Saturday, June 28, 2014

Surfing Flop: [Second Star]

Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel
Publication Date: May 13, 2014
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Pages: 256
Keywords: fairytale, mystery, family
Format Read: eARC via NetGalley (thank you!)
Add It: Goodreads
A twisty story about love, loss, and lies, this contemporary oceanside adventure is tinged with a touch of dark magic as it follows seventeen-year-old Wendy Darling on a search for her missing surfer brothers. Wendy’s journey leads her to a mysterious hidden cove inhabited by a tribe of young renegade surfers, most of them runaways like her brothers. Wendy is instantly drawn to the cove’s charismatic leader, Pete, but her search also points her toward Pete's nemesis, the drug-dealing Jas. Enigmatic, dangerous, and handsome, Jas pulls Wendy in even as she's falling hard for Pete. A radical reinvention of a classic, Second Star is an irresistible summer romance about two young men who have yet to grow up--and the troubled beauty trapped between them.
Since I read an e-version of this, I didn't get to fully appreciate how pretty the cover is. I am loving the lens flares and color combos on this cover, especially since it kind of puts everything in a foggy, disbelieving sort of light. It seems like a magical place.

But that's where my excitement ended. I kind of forgot this was a Peter Pan retelling until it was PAINFULLY obvious. I wanted this to be more like Sara Benincasa's "Great," where you couldn't really tell until big things happened, and then you were thinking, "Oh! Yes! This is spectuacular!" This one, instead, was painstakingly annoying with its obvious ties to Peter Pan. Everyone had the same names except Jas, who seemed to be a new character just stuck in there (the best one, in my opinion, but I'll get to that later). There were a few other people at the beginning like Fiona, Wendy's best friend, that I thought were the most interesting and could have made the story so much better, but it was too stuck on the Peter Pan storyline to give attention to things that weren't tie-ins.

Jas was the mysterious neighbor who was infamous for selling "dust," which is this new kind of pill that basically spaces everyone out for several days. Pete was the guy she met once and fell in love with. Quickly. Jas actually had a conversation and seemed interested, and yes, he had some issues, but he was, by far, the more interesting of the two, and I thought he deserved way more stage time.

There just did not seem to be a lot happening in the book, and I felt like at 75% I should be in the thick of the novel and on edge, but it still felt like Wendy was stuck in the same cycle and wasn't going anywhere for a while.

Read When: Skip this one unless you're REALLY into Peter Pan. But even then, I'd recommend Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson instead. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

TBT: What to Read (YA & Disabilities)

Welcome to my new Throwback Thursday feature, where I give you suggestions on what to read if you're interested in a new release. This came from the idea that most of us are students or still young and don't have too big a budget to buy every single new release that hits shelves. So, if a book sounds interesting or you read it and want more, I give you suggestions of others with similar topics and storylines that have been out for a while, giving you a better chance of finding them in your library or a used bookstore!

Here I have my picks for books similar to Cammie McGovern's Say What You Will. Below you'll find an infographic I made if you want to see what kind of books you're looking for! You may print it out or post it on your own site, just make sure to link back here and not to remove the copyright logo at the bottom!

If you want a little bit more description, you'll find some below the chart :)

Click on the image and it will show you the full-size version so you can print it if you want!

Dead Ends I recently reviewed this one and can vouch for how powerful and real it is. It revolves around a "bully" raised by a single mom who gets roped into helping Billy D, a boy with Down Syndrome. Their friendship struggles but then becomes something wonderful.

The Running Dream — I listened to the audio book of this one and really enjoyed it. It follows the life of a girl after an accident who has to use a wheelchair and suddenly finds herself being tutored by the girl in her class with cerebral palsy whom she used to make fun of.

The Summer I Found You I've reviewed this one, and other than the confusing title, it's a really great quick read. This one is about a girl who recently learned she has Type 1 Diabetes and has to cope with it. She also meets a boy, recently given leave out of the military, who only has one arm. Together, they learn to cope with their recent changes.

Five Flavors of Dumb — I have this one, haven't read it yet, but it looks really interesting. It's about a girl trying to follow her dream of being a band manager, but the kicker is that she's deaf and people don't believe in her.

