Triana: Such a pleasant surprise, if you’re looking for something to round out your summer reading I highly recommend it. I reviewed it last-last Thursday.

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After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid: I LOVED this book. Review to come, but seriously, just read it if you haven’t already. I loved it so much I went and bought three copies, one for me and two for friends.

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Forever Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins Reid: I liked this, but I wish I hadn’t read it right after After I Do because they have such different feelings to them. But I was just so excited for more Taylor Jenkins Reid.

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Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas: I liked this more than Throne of Glass, but I don’t know, I loved the novellas but Sarah J. Maas’s novels just aren’t clicking for me. Review to come!

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Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins: I’m the only person on this earth who didn’t enjoy Anna and the French Kiss, but Stephanie Perkins keeps getting better. I loved getting to know Isla and Josh and I devoured this book in just a few hours yesterday. My review will be up next month.

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Breaking His Rules by Allison Packard: I loved this story, but absolutely hated the writing so I guess I can’t really recommend it? I have some thoughts to work out, review tk.

3

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Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas: I haven’t actually started this one yet, but it’s going to be my next read because (crazy!) it comes out next week!

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Maybe This Christmas by Sarah Morgan

9

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Virgin by Radhika Sanghani
I Love I Hate I Miss My Sister by Amelie San

Happy last week of August, everyone! Enjoy the last (unofficial) week of summer!


Book Review: Can’t Look Away

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Title: Can’t Look Away
Author: Donna Cooner
Release Date: 08/26/14
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

This seems to be the year that YA authors are exploring fame in our reality TV and internet-crazy days. After reading and enjoying Something Real and Don’t Call Me Baby I was excited to give Can’t Look Away a try and see Donna Cooner’s take on fame. Can’t Look Away didn’t measure up to those two books, which are among some of my favorites of 2014, but it still has its merits.

First, Can’t Look Away is a quick book, I probably read it in just over two hours, but it’s not lacking in depth. Torrey, the main character, has become famous through a series of vlogs she created about fashion and beauty. Torrey, who’s only 15 years old when the story starts, has learned to deal with the haters, but after her younger sister is killed in a tragic accident the haters and trolls come out in full force and Torrey has to decide if the vlogs are something she wants to continue.

Added on top of her vlog crisis and her sister’s death is her family’s move from Colorado to Texas. Her mom couldn’t handle driving past the spot where her sister died or being reminded of her sister all the time so Torrey’s family moves to Texas, where her father has family. Torrey starts a new school, where she’s worried about people recognizing her for her vlog and make the connection to her sister. However, she is very eager to join the popular crowd, where she feels she belongs, but she’s intrigued by a boy, Luis, whose family owns the local funeral home, even though he’s shunned and mocked by the popular group.

As I was reading there kept just being little things that bothered me. Torrey’s vlogs are really popular, but I questioned if people would really be so interested in a teenage vlogger, who only has a few hundred thousand hits on her videos, so much that someone would hide in the floral arrangement at her sister’s funeral to get photos of her grieving. I have no doubt that the trolls would be out in full force, but to do something like that? That’s like Hollywood celebrity levels of fame. Also, there’s a video posted online at one point that really hurts Torrey’s reputation and feeds the trolls, but then that video is magically taken down and is nowhere to be found. I don’t think I’m an internet expert, but that just seemed very far-fetched to me. The internet is forever. Finally, the financials of the whole thing. Torrey is buying very expensive clothing and makeup to feature in her vlogs, where is she getting the money? From her parents? Because that’s appalling. And are her vlogs making any money? It doesn’t take that many views for YouTube to start paying you a small amount for the ads that air before your video. Is that how she’s paying for her wardrobe? But who’s managing the money and tax stuff for her?

All of those things really hurt the book in my eyes. I don’t know if it’s because I’m older and these aren’t things that teens would think about (although I certainly don’t sell teens short). Overall I did think this was more of a younger YA read. Torrey turns 16 at the start of the book, but, despite her success, she still seemed very young. There were times where her behavior was pretty terrible, like plotting when to make her return to her vlog to make her look most sympathetic or lying about giving the family statement at her sister’s killer’s trial to make herself look better. Torrey was a sympathetic character, but some of her actions, probably due to her age, were disturbing.

Enough of the bad, there were several strong things about this book. Even though I struggled with some of the aspects of Torrey’s vlogs it was still really impressive that she built a brand and a following at such a young age. Most of the story actually had to do with Torrey’s family and her new school than her vlog, which was good, because Cooner handled both of those things well. Torrey’s parents aren’t terribly present, her mother is very depressed and has a difficult time being the mother that Torrey remembers. Her father tries, but he travels a lot for work. Even though her parents were lacking, they were lacking in a way that was realistic and made sense given her family’s circumstances. Quite a bit of the story is actually flashbacks to when Torrey’s sister was alive. Torrey and Miranda never really got along and much of what Torrey remembers is the two of them arguing which, knowing what happens to Miranda, was painful to read about at times. But it was nice to get to know Miranda and really see how her loss impacts Torrey.

A lot of Torrey coming to terms with Miranda’s death has to do with Luis and his family. As Torrey gets to know Luis she also gets to know his mom and aunt and all three of them teach her about their culture and Dios de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. Torrey, who isn’t handling Miranda’s death well, takes a lot of comfort in some of the customs she learns and the ideas about how people pass on and can also come back to this world. It was a really interesting way to watch someone cope with loss and it worked really well in the story. Also, yay for a minority love interest, diversity in books is always appreciated.

Bottom LineCan’t Look Away wasn’t the exploration of internet culture I was looking for, but it did have its strong points. Donna Cooner did a good job telling the story of a girl who’s sister has passed away and how she manages to move on. Overall this falls on the younger end of the YA spectrum and might not have the crossover appeal of other YA books, but it’s still an entertaining read.

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

One Year Ago: Book Review: Dangerous Girls