Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Things I Miss From My Hometown Library

Some of you know because you read this blog, and some of you may not, but at the beginning of the year, I moved to New York to pursue my dream of working in publishing. Fast-forward through (a long) three months of endless applications, interviews, and rejections, and I'm sitting here in an entry-level editing job feeling like I'm on top of the world. But I definitely miss home.

One of the biggest things I miss that I didn't realize would be so obviously, horrifyingly different here is my library. I assumed I'd be able to figure out the libraries here with no problem because it's New York! They're famous for their libraries, right? Well, here are things I definitely miss about my small, hometown library.

1. It's actually not that small
A little backstory—my town is not a city. It's not a town, either. We actually belong to the unincorporated township of Lafayette in the smallest county in Indiana. It sits right on the border of Louisville (which is where I say I'm from to avoid confusion from anyone who doesn't live in the surrounding tri-state area). We're a bedroom community for Louisville, but there's also one small city in the county we pair up with (you know, for elections, post offices, etc. The city is down the hill, whereas my home sits about 700 feet above sea level). In the entire county, we have ONE library. Which seems a little sad because the whole two towns take up the whole county, so we cover a huge amount of space.
But the plus side to this is that the library is large. Especially for a small city. It's two floors and has entire distinct sections for children's, middle grade, YA, and half of one floor for adult fiction and all its encompassing genres. Which is good for me because the YA section has a TON of books that even though I've been going there since I graduated the kids' section, I still have not come close to reading them all.
The library here had two shelves for YA and no books younger than that. I was shocked. I know it may be a branch thing, but I feel like they should have had something, at least.


2. They're on top of releases
I don't know who at the library was in charge of monitoring release dates, but I can tell you for certain that they are excellent at their jobs. I found Rebel Belle, Great, and Breathe, Annie, Breathe there ON their release dates, ready to go. Plus a bunch of others, but these were the ones that really stood out because not for a moment did I think I'd be able to find these new releases at the library so quickly. Even if there's not something there, I know from experience that the "request a title" button on the website WORKS. Every single time I requested a title, I got an email about a week later saying it was on the shelves.

3. There's no one in line before my requesting
Here's a super small-town bonus — I almost NEVER have to wait for a book to check it out. Sure, HP and TFiOS and super popular books have a wait list, but anything else? I request it online and they pull the books, and they're ready to go by the time I drive down to get them.
When I went to the Queens library last month, they had a waiting list for EVERY book I asked about. And they were high-profile ones to people like me — bloggers — but not so much to tons of people everywhere. That was definitely a shocker that I would have to wait MONTHS to read a book.

4. They trust you can look stuff up yourself
This definitely may be specific to locales, but two of the Queens branches I went to had no computers available to people who wanted to look up titles and information. They had computers to sign up for general use, or the option of asking the librarian. And the librarians that I worked with seemed super annoyed with me that I knew what I was talking about and had a bunch of titles I was looking for. They were not at all happy with me, and I would rather have looked things up myself.
My home library had a ton interspersed with the different sections so you could find whatever you wanted.



5. There was only ONE branch
This is never a thing I thought would be an issue, but there was only one library at home. All the books went there. They got funding, it was used at the one library. Here, all of the YA books were split up between the 20(ish?) Queens branches, and anything I wanted would take a week to get from another branch, or I'd have to trek out to wherever it was. The library here gets funding, and it has to get split between all the branches, so every library can't have the exact same books. They all share, which was very weird to me.

6. They've got a HUGE audiobook/ebook collection
This is a thing I only recently discovered when I decided I wanted to listen to books or check them out for my kindle. It's so easy, and there are so many to choose from on the website. I couldn't wait for the sequel to a book I was reading and found out the library had it available for download! I got to immediately start the next book for FREE!

I love having tons of indie bookstores here (even though I miss Carmichael's dearly), and used bookstores are wonderful for my budget. But the library system is one I haven't quite figured out. I'm living in Manhattan now, and the actual NYPL I went to was a museum, and I can't figure out where an actual library is. (It was pretty cool to see the stuffed animals that inspired Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh, but still...


Are you a New Yorker? 
Do you know how to use the libraries here?
Help me!

