Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Don't Call Me Baby

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

Got another contemporary title for y'all here, one that deals with something very of our time:

Don't Call Me Baby by Gwendolyn Heasley
Published by HarperTeen
Releases April 22, 2014
All her life, Imogene has been known as the girl on THAT blog.

Imogene's mother has been writing an incredibly embarrassing, and incredibly popular, blog about her since before she was born. Hundreds of thousands of perfect strangers knew when Imogene had her first period. Imogene's crush saw her "before and after" orthodontia photos. But Imogene is fifteen now, and her mother is still blogging about her, in gruesome detail, against her will.

When a mandatory school project compels Imogene to start her own blog, Imogene is reluctant to expose even more of her life online...until she realizes that the project is the opportunity she's been waiting for to tell the truth about her life under the virtual microscope and to define herself for the first time.

Don't Call Me Baby is a sharply observed and irrepressibly charming story about mothers and daughters, best friends and first crushes, and the surface-level identities we show the world online and the truth you can see only in real life.
I remember seeing Heasley's debut Where I Belong but never getting a chance to read it so this will end up being my first exposure to her writing. Of course, I have a longtime love of contemporary stories but the mother/daughter relationship and technology angle are really appealing to me from the synopsis above. Nowadays this is how a lot of people are growing up! I'm super grateful that my mom took loads of pictures of me and is filled with stories about my childhood but I'm even more grateful that they haven't been shared online with strangers because I would find that super embarrassing.

Does this sound interesting to you? I was able to download a copy from Edelweiss and will be publishing a review closer to the release date so we can discuss :)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Ramblings and the Week to Come 23FEB14

This will probably be a pretty short ramblings but I have exciting news to report. Yes, you guessed it: we won our first softball game. Though I did not score any runs (or even get on base), I did catch the ball at 2B for an out. I've never caught the ball in that position and it was a huge triumph for me. The rest of the team played amazing as you might guess, leading to a final score of 9-1. I hope we continue to play strong defensively as that is what really won the night for us.

Meanwhile I seem to have gotten some of my mojo back. I'm much more excited about reading and I can see the end of the tunnel in regards to my crazy work schedule. Next week, I expect to feel much more relaxed. I'm still a bit behind in my reading goal but I don't fear that I will never catch up. I think that March and the rest of the year will have plenty of opportunities to do so. Plus I've still managed to keep this blog active even in my toughest days so that's a blessing. I am a bit behind on commenting but I've managed to peek out a bit at what everyone else has going on.

Week to Come:
The Shadow Prince by Bree Despain-this is interesting so far. I'm not sure when I'll have a chance to finish but hopefully I will be able to post something this week. It's up in the air though with work and other commitments taking my attention.

I do have a Waiting on Wednesday post scheduled though so you can see what other titles I have on my mind.

The Week in Rewind: Early reviews of some anticipated YA titles
The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski *recommended*
Ask Again Later by Liz Czukas
Death Sworn by Leah Cypess
Panic by Lauren Oliver

 Sharing the cover again because I highly recommend this book and because it's super pretty :)

What is everyone else up to? How is your reading going?

Saturday, February 22, 2014

ARC Review: Panic

by Lauren Oliver
3/5 stars
Harper, 2014
416 pages
YA Contemporary Suspense
Scheduled to release March 4

Source: Received an e-ARC from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Another tricky review to write. This was a flowing read that kept me engaged but didn't demand my attention when I had to put it down. I think I spent one whole day not reading it and didn't mind. So that gives you some insight into how I felt. When I love a book, I can barely put it down and I push other things in my life aside just to luxuriate in the world a little bit longer. And that was just not the case here.

In this book, we have the alternating perspectives of Heather and Dodge, two recent high school graduates in the town of Carp who embark on the game Panic, a tradition for the summer after high school. The high stakes jackpot draws the attention of all but the increasing danger also attracts adult attention to prevent the tragedies of previous years. Still determined youngsters with few prospects are dogged and will see the game through to the bitter end.

I guess there were several problems for me with this book, which can be summed up simply: characters, plot, and the end. These are all pretty big problems to have with a book so I think you can see why I was less than impressed.