Al Capone Does My Shirts — I read this a long (LONG) time ago with my 8th grade book club (told you), but I remember LOVING it. The family lives on Alcatraz island, and there aren't many kids for the two children to hang out with. The older brother's younger sister is autistic, so he feels left out since his family spends so much time caring for her.

There you have it! I hope to make this a weekly feature, so stay tuned! Feel free to print the poster to hang onto if you like! Just give me credit please :)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Fan Art

Fan Art by Sarah Tregay
Publication Date: June 17, 2014
Publisher: Katherine Tegen
Pages: 368
Keywords: art, sexuality, high school
Format Read: ARC via publisher (thank you!)
Add It: Goodreads
Senior year is almost over, and Jamie Peterson has a big problem. Not college—that’s all set. Not prom—he’ll find a date somehow. No, it’s the worst problem of all: he’s fallen for his best friend.
As much as Jamie tries to keep it under wraps, everyone seems to know where his affections lie, and the giggling girls in art class are determined to help Jamie get together with Mason. But Jamie isn’t sure if that’s what he wants—because as much as Jamie would like to come clean to Mason, what if the truth ruins everything? What if there are no more road trips, taco dinners, or movie nights? Does he dare risk a childhood friendship for romance?
As soon as I got this, I was so thrilled. The cover is adorable, and I just graduated with a degree in English and Graphic Design, so this was like everything I wanted in a book.

But when I began, it was really slow getting into it. Nothing in particular that was huge, just a lot of little things that added up and made it kind of difficult to get into. Jamie was an okay character. If you've read my reviews before, you know that I don't dismiss a book because I don't like the character. But I didn't understand some of his actions, and I didn't understand why he was thinking the things he was. I just didn't buy it. One of the great things about this book was how supportive his mother and stepdad were, and he found a way to make that terrible. I've never had to go through coming out or anything like that, so I don't know, but it seemed like the two people that knew about him being happy for him — one would think he would embrace this or at least be relieved. But he makes it really negative.

In addition, all his friendships he makes are really great, and he doesn't seem to want to put any effort into them because all he wants is to think about Mason. He doesn't want to do ANYTHING ever. And I want to talk about the artwork he vouched for in the lit mag. The art was cool, but his fellow workers were right, some of them argued it had no plot. And it really didn't. That was my big issue with it. Not that it represented homosexuality (my best friend is gay, and I will be the first in line with rainbow flags to show my support), but the actual storyline kind of sucked, and as a story, it just didn't hold up. I can see that point of view why some students didn't want it in.

I liked it a little more as I got into it because I liked Eden and Challis a lot. I was much more interested in these side characters that weren't given much stage time. And the book seemed fine. I liked the pranks people pulled. They seemed actually human when this happened. There was a lot that just seemed forced and straining, and I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would.

I'm ending it here for people who haven't read the book. If you have, you can move past the bolded words.

Read When: Meh. It was okay. Good for people struggling with their sexuality or getting ready to go into high school. If you're not one of those people, read at your own risk. It was fine, but nothing spectacular.

Most of the time, I make my reviews free of spoilers. 
You've been warned.

The ending? I was so upset with the ending. Real life doesn't work that way. And I know that I guess it could, and this isn't supposed to be real life or anything. But, come on. It really is going to work out that way? I don't buy it. I really wanted to see Jamie struggle with the concept that he may have to just remain friends with Mason because that happens a lot. Everyone struggles with having a crush on their friend at some point, and about 83% of the time, it doesn't work out. But people move on. I thought it would've been really cool

Friday, June 20, 2014

Friday Book Drinks: Schoolboy Blues

It's back!

Welcome to Friday Book Drinks, where I pair up a book with a perfect drink (you know, if you're over 21. If not, there's an alcohol-free version below).
This week's drink/book pair is inspired by Andrew Smith's Winger, which I loved so much I can't stop thinking about it, and I promptly yelled at my friend until she went out and bought it.

