Monday, July 27, 2015

Reshelved (8)

Welcome to back to Reshelved! This is an installment of books I didn't finish. I don't like to do full posts because it's not fair to the book for me to not like it and review it if I didn't finish it. Some of these just weren't for me, some of them maybe I got bored with, but I still want to give them publicity because maybe you all read them and thought differently or they sound spectacular to you. Let's discuss in the comments what you thought about these if you've read them, or why they sound good to you!

I also recently discovered (I don't know how I didn't know this before) that Jamie has a Reshelved feature where she talks about stuff she didn't get around to and stuff she put down! I always hate when people don't credit my features & posts, so you can go look at her reshelved posts!

Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 320
Format Read: ARC from publisher (thank you!)
DNF at: page 142
Goodreads | Buy It!
Aza Ray is drowning in thin air. 
Since she was a baby, Aza has suffered from a mysterious lung disease that makes it ever harder for her to breathe, to speak—to live. 
So when Aza catches a glimpse of a ship in the sky, her family chalks it up to a cruel side effect of her medication. But Aza doesn't think this is a hallucination. She can hear someone on the ship calling her name.
Only her best friend, Jason, listens. Jason, who’s always been there. Jason, for whom she might have more-than-friendly feelings. But before Aza can consider that thrilling idea, something goes terribly wrong. Aza is lost to our world, and found by another. Magonia. 
Above the clouds, in a land of trading ships, Aza is not the weak and dying thing she was. In Magonia, she can breathe for the first time. Better, she has immense power—and as she navigates her new life, she discovers that war is coming. Magonia and Earth are on the cusp of a reckoning. And in Aza’s hands lies the fate of the whole of humanity—including the boy who loves her. Where do her loyalties lie?
I was just immensely uninterested in this whole, entire book. I was in the mood for a good fantasy, and I was ready to be totally into this one. I was mid way through the book and felt like the story hadn't even started yet. I was bored by the expository-ness of it all, the explanation, the background, everything. It felt like way too much explaining for not enough story and action. In addition, I wasn't compelled by any of the characters. When Aza is taken to the ships in the sky (I mean, what? I had huge problems with this because if you're going to combine our world with a fantasy one, it's got to be explained since most people don't know about it. After about 3 pages, I was expected to know totally what was happening.), I didn't feel for her since she was out of her world. I didn't care about Jason who was apparently sad. I didn't care about her parents. I felt like I didn't know any of the characters, nor did I want to know them.

My Best Everything by Sarah Tomp
Release Date: March 3, 2015
Publisher: Little, Brown
Pages: 400
Format Read: eARC via NetGalley
DNF at: 74%
Goodreads | Buy It!
Luisa “Lulu” Mendez has just finished her final year of high school in a small Virginia town, determined to move on and leave her job at the local junkyard behind. So when her father loses her college tuition money, Lulu needs a new ticket out.
Desperate for funds, she cooks up the (definitely illegal) plan to make and sell moonshine with her friends, Roni and Bucky. Quickly realizing they’re out of their depth, Lulu turns to Mason: a local boy who’s always seemed like a dead end. As Mason guides Lulu through the secret world of moonshine, it looks like her plan might actually work. But can she leave town before she loses everything—including her heart?
The summer walks the line between toxic and intoxicating. My Best Everything is Lulu’s letter to Mason – though is it an apology, a good-bye, or a love letter?
I really, really tried with this one. I'm not sure if it was my lack of connection to the characters or the letter-style writing (I really am not a fan of second-person "you" usage), but I could not get fully immersed into this book. I may finish it eventually if there's nothing else that appeals to me and my train gets stuck since it's still downloaded on my Kindle. I felt an immediate connection because of the backwoods, moonshining business characters. I was ready to fall in love and add this to my cute little collection of Kentucky (okay, so it's Virginia, but it's pretty close in terms of experiences) books. But I just didn't like it. I didn't really find anything appealing with Mason, and though I applaud Lulu's initiative and determination to get into college, I desperately wanted to shake her and shout, "STUDENT LOANS ARE A THING." Like, seriously. Problem solved. I took them out, and yes, they SUCK. But I needed to pay for my own schooling and I found a way to do that. Not a big deal. I just never felt like the stakes got high enough and couldn't take the story seriously.

Talk to me!

Have you read either of these? What did you think about them?
Should I give My Best Everything a second chance? Does it pick up in the last quarter?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Even in Paradise Review

Even in Paradise by Chelsey Philpot
Release Date: October 14, 2014
Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 360
Keywords: family, boarding school, New England
Format Read: purchased hardcover
Goodreads | Buy It!

What's it about?

Charlotte is just an average scholarship student at a ritzy, private boarding school in New England, when a good deed changes her life. After rescuing the infamous Julia Buchanan from puking her guts out in the bushes outside Charlotte's dorm room, the two become inseparable. Charlie gets ushered into the world of upscale New England and is introduced to society's finest. She is falling madly in love with not just Julia, but the entire Buchanan family, and is swept away by their mysterious, strange life, which seems perfect on the surface, but that is far from the truth. 