First are the characters. Heather and Dodge are not particularly close but as participants in Panic (and with him having a crush on her best friend Natalie), their paths soon cross. I didn't have any specific problems with either but we never clicked. I always felt very distanced even though both have reasons for me to feel sympathetic toward them. Even now as I write, I have no strong opinions about them. They're practically ciphers to me. If you've read my blog for a while, you may know that I tend to have a very strong reaction to depictions of the relationship between sisters. So when I tell you that Heather is a protective older sister and it still didn't register with me may give you some insight into how little I cared for these characters.

The second element is the plot. I have no problem with this game of Panic overtaking the young people of this small town. But I do wonder about the adults that so many didn't seem to care what was going on despite tragedies in previous years and the fact that knowledge about it seemed to be disseminated pretty easily. I feel like more adults could have stepped in to stop the game.

Now don't worry, I'm not going to spoil the end, or at least I hope not. I thought the book was building to a big explosive finish but I thought it ended more with a whimper. Am I glad there was some optimism to end since there are many down moments in the book? Yes but it wasn't very exciting nor was it quite what I was expecting.

So that's how I feel about Panic-what about you? Have you read this yet? Are you looking forward to the newest release from Oliver (keep in mind I did not like her Delirium trilogy so this might still please fans of that series.)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

ARC Review: Death Sworn

by Leah Cypess
3.5/5 stars
Greenwillow Books, 2014
352 pages
YA Fantasy
Scheduled to release March 4

Source: Received an e-ARC through Edelweiss from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

This was such a hard review for me to write because I liked this book but I didn't love it. I think there are a lot of cool ideas played with here and I read it pretty easily but I'm not left dying for the second book and I don't feel motivated to make people in my real life read it (the sure sign of a winner.)

The basic concept of this book is super cool. Ileni, the main character, is a sorceress whose power is diminishing and is basically sent as a sacrificial lamb to an underground tavern of assassins. She fulfills a treaty between their people, attempts to minimize the knowledge of magic that the assassins gain, and can investigate the death of the previous two wizards sent there. BUT, it's more complicated than that (isn't it always?) as Ileni comes to question her very upbringing, seeing the different philosophy of the assassins and how they are working to slowly chip away at an oppressive empire.

How can I describe Ileni? She's tough for sure with extensive reserves of inner strength. Her life has been dedicated toward increasingly complex magic but as she loses that ability, she loses the very essence of herself and she's not entirely sure what to do now. She's also flustered by a certain handsome assassin and his life, based around the Master's long-term plan and his ease at always facing death. She's clever, coming up with different strategies to compensate for her loss of magic and she's not afraid to ask questions as necessary. But she was a little tough to connect with for me-I don't know that I've ever had such a great talent as hers and thus have never had to lose such a thing. The other characters have some defining characteristics but do not receive the same definition.

I liked seeing the plot come together as answers were given while still setting up tension for the second concluding book in this duet. But I'm just feeling overall lackluster about it. You should give it a try if you've liked Cypess' writing before and if you want some fantasy in your life.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: This Side of Salvation

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

I'm so proud of myself; on Sunday, I sat down and worked on WOW posts for the rest of February including today's pick:

This Side of Salvation by Jeri Smith-Ready
Published by Simon Pulse
Releases April 1, 2014
Everyone mourns differently. When his older brother was killed, David got angry. As in, fist-meets-someone-else’s-face furious. But his parents? They got religious. David’s still figuring out his relationship with a higher power, but there’s one thing he does know for sure: The closer he gets to new-girl Bailey, the better, brighter, happier, more he feels.

Then his parents start cutting all their worldly ties in to prepare for the Rush, the divine moment when the faithful will be whisked off to Heaven…and they want David to do the same. David’s torn. There’s a big difference between living in the moment and giving up his best friend, varsity baseball, and Bailey—especially Bailey—in hope of salvation.

But when he comes home late from prom, and late for the Rush, to find that his parents have vanished, David is in more trouble than he ever could have imagined...
I really enjoyed Smith-Ready's "Shade" trilogy so I'm excited for more of her writing especially since it looks like this will be in the contemporary genre, my very fave! I also like that this will be looking at religious questions because that is an important element of my life and always prompts some good thinking for me. The romance is getting me intrigued and I'm dying to know what has happened to David's parents.