In the book, Ryan Dean lives in what's called Opportunity Hall, which is where the terrible students go that pull pranks and don't pay attention and are generally mean. Now, Ryan Dean is a nerd, so he doesn't really fit in. But his roommate hosts weekly poker gatherings on Sunday nights, and the visitors sneak in whiskey and beer hidden in their rugby socks. Which I thought was hilarious.

Ciderhouse Whiskey is a drink perfect for Ryan Dean because he couldn't really handle the whiskey all on its lonesome (which is really the only good way to drink whiskey, but I'm helping him out here).

All you need is:
2 oz. whiskey (preferably Jim Beam if it's going to be true-schoolboy drink)
1 oz. boiled cider

You can put lemon zest in there to be fancier, but I know at a boarding school where the kids are sneaking in drinks, lemon zest is going to be out of the question. If you're not 21 yet and still want something to go along with the book, hot apple cider is always delicious, but buy mulling spices (usually near the cider or in the baking aisle) to mix in. It makes it extra sweet and sugary tasting, and really makes it a ton better. That's how orchards make it and it's why you can never get yours to taste right. Mulling spices.

All-in-all, I just wanted another excuse to recommend this book to everyone because it was so fantastic.
As always, if you make a drink, use the #FridayBookDrinks tag and let me know! I'm @happybooklovers on Twitter and Instagram, so send me pics! I would love to see them!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Winger by Andrew Smith
Publication Date: May 14, 2013
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 439
Keywords: boarding school, sports, coming-of-age
Format Read: Hardcover
Add It: Goodreads
Ryan Dean West is a fourteen-year-old junior at a boarding school for rich kids. He’s living in Opportunity Hall, the dorm for troublemakers, and rooming with the biggest bully on the rugby team. And he’s madly in love with his best friend Annie, who thinks of him as a little boy.
With the help of his sense of humor, rugby buddies, and his penchant for doodling comics, Ryan Dean manages to survive life’s complications and even find some happiness along the way. But when the unthinkable happens, he has to figure out how to hold on to what’s important, even when it feels like everything has fallen apart.

Basically I have no words for how much I loved this book. I am so glad I purchased it. It was so good I was still thinking about it for days, and I couldn't start anything new because I was so desperately attached to these characters and these people.

This is one of the only books that has simultaneously made me laugh hysterically and cry hysterically and it also made me feel all the feels and hate things and love things and basically I was just a big ball of happy/sad/weird emotion all at once. My roommate thought I was crazy for a bit. But no, the book did it to me.

I loved how real and honest and true Ryan Dean's character was. He made a lot of mistakes but was super cute and genuine, and he knew what he needed to do when he fucked up. I absolutely ADORED Joey, and this is part of the reason I felt all the feelings and characters were just so perfectly unperfect. As soon as I finished this, I went and added all of Smith's books to my Goodreads and bought the Marbury Lens, which should be here any day now.

Also this book had kick ass illustrations like the one right here:

I have no other words other than the following:
Read When: NOW. It's great for people starting a new point in their life, whether it's high school or college or just starting something new. It's about growing up and change and making your own decisions and friendship. Just. So. Good.

Other books by Andrew Smith:

Monday, June 16, 2014

Dead Ends

Dead Ends by Erin Jade Lange
Publication Date: September 3, 2013
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Pages: 337
Keywords: coming of age, disabilities, road trip
Format Read: eARC via NetGalley
Add It: Goodreads
A riddle rarely makes sense the first time you hear it. The connection between Dane, a bully, and Billy D, a guy with Down Syndrome, doesn't even make sense the second time you hear it. But it's a collection of riddles that solidify their unlikely friendship. 
Dane doesn't know who his dad is. Billy doesn't know where his dad is. So when Billy asks for Dane's help solving the riddles his dad left in an atlas, Dane can't help but agree. The unmarked towns lead them closer to secrets of the past. But there's one secret Billy isn't sharing. It's a secret Dane might have liked to know before he stole his mom's car and her lottery winnings and set off on a road trip that will put him face to face with Billy's dad.
Epic Reads recently put together a list of books that change your view of the world. This was one for me. The characters in this book were so unlike anything I've ever experienced in my life, and their experiences and lives were so different from mine, and it opened my worldview that much more.