My thoughts

This was one that I had seen many mixed reviews on, but I'm so glad I gave it a chance (and so glad the Strand had a hardcover for six bucks!). The storytelling was interesting—Charlie was looking back over her time with the Buchanan family and retelling how being a part of their family, even for a short time, molded her life. I always like when books are told this way, and Philpot's voice was excellent in providing a reminiscent tone while letting the reader know that this story was all happening in the past, and it would not be this way forever. 

Julia Buchanan was such an interesting character, but in the way that felt deliberately interesting, like Margo Roth Spiegelman or Jacinta. She felt a little cliched but still compelling to the storyline, and it makes perfect sense to me why characters are drawn to her. She's one of those characters that seems infinitely cooler and more graceful and dignified than the ordinary person while still being mysterious and whimsical. The appeal was not lost on me, though the trope of her character still seemed overused.

I was also totally into Sebastian's relationship with Charlie. He was equally compelling to Charlie for a lot of the same reasons Julia was—she didn't really understand the Buchanan life or family, and being swept away by all of them was such a unique experience for her. Their relationship felt real and evolving and not totally perfect, which I appreciated. It seems like non-romanticized relationships are hard to come by in YA, so I always take note when they do. The funny thing is that the Buchanan family was so romanticized to be this wild, crazy, out-of-this-world rich family and the romantic relationships (as well as the friendships) remained flawed and real and down-to-earth.

Talk to me!

What other characters fall under the "mysterious, compelling, beautiful girl" trope that you've read about?
Do you like the romanticized relationships or prefer flawed, probably not-happy-ending ones?

Monday, July 13, 2015

Suicide Notes From Beautiful Girls

Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten
Release Date: July 7, 2015
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 320
Keywords: death, friendship, mystery
Format Read: ARC via publisher (which in no way swayed my opinion)

What's it about?

June, the main character of the novel, has pretty much changed everything about her life. She moved away from her past and got a steady boyfriend with a normal family, she's made new friends at school, and she's finally on track. But all that changes when her former best friend, Delia, is found dead in a barn. Suddenly, she can't stop thinking about her friend who was said to have committed suicide by burning herself. Delia's ex-boyfriend finds June and lets it slip that he doesn't think the suicide was a suicide after all. Now, June finds herself tangled up in Delia's secrets, lies, and mysterious death, and all she wants is answers. 

My Rating

This book really took me by surprise. It totally had a Vanishing Girls vibe to it, which I enjoyed because I really liked that book. But at the same time it felt very different because unlike VG, these two were not sisters. Though June was close with Delia, she wasn't connected, and she didn't know what Delia would have done next. She was going on a lot fewer clues than Nick and Dara's story. Following that dynamic—a character who had been separated from a friend for a while—was extremely intriguing because, like June, we didn't truly know Delia. I didn't know what she was motivated by, what her life was like prior to the book, or why she would have done some of the things suggested in the book. 

There were a lot of moments where—like June—I didn't totally know what was going on. I felt out of the loop, like there was a lot the characters weren't telling me, but I kind of liked it. It was true to life and it was a true first-person narration. June only knew what June was thinking, which left the reader out of the secret as well.

The book had one of those endings that left me feeling like I just didn't get it, but in a good way. Sometimes, a book that has an open-ended ending isn't done well, and it leaves the reader feeling frustrated. This ending was still confusing. I'm not sure I know exactly for sure what happened, but I like that it could go several ways. It left me thinking about how in life, we don't always get a neat little bow on the end of a story. It's messy, it's confusing, and sometimes, stories are never truly over.

Let's Talk!

How do you feel about open-ended endings?
Do you like when books keep you guessing or give you all the answers?

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Jesse's Girl: Blog Tour & Giveaway

Jesse's Girl by Miranda Kenneally
Release Date: July 7, 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Pages: 304
Keywords: music, country, romance
Format Read: eARC via NetGalley

What's it about?

Maya is totally taken by surprise when, after telling her school she wants to be a musician, gets placed to shadow the famous Jesse Scott for career day. Turns out, his uncle is the school principal, and he thinks it would be a good idea for both Maya and Jesse to take this opportunity. Naturally, Jesse is frustrated he has to put up with a fangirl all day. Maya is super mad that Jesse assumes she's a fangirl when she really wants some guitar tips. But they both want to get away from the lame shadow day schedule the principal has set up for them. 

My rating

I was super into the unfolding of the romance. It was good pacing and I liked the back-and-forth nature of the characters. Jesse and Maya had an awesome dynamic, and I love that Maya didn't put up with Jesse's front he put up to "be the bad guy." And though I haven't read all of the Hundred Oaks series, it was fun to see some of the characters pop up and see that dynamic exist between other couples as well. Kenneally can also write a damn good kissing scene. I was super impressed with the chemistry created between the characters, and I was so going down with that ship.