Does this sound interesting to you? I was able to download a copy from Edelweiss and will be publishing a review closer to the release date so we can discuss :)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

ARC Review: Ask Again Later

by Liz Czukas
4/5 stars
HarperTeen, 2014
336 pages
YA Contemporary
Scheduled to release March 4

Source: Received an e-ARC from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

I love that there's a tiara on the cover-the summary already made this book seem like a Stephanie one with its main character Heart flipping a coin to decide who should be her prom date but the tiara is really icing on the cake. Her original plans were to go with a big group of friends for a no drama prom. However two last minute invites have her reconsidering this. She's a bit of a people pleaser so she wants to keep everyone in her life happy. Since consulting a Magic Eight Ball is unsuccessful, she turns to flipping a coin. If the coin lands heads, she will go with her jock brother's recently dumped teammate Troy. If the coin lands tails, she will go with fellow theater geek Phil. As Heart ponders her options, she also struggles with her friend Schroeder's pushes to stay with her original crew that leads Heart to question her long-standing policy of no-dating.

One of my favorite trends in YA is playing around with ideas of fate and what will happen if you take different paths at crucial moments (see Pivot Point and Just Like Fate for other books that have their own take on this concept.) It's always interesting to see how these choices impact the eventual outcome. For Heart, she has an incredibly eventful prom no matter which option is chosen (way more happens than happened at my prom for example!) It makes for an exciting easy to read book, perfect for lovers of contemporary.

Something I enjoyed seeing was how similar her experiences ended up being even though she was in the company of different people. For example, her beautiful dress gets destroyed in both scenarios but for different reasons and with slightly different solutions. It was all these little things that pleased me and I liked seeing Czukas' attention to every little detail.

Furthermore this book is pretty funny. Heart's prom is eventful as mentioned and hilarious albeit embarrassing. Therefore while it would have sucked for most of these things to happen to you in real life, it's pretty easy to laugh at the outlandishness while reading. Heart herself has a and one of my favorite jokes is between Heart and Schroeder. She hates her name, that was bestowed upon her by her teenager mother before she ran off and he often calls her by other organs such as "Kidney" or "Pancreas." Meanwhile she calls him Schroeder, not because it is his real name, which is actually Chase, but because he is blond and plays piano. Their relationship has some frustrating moments but is fairly predictable.

Overall: If you like YA contemporary that takes place over the course of one crazy night and has attitude to spare, you'll be in for a delight with this book!

Monday, February 17, 2014

ARC Review: The Winner's Curse

by Marie Rutkoski
4.5/5 stars
Farrar Straus Giroux, 2014
355 pages
YA Fantasy
Scheduled to release March 4

Source: Received an ARC through Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review.

Ah hype. So obviously I liked this book but due to my contrary, fickle nature, I'm withholding a perfect five star rating. It's just so hard to compete when a book has praised heaped upon it. I start looking for faults and I hold back from committing fully to a story. However the more I let the ending of this one sink in to me, the more impressed I was.

As for that hype, it is incredible. I have seen so many rave reviews around the blogosphere and this ARC I received is filled with praise from those bloggers as well as from staff involved in its publication. Since I read books in order, I looked through all of those pages before even beginning my journey and it just set a very high bar for this book to clear.

To be frank, the fact that our main character is named Kestrel did not help. Bird names seem big lately (or least Wren was terribly popular) but it's very much not to my taste. And her name is on every page so that did not help. She seems anti-slavery but pretty soon, she has purchased a slave to serve as a blacksmith to her general father. Soon though this decision lives up to the book's title as Kestrel realizes she has paid a greater price than she imagined (the author talks a little bit more about this in her author's note; it's fascinating how a discussion about an economic concept inspired this work of literature.)

The most interesting parts of this book to me were Kestrel's analysis of situations and her strong handling of military strategy. I don't think that I would really enjoy a book analyzing strategy but having some incorporated into a novel is apparently very satisfying to me. And it's not just the military arena where she has these skills. She easily sizes up those around her, excels in the popular party game of the time, and manipulates most everyone around her.