The main story revolves around Dane, a kid who turns to fighting as a form of defense and is seen, more often than not, as a bully. He's constantly getting in trouble and getting suspensions and detentions. He is raised by his mother, never knowing who his father is, and the two struggle through money problems. When Dane gets in trouble yet again, it's almost the end for him, but Billy D, a student with Down Syndrome, worms his way into the conversation and manages to keep Dane at school, provided Dane assists Billy D with whatever he needs. And Billy D wants help finding his missing father.

I blended in in high school. I was heavily involved in our theatre program, and my school was award-winning for performance arts. There wasn't really a ton of bullying in my corner of school. People mostly left us alone. So I was neither popular nor unpopular. I've also never known anyone with Down Syndrome. I didn't know about some episodes they can have or how highly functioning people with Down Syndrome can be. So this is what I mean in saying the book really opened up another whole world that I just really didn't know anything about. Both of these characters were strong, too, and their personalities shone through expertly, and their stories were so realistic.

Watching them work through their own issues and help each other get through them was what made the book really special to me. They were so drastically different but ended up helping one another in multiple aspects of their lives. This was just a really powerful story overall about loss, discovery, and going after what you want.

Read When: You want something to think about. It's not a light pool read, but it's definitely worth your time.

Friday, June 13, 2014

June TBR Vlog

Yes! I finally made another one! My goal is to start making more of these, mostly just recaps and discussion-based ones, but who knows, I might add a few review videos in there, too.

US-based viewers can win an ARC of The Break-Up Artist by subscribing to my channel and leaving a comment on YouTube of what they're currently reading! Go forth and win!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Evolution of the Story

After discussions with friends and social media followers, it became more clear to me a distinct divide between readers. Some readers prefer books and books alone. I prefer books — there's something special about holding a brand new paperback with a matte cover that smells like ink and paper. But I also don't just stick to books. Let me explain.

Some — before I became an art major, I may have been one of these — argue that stories come in books and books alone. That there must be words on a page to constitute a real story written by a real writer. And that only writers, and good ones that have experience and sit behind a typewriter, can be counted as true novelists with true stories.

As we are well on our way to the technology of the future, it's becoming clear that this is not the case. No longer do writers have to type out their books and edit manuscripts and get books printed. I'm not bashing books — they're literally my favorite things — but writers are getting more creative than ever before in how they tell their stories to an audience.

Podcasting, which really began to take off in 2004, became a new medium for radio broadcasters and musicians, but recently, writers and storytellers have begun to create their own podcast. Commonplace Books' "Welcome to NightVale" is an innovative, creative, and original podcast created by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor. It features a radio host of a fictional town called NightVale who reports on safety concerns for citizens such as to stay away from the dog park and to beware of the hooded figures and the glow cloud that always seem to be looming over the city. Shrouded in mystery with a touch of humor, its creators rely on the community's support and donations because their podcast is entirely free. Twice a month, listeners can find out about how the town is doing or what Old Woman Josie saw/heard this time or who got sucked into the sandstorm (don't worry, you're just as confused as the rest of those who listen regularly).

Free Podcasting gives writers and creators the freedom to create their own stories without editorial staff, agents, publishers, or anyone else requiring them to meet certain restrictions or regulations based on their creations. What they write is entirely up to them.

But it's not just audio that's taking the cake for new story forms. Visual arts are working their way into stories as well. Art has always been a form of storytelling, but Shelley Jackson, a writer and artist, earlier this year began composing a story word by word in the snow near her home in Brooklyn. Each word is written uniformly and in beautiful serif typefaces, which help bring focus to the traditional printed word. In 2003, she featured a novella written in tattoos on volunteers for the project, expertly combining visual arts with the beauty of the written word, proving over and over again that stories can be more than just books. Her work-in-progress snow story can be found on her Instagram.

Even Twitter joined in the fun, with Penguin's contest to win a few books ended up being a hit featuring #TwitterLoveStory.
Authors, readers, and everyone in between began posting their own love stories, and some were gut-wrenchingly beautiful for less than 140 characters. In fact, they had to be less than 124 characters because of the hashtag. Some were weird, some were funny, and some were true, but they were all stories, summed up in a single sentence.