This was just the light romance I needed for the hot summer in the city. It was fun, and I read it [almost] in one sitting. I liked the music aspect, but I wish less emphasis had been placed on the American Idol-esque show that Maya was desperate to compete on. I know she thinks because Jesse got his start there, that's the only way for her to move anywhere, but she was making a ton of connections otherwise, and I wanted her to see that she had other options other than impressing a few musicians on television.

There were a few things that knocked it out of the great camp, including some occasional stilted dialogue and exclamation points. At times, it seemed super cheesy, and it pulled me out of the book on several occasions. And I didn't like Jesse at the beginning (braces for backlash). I know, I know, he definitely grew on me over time, but the whole "bad boy rocker who's hard to get to" had been done, and it didn't feel too original or new. He definitely got better once I got about 20% into the book when we started to see his personality, but I did not like the exterior that was stereotypically portrayed.

Breathe, Annie, Breathe is still my favorite of the series, though I know I'm going to be reading the ones I haven't gotten to soon. It's so unlike me to go out of order, but with these, it's pretty easy to do. But I am so interested in Sam and Jordan, so I know I'm going to get to them soon.

Thanks to Xpresso Tours, the tour hosts are promoting the giveaway of a $50 iTunes giftcard (which is pretty cool, and you could go buy yourself this ebook along with the rest of the Hundred Oaks series). AND it's international! So go ahead and enter folks!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Let's talk!

Have you read any of the Hundred Oaks series? How do you feel about bad rocker boys?

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Social Media, Blogging, & a Giveaway

Did I not tell you that this summer would feature a lot of exciting events and giveaways?

But let's start with a little background story. I've been seeing a lot of bloggers (Estelle wrote this awesome piece) talk about how they really want this community to be a positive one, and for the most part, it is. But they also discuss the downside to social media and connecting with others 24/7 may not be the best thing in the world, especially when drama happens. We also have a lot of issues balancing blogging and networking against actually reading (ie, the thing that made us start the blog in the first place).

I've been a little absent on main social medias lately because of several reasons (and by absent, I mean posting a few times a week instead of daily). I'm trying to focus more on my love of reading than the media aspect to it, and I've been trying to have more conversations with people when I am on social media instead of sending massive amounts of emojis at people. Also, I have a grown-up job now, and it's surprisingly (okay, not really too surprising) tiring!

Which brings me to my focus. I've added several books to my "reading next" pile that I wanted to share. (It's different than TBR because that's a never-ending pile. This stack I am actually currently working on and/or have finished.) These books have helped me take a step back from things and focus more energy on reading. It's odd because they're about social media. I think seeing the downsides of what it can do have helped me see what I like to do in my IRL life as opposed to being glued to my phone.

The moral? Nothing like watching fictional characters' lives fall apart because of the internet to get you good and scared of social media!

 1. Weightless by Sarah Bannan
I'm a sucker for any story that involves the South, especially people out of their comfort zone in the south. Moving from New Jersey to Alabama is a shocker, but Carolyn is doing surprisingly well at the new school. That is, until all hell breaks loose after a risque video of her and another girl's boy makes the rounds. Once it's on the internet, it's here to stay.

2. serafina67 *urgently requires life* by Susie Day
 Man, this takes me back. This is a book I read a while ago. By a while, I mean in 2008 when it was published. I started blogging in 2009 when it was still a new thing and most people were confused as you tried to explain to them what it was. Serafina takes refuge in her shiny new (brick of a) laptop, and she blogs about her life, using it as a personal outlet. But she quickly discovers putting your secrets out on the interwebs doesn't make them secrets anymore—especially when her parents can see them.

3. Can't Look Away by Donna Cooner
This one made the rounds a while ago, but I just now got it from the library. Torrey Grey is a beauty vlogger, and she's a pretty famous one. But her sister dies suddenly in an accident, and everyone seems to turn on Torrey. Cyber attacks at her and her family on top of issues at her new school make dealing with her grief over her sister's death nearly impossible. I can't wait to start this one, and I have a feeling it's going to be a one-sitting kind of read.

4. My Invisible Boyfriend by Susie Day
I actually found this book while looking for fake-relationship books to complement my reading of The Fill-In Boyfriend. I then realized it was the same Susie Day that wrote Serafina's story, so naturally I found it at the library and grabbed a copy. Heidi thinks the key to popularity is simple—best boyfriend. Only problem is, she doesn't have a boyfriend. Soon, she's in over her head trying to keep up her fake beau's status alive and believable as a real human's.

Lucky for you, the lovely folks at St. Martin's Press have kindly offered up a copy of Weightless!
You must be 13 years or older to enter and you must have a US mailing address.