In fact, her big competition is her new slave Arin, part of the population conquered by Kestrel's father and subjugated for ten years but nursing rebellion in their hearts. Arin has untapped depths that spark with Kestrel (because of course there's a bit of a romance) but he also struggles with his loyalty to his people and his hatred for the cruelties committed by hers. He really comes into his own in the second half of the book with his genius for strategy coming to the forefront but also his love for Kestrel-the two are in impossible circumstances and I look forward to seeing them negotiating that over the course of the next two books.

Overall: Off the top of my head, I most compare this series to Leigh Bardugo's Grisha trilogy. Both are fantasies with slightly nontraditional settings (Bardugo owes a lot of inspiration to Russia while this series seems to speak to Roman history) that have earned tremendous praise with difficult romantic entanglements. Neither quite won me over with the first book but had tremendous promise. I do prefer this series more so far but there is room in everyone's heart for both.

Cover: I love this cover, of course. I am very curious if the sequel will also have Kestrel in a pretty dress or if it will get a redesign (hopefully not!)

So I assume we're going to meet Kestrel's fiance in the sequel. I am wondering if he will be as charming as Strumhond in Leigh Bardugo's Siege and Storm (also from a Macmillan imprint), if he'll be brutally cruel and vicious, trying to crush Kestrel's spirit, or even if he's a complete dolt and the emperor wants Kestrel to compensate for his many weaknesses. Personally I am expecting the former especially so that Kestrel has two young men to go toe to toe with but I guess we'll just have to wait and see. I'll admit it's a bit weird that my big lingering question for book two revolves around Kestrel's fiance's possible personality but that's the way the cookie crumbles.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Ramblings and the Week to Come 16FEB14

Giveaway Over:
In January, I started a giveaway for Elizabeth Scott's new release Heartbeat. This concluded last week with Mickie winning; the book has been ordered and shipped.

Week Highlight:
Last week, I posted a review for Courtney C Stevens' debut Faking Normal, giving it a perfect 5 out of 5. I was completely blown away by this contemporary debut and highly recommend it for those who can handle some darker subject matter. It comes out later this month so there's time to get it ordered :)
I'm so excited that softball is starting up again this week (though y'all might not be because it means I'll be talking about it a lot ;) We're playing on a new field in our town and the other teams have super fun names (one references Dr Who) so I'm hoping for a good season. Work continues to pile up with some potentially big changes to come; I'm just looking forward to being done with this season's work and can see the finish line. I am hoping that March will be a better reading month for me as so far February has been the worst month since I started keeping track. I'm so far behind on my reading goal and Goodreads keeps scolding me reproachfully, or at least that's kind of what it feels like.

Week to Come:
I'm expecting to post reviews of Death Sworn and The Winner's Curse as well as hopefully Ask Again Later. Wednesday will showcase a book I'm waiting upon.

What's up in your corner of the world?

Saturday, February 15, 2014


by Marie Lu
4.5/5 stars
G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2013
369 pages
YA Dystopia Finale

Source: Library

Finally I have a chance to finish the Legend trilogy! I was quite impressed with Legend and Prodigy so of course I had to see how it ended, clutching my hopes for June and Day close to my chest. I also must mention that I expected this cover would have red for the color and I was correct (ahem). I believe I managed to avoid spoilers for this book but this probably won't make much sense if you're not familiar with the first two books of the series.

Like the previous books, Champion alternates narration between our two protagonists who have been separated for some months but who still maintain a steady love for each other. For real, the June/Day relationship has been a big part of my enjoyment of this book. I was so nervous to pick it up because I feared that someone was going to die. I don't want to spoil the ending but the way that everything unspooled with their relationship left me pretty satisfied. Is it what I would have written? Well, no because I go unrealistically happy with my writing but it is fitting for the tone and in line with the events of this book. Furthermore we go deeper into the inner life of each character with Day's relationship to his brother taking up more space because they're finally reunited and June discovering what she wants to pursue in life and making tremendous sacrifices.

While that romantic relationship was important in forming a bond to this series, it is not the only element of interest. The struggling government of the Republic and its historical repression of its people but also efforts to change implemented by new Elector Anden caught my attention too. The very existence of this nation is in peril over the course of this book and naturally Day and June are integral to the fight. As we approached the end of the story, the chapters got shorter and shorter, causing me to clutch it closer and almost bite my nails (I have managed to break myself of that habit) because I just had to know how everything would turn out. Things look bleak at points and, again sadly for me, there is no unrealistic crazy happy ending. Rebuilding and changing takes time and this book recognizes that fact.