To those who say social media stories are ridiculous, I present to you Ernest Hemingway's six-word story: "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

It doesn't matter the outlet or the media the story is being presented in, all it matters is that it's a story and it's getting told. And while books will forever be my favorite, I am also unbelievably glad I am a writer and an artist living in the time that I do because of how wonderful and amazing the Internet and social connection can be for the community. Stories are ultimately what unite us as humans. We share them with one another, and we love to have them shared with us. And I also cannot wait to see what lies ahead in terms of new ways of storytelling. Every story is a work of art, and we're only getting more and more creative with how our stories should be told to the world.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Say What You Will

Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern
Publication Date: June 3, 2014
Publisher: Harper Teen
Pages: 352
Keywords: friendship, high school, disabilities
Format Read: ARC via publisher
Get It: Book Depository
Born with cerebral palsy, Amy can't walk without a walker, talk without a voice box, or even fully control her facial expressions. Plagued by obsessive-compulsive disorder, Matthew is consumed with repeated thoughts, neurotic rituals, and crippling fear. Both in desperate need of someone to help them reach out to the world, Amy and Matthew are more alike than either ever realized.
When Amy decides to hire student aides to help her in her senior year at Coral Hills High School, these two teens are thrust into each other's lives. As they begin to spend time with each other, what started as a blossoming friendship eventually grows into something neither expected.
To begin, I want to talk a little about comparisons. Book comparisons. I'm starting to really not like them. This one was compared heavily to those of John Green and Rainbow Rowell. With those two comparisons, there is an extremely vivid image of what this book is going to be and how it's going to be written, and maybe it was because of these comparisons, but to me, the book fell short.

Don't get me wrong, it was good, but it didn't have that same factor or blow me away. Instead, it left me frustrated and confused at my own opinions. I had to take some time to think about this one. Right at the very beginning, Matthew, who at this point, does not really know Amy, speaks up during a class where everyone is raving about one of her essays, and he says he does not think it is true. Later on, Amy approaches him and asks why, and they get to talking, and he finally states what's on his mind — she can't have had any friends while growing up because no one wants to be friends with someone who has a teacher by their side all day. So Amy decides that for her senior year, she'll get student helpers instead. After all, she thinks Matthew was right and she wants desperately to make friends.

*This next part is a teeny bit more spoilery, but not really. So, use your judgement. I'm still talking about the beginning of the book, so it's not ruining the ending.*

I liked the second half of the book better than the first. It represented more realistic struggling and character development than anything in the first half. It was very soon in the book that Amy decides something about her and Matthew's relationship that I kind of struggled with. Instalove is not my favorite, and it happened super early on with this one, and was not reciprocated. And she keeps pushing. Which makes it creepy.
You know the Dobbler-Dommer effect that HIMYM talks about? If an act of romance is seen as cute and reciprocated, it's a Dobbler. But if the other person has no interest, that same act can be seen as super creepy and death-like?
That's what this kind of was to me. The second half calmed down, which is why I think it represented a more realistic version of their relationship.

*End spoilery stuff! There will be no more!*

I was still interested in what would happen to the characters, and I thought Matthew was a much better one to read about than Amy. He seemed more down-to-earth and true. He also developed a lot more than Amy did, and while Amy had her own issues and problems throughout the book, I don't think she handled them well or learned from them along the way. I really loved Matthew and the way he progressed.