Overall: A suspenseful conclusion to the trilogy that kept me on the edge of my seat and managed to please my huge shipping of Day and June.

Friday, February 14, 2014

ARC Review: Faking Normal

by Courtney C Stevens
5/5 stars
HarperCollins Children's Books, 2014
336 pages
YA Contemporary Issues
Scheduled to release February 25

Source: Received an e-ARC from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

I actually almost skipped over this book while reviewing upcoming titles because it didn't seem flashy or strong enough to hook my attention. But I'm a die-hard contemporary fan so I decided I would give it a try anyway, picking it up as the expiration date approached.

And at first it seemed like a pretty basic contemporary. Over the previous summer, something happened to Lexi, something that torments her, that robs her of sleep, and leads to her furiously scratching her skin in the middle of the night. Though outwardly Lexi seems to be the same, the trauma of the past summer is taking its toll. Complicating her life is the new boarder in her family's house, Bodee Lennox whose father murdered his mother, leaving him orphaned and warmly welcomed by Lexi's family. His silent strength is a safe refuge for Lexi as tries to confront the past and stop faking normality.

From the writing, it soon becomes apparent that Lexi was raped but that she struggles to use that word because she didn't say no. This absolutely broke my heart. From my readings around the internet, I've seen this offered as a defense against rape. Because the word "no" was not uttered, it is suggested that it was not rape. But it definitely is and it makes me all the more passionate about supporting yes means yes and the idea of affirmative consent (visit here for a starting point). Her rapist is a pretty big part of her life (see SPOILER DISCUSSION below for a few more thoughts) and Lexi is genuinely concerned about ruining his future prospects with her words. I've read more than a few YA books about rape but I don't remember one where the young lady was forced into such close continual contact with her rapist and that relationship had such an emotional impact on me. Though it crept up on me, the emotions of the book really built and hit hard near the end.

While this secret hangs over the entirety of the book, there are other important moments and relationships. The abuse of Bodee's mom by his dad and the horror of living in that household are something unraveled through Bodee's closeness to Lexi. Female friendship plays an important role with Lexi and her two friends wading through the difficult moments of humanity. Lexi's often annoying older sister is also important with a shining moment of heroism at the end; you know I can't resist a sister-sister relationship.

Overall: An incredibly emotional read that is a strong example of writing in YA contemporary. I am so glad I gave this book a chance!

Stevens totally faked me out. Though I initially suspected Craig, the writing soon led me to Collie just like Bodee before swinging back with Lex's confession. I couldn't believe how long Lexi held it together before finally sharing and was completely swept up in her emotions. I also can't believe the coldness of Craig to put her through that. Even if she had been enthusiastic, he's a teacher who's a good decade older than her and who professes to be in love with her sister. What a sick twisted man!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: The Winner's Curse

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

I'm so proud of myself; on Sunday, I sat down and worked on WOW posts for the rest of February including today's pick:

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Published by Farrar Straus Giroux
Releases March 4, 2014
Winning what you want may cost you everything you love

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.
Of course I adore the cover for this one because I can never resist a pretty dress and that's a big draw but I've also seen loads of rave reviews already so that is adding to my excitement. I'm not thrilled with the main characters' names but since this is a fantasy, I will give it a pass on that angle. I am deeply curious about the secret in Arin's possession and following the interplay between the duo.

Does this sound interesting to you? I got a copy through Amazon Vine and hope to post my review soon!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

White Space

by Ilsa J. Bick
2/5 stars
Egmont USA, 2014
550 pages
YA Horror Fantastical

Source: Received an e-ARC from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

I have read several Bick novels and appreciated how they were challenging unique titles that tackled topics not frequently seen in YA and didn't follow a cookie cutter mold. So while I knew to expect something out of the norm when picking up this latest release, I didn't really have any way to prepare myself for what was to come.

The book was very confusing in the beginning, purposefully so as we are introduced to a wide assortment of characters and their connections are not immediately obvious. As the book progresses, their narratives start to overlap and some things begin to make sense. Luckily the characters themselves explain a lot instead of just leaving it up the reader. If I had to piece together everything on my own, I would have understood far less. As it stands though, I spent much of the book confused and, because this is first in a series, I am still left puzzled by some aspects albeit with zero interest in continuing the series to find out more.

At this time in my life, it was a struggle to read this massive book with all of its meandering passages and seemingly unconnected plotlines. It did move faster as I got further in to the book but my attention span was not well suited for this story. Another hindrance for me was the extended horrific imagery. Some terrifying things happen in this book and Bick does not stint on the details. There is oozing and creatures of the dark and of the mind. I'm pretty sure I'll be able to sleep tonight but if not, I know what will be causing my nightmares!

Still I can point out some of its virtues. Generically it is very meta, looking at the nature of stories, writing, and characters. I can't provide any concrete examples for this because they might end up being spoilers so you will just have to trust me. Specifically it seemed to reference other works of literature, primarily HP Lovecraft, Charles Dickens, and Sylvia Plath. I am only familiar with Dickens so I'm not sure I got the full benefit of these allusions. In general the writing was more literary than my usual taste but that will be a good thing for some readers. And as I referenced above, it is quite unlike the YA I usually read and see around the blogosphere. These positives were not quite able to outweigh my early confusion and its horror genre but I can see there being a passionate audience for it.

Recommended: for the ambitious reader, well-versed in literature; the lover of horror stories; the patient reader who is in it for the long haul.

Monday, February 10, 2014

ARC Review: The Lure

by Lynne Ewing
2/5 stars
Balzer + Bray, 2014
288 pages
YA Contemporary
Scheduled to release February 11

Source: Received an e-ARC through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Well. When I first saw this book, my immediate question was "Who (what) is the lure?" The synopsis answered immediately that it is a beautiful young woman who lures rival gang members so they can be taken down by those in her gang. This sounded horrifically brutal but also uniquely different so I decided to give it a try.

While it seems to be a look at gangs, the lure portion is actually very small in my opinion. Main character Blaise has long prided herself on being tough enough with her attitude and not needing to rely on physical appearance to make her way through the gritty streets. But maybe halfway through the book, after her brutal initiation into a gang (the other girls beat her for a minute), she accepts the offer and her date with destiny is set.

This book was so far out of my comfort zone, beyond anything I could imagine. I mean, is this real life for some people? It blows my mind. How did Ewing conceive of such a setting-has she a journalist background or did she grow up such surroundings? Furthermore Goodreads lists this as a "gritty, sexy novel"-I can easily see gritty but who thought sexy was an appropriate adjective? Brutal, disgusting, horrifying are far more apt in my mind.

Because I don't want to be completely negative, I can mention a positive of this book featuring characters very low on the socioeconomic scale. One of the criticisms I've read about YA is a tendency to focus on middle/upper-middle class white kids but that is not the case here. The characters depicted here are poor and caught up in endless cycles of violence, gang affiliation, and retaliation. No one seems able to break free and many don't even feel a longing to do so. It's absolutely heartbreaking.

Overall: I would not recommend this book to anyone I know-if, in general, we share taste in books, steer clear of this one!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Ramblings 09FEB14

Blogging Slump:
As you may have noticed, I have not been posting much. Well I haven't been reading very much either. I just haven't felt like it, which is compounded by my busy time at work. I feel laser focused when I'm at work, setting goals and hitting them out of the park (mixed metaphors, much?) but when I'm not there, my mind wanders. I can't focus on a hardcopy or a digital screen and I am so far behind on my already reduced reading goal for the year. I hope to continue at least posting ramblings every week and I have a few other plans but for the month of February, expect sparseness from me on my blog and in commenting.


I'm a huge Target fan and while I'm not familiar with Peter Pilotto as a designer, I can't resist the bright colors and fabric selections showcased here. I'm looking online to pick up a few dresses and maybe a skirt from the latest capsule collection, which should be available now. I was talking with my coworker about this and she noted that it wasn't really her style but that she thought of me when seeing it because everyone at work knows how I love my colors.