Read When: I'll be honest, I have mixed feelings. I think it's great to have these disabilities spotlighted in a book, and McGovern was true to them and represented them well, but I had other issues with the book that I just can't move past. It's a read-at-your-own-risk one for me. I'm sad I didn't like it as much as I thought I was going to. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Since You've Been Gone

Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
Publication Date: May 6, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 449
Keywords: summer, friendship, adventure
Format Read: ARC from author in exchange for honest review (thank you!!)
Get It: Book Depository
The Pre-Sloane Emily didn't go to parties, she barely talked to guys, she didn't do anything crazy. Enter Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—the one who yanks you out of your shell.But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just... disappears. No note. No calls. No texts. No Sloane. There’s just a random to-do list. On it, thirteen Sloane-selected-definitely-bizarre-tasks that Emily would never try... unless they could lead back to her best friend. Apple Picking at Night? Ok, easy enough.Dance until Dawn? Sure. Why not? Kiss a Stranger? Wait... what?
Getting through Sloane’s list would mean a lot of firsts. But Emily has this whole unexpected summer ahead of her, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected) to check things off. Who knows what she’ll find? Go Skinny Dipping? Um...
This is my first experience with Morgan Matson's books. I know, I know, I really need to read her other ones. But this was my first. And it lived up to every expectation people set going into it. Book hype worries me (example A: We Were Liars. I think it was hyped way too much and then people were expecting this huge, life-changing book, and it didn't live up to those crazy high expectations. I LOVED it, but I read it way before the hype and anyone else read it. I had ZERO expectations). Back on track. Since You've Been Gone.

The book follows a timid and angry Emily because her best friend has completely left without a trace, and the only thing she leaves behind is a list of things for Emily to do. They are clue-filled and a few are things only Emily would know, which is what made it interesting. At her first try crossing an item off the list, she runs into a few classmates, Frank and Collins, and Frank employs her to help him learn to run. She's pretty reluctant, but gives in, and eventually, the list comes out. Now she has help completing some of the items. And even though some were not checked off the way she wanted them to be, she still plugs away at the list in hopes that when she finishes, Sloane will turn up. Sounds good, right?

Right. The relationship built between all the characters was amazing. I felt like it was totally believable that these characters knew each other for years before really talking to Emily, and they had a good background dynamic. I loved Collins, he was one of my favorites. He joked around and was the funny best friend sidekick to Frank, always trying to get girls way out of his league. And Frank... Why do I feel like no one has been swooning over Frank? I totally am. I feel like YA guys, a lot of the time, end up being these mysterious, hunky, man-boys who are always doing the right thing and the girl screws it up and has to figure it out by the end. Frank was a normal teenage boy. He was smart, top in the class, a good friend, but he made mistakes, and sometimes, he wasn't sure what to say. I loved how realistically he was written. He, to me, is one of my top book boyfriends, and I want to get the word out (maybe I just haven't found anyone who likes him as much) that he is this awesome.

Another point I wanted to talk about was Matson's ability to make me invested in a character that wasn't even in the story. Through Emily's narration is the only way the reader gets any information about Sloane, and for a while, I was extremely angry with her. She left Emily with no direction and no information as to where she'd gone, and I was able to feel all this at her without actually being introduced to her character. It was insane! And of course, my feelings changed later on as Emily describes their friendship and how much she misses her, and I start to just want Sloane to come back, all still without ever seeing her in the book.

Read When: Y'all know I'm just going to say read it now. What are you waiting for? Do it!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Reading Rampage


Okay, that might be hyperbolic, but whatever. Guys, I have been reading so much. Since graduation, I have moved down to Florida and am working at Disney World as a internship sort of thing. But I have work. And then no homework. So like, I get off work, and then I can do whatever I want!
On my days off, I can just lay around all day. And I've been reading SO MANY BOOKS.

But my fear is this:
I'm going to hit a wall. I've had an insane streak of 4 and 5 star books all right in a row. I am starting to get super terrified I'm going to pick up one I don't love. Which is fine, no biggie, but they always kind of halt my reading excitement, and it takes a bit to pick it back up again. And I'm having so much fun reading all the time, I don't want it to stop!

(Recently, I've finished Say What You Will, and I'm about halfway through Winger and seriously, so good go purchase it immediately I love it so much)

So my challenge to you all is this:
I NEED RECOMMENDATIONS. Like, blow your socks off kick you in the pants great. Because my small stack I brought to Florida is dwindling quickly, and I'm going to have to go to the library super soon. So I need really good suggestions so I can maximize this reading streak!

Am I crazy? Do you have this fear too? Or are you sitting there laughing at me and wondering who the crazy thing is behind this...