Week to Come:

Hopefully a review of White Spaces by Ilsa J. Bick and I'm sitting down today to write up my WOWs for the rest of the month so you'll definitely want to be back on Wednesday to see what I'm anticipating. Ideally I would review at least one more book this week but I just don't know if that will happen.

Thursday, February 6, 2014


by Sara B. Larson
3/5 stars
Scholastic Press, 2014
323 pages
YA Fantasy

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Who doesn't crave a good YA fantasy every now and then? (Or more frequently?) That's what I was in the mood for when I picked up this debut and I will say that it certainly hit on some beloved tropes for me. The primary one is girl disguised as male soldier but the use of magic and the prince also had their charms.

Alexa has been in hiding as Alex for years, following the death of her parents and her decision to masquerade as a boy supported by her brother. Her options were join the king's army or his breeding houses, making the choice simple. Fortunately her spirit also led her to this work and she now serves in the prince's guard. However when a powerful sorcerer kidnaps her, the prince, and another guard, her entire world is again upended as no one is what they seem and their greatest threat may come from within.

Unfortunately the overall presentation didn't really work for me. I'm not sure if it's my mood, which has not been conducive for reading or if it's the books I'm choosing but I was decidedly not impressed. I thought the book had some intriguing moments but that the girl disguised as boy has been done better (most notably Tamora Pierce's Alanna series) and the romance that emerges did not captivate me at all (hint: it's got aspects of a love triangle though there is obviously a clear preference.) The most captivating relationship to me was between main character Alex(a) and her brother, which does not last for the entirety of the book.

As I think back on my reading experience, I am most struck by how much I had to force myself to keep reading. I could easily read just one chapter and then put the book down. When I'm engaged with a book, that is so not the case. I also saw myself losing interest the more time Alexa spent thinking about the love interests. Though her fighting is demonstrated on several occasions, it seemed overshadowed by romance in the end to my disappointment.

In conclusion, I feel like this book was partly victim to my disinclination to read but I also feel like it doesn't quite deserve a place at the top of the YA fantasy pantheon anyway. Read it if you absolutely love the genre and tropes presented but I don't think it's a must-read by any means.

If you have read this book, what do you think? Was I just in a crabby mood and unable to appreciate this book's charms?

Monday, February 3, 2014


by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando
4/5 stars
Little, Brown and Company, 2013
279 pages
YA Contemporary

Source: Received an ARC through Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review.

When I saw that this book was told in alternating perspectives and incorporating the use of emails, I was immediately sold. That put me in mind of beloved childhood read PS Longer Letter Later by Ann M. Martin and Paula Danziger. Though I was disappointed to discover it wasn't told exclusively through emails, I still loved the idea of future college roommates connecting the summer before freshman year and being impacted by that relationship. I did have a roommate my first year in college and we roomed again sophomore year but we were never that close. Our interests sharply diverged and we tended to be more ships passing in the night instead of close friends, which is fine. She maintained a standard of cleanliness I could live up to and she didn't bring weird people back to our room. Sometimes I wish we could have been best friends but it is what it is.

Which rambling brings me to the girls in our story, who seem wildly different at first but who learn important lessons about relationships through their email correspondence in the waning hours of their pre-college life. In New Jersey, we have Elizabeth who is bubbly and looking forward to big changes in Berkeley. Her roommate to be is Lauren, the eldest of six children in San Francisco seeking peace and quiet. Both experience ups and downs with boys, friends, and family over this crazy summer.

As I've shared before in my reviews, I'm a reader who loves epistolary novels so that was a huge draw for me. I got excited every time one popped up and felt they were used pretty well. They didn't overwhelm the reader but they effectively moved the plot along and reflected each girl's personality. I am guessing each author wrote exclusively for one character and felt that this contributed to keeping them distinct. A complaint I've seen of some dual narrators written by one author is that they feel too much the same and that is definitely not the case here.

I think I did end up preferring Lauren with her seriousness and commitment of family but Elizabeth was also a good character to read about. I know I sometimes will vastly prefer one narrator to the other but it was almost equally balanced here. There are also some great secondary characters; for me, that would mostly be the love interests but Lauren's parents have some touching moments too.

Overall: A funny sweet story that touches on something I haven't read much of before (college roommates to be, who knew?) while also touching on universal relatable themes in an extremely readable writing style.
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