What do you like/not like about your own libraries?
Let's chat in the comments!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

My Heart and Other Black Holes review

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
Release Date: February 10, 2015
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Pages: 302
Keywords: depression, friendship, suicide
Format Read: ARC via publisher (thank you!)
Goodreads | Buy It!
Sixteen-year-old physics nerd Aysel is obsessed with plotting her own death. With a mother who can barely look at her without wincing, classmates who whisper behind her back, and a father whose violent crime rocked her small town, Aysel is ready to turn her potential energy into nothingness.
There’s only one problem: she’s not sure she has the courage to do it alone. But once she discovers a website with a section called Suicide Partners, Aysel’s convinced she’s found her solution: a teen boy with the username FrozenRobot (aka Roman) who’s haunted by a family tragedy is looking for a partner. 
Even though Aysel and Roman have nothing in common, they slowly start to fill in each other’s broken lives. But as their suicide pact becomes more concrete, Aysel begins to question whether she really wants to go through with it. Ultimately, she must choose between wanting to die or trying to convince Roman to live so they can discover the potential of their energy together. Except that Roman may not be so easy to convince.
   THE COVERS
This is one with a dramatic cover switch between the ARC release and the publication, and I have to say, it was a decision well made. Not that I particularly hate the original cover, but the new one fits the theme and feel of the story much better than the original. The original didn't take the story seriously, I don't think, and I felt like I was going to be reading a teen angst story rather than a serious dialogue of depression and suicide.



   WHY I LIKED IT
Hometown shout-out for being set in Kentucky and close enough to Louisville that it makes a cameo! I often don't find books in the area, especially these types of books, that bring up serious issues for people living in this sort of lifestyle. Even though it's a small reason, I feel like I connected with this book immediately because I could picture the houses, the landscape, the drives, the characters, and the lifestyle because it's one I grew up in and will always remember well.

What really stood out was the perspective this book took on the topic. There was no leading up to the decision, there was no plummeting into depression: The characters were already there and already decided they were going to do this. The story was about the courage they were trying to muster up to actually kill themselves, which was heartbreaking to watch. We were introduced to their families, which made me feel so emotionally attached to these kids, and I wanted to join in on their family game nights and dinners. This was just so different than other books on this topic because it was taking place after the decision had been made, and the characters were just waiting until the correct day to do it.
I also loved it because it (subtly) brought up the importance of not treating people like shit in high school. The MC's father was in jail, and the entire school treated her like a pariah. She was pretty good at staying distant, too, but it all began with people being rude and horrible to her, so she rightly distanced herself as much as she could. It's so important to realize everyone has different experiences and that you never know what someone else could be going through or dealing with, and this book did a wonderful job of bringing that up without throwing it in your face to be an obvious theme or message.

   RESERVATIONS?
There was a small moment when there was a physics photography assignment that had Aysel working with another student from her class, and even though he was a popular jock, he seemed nice and ready to work with her. I wanted to see a few more moments like this were she had interactions with students that led to her not totally hating the school. It seemed like they were pretty willing to come around and talk to her once she opened up a little in class, and I just wanted to see that actual development a bit more.

   SHOCK VALUE
I honestly didn't know whether or not they would go through with it, and I was genuinely nervous the closer the dates got to April. I didn't want the days to tick down because I truly didn't know how it was going to end or what kind of decisions they were going to make. Even though it's made technically at the very beginning of the book, there is still so much that happens leading up to it that made me feel for them.

   FINAL THOUGHTS
This is a poignant, real story of two regular kids just trying to live, and they lean on one another and learn to lean on others for support, and I think Warga did an amazing job of telling their stories.


Friday, April 17, 2015

Blog Tour & Spotlight: All the Rage by Courtney Summers

Welcome to this stop of the All the Rage blog tour & book spotlight!

All the Rage by Courtney Summers
Release Date: April 14, 2015
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: 336
The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything—friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time—and they certainly won’t now — but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear. 
I'd like to welcome Courtney Summers & her new book to the blog! She's a busy lady and has a TON of titles already out that you can check out! Below you'll find her information and where to find her, and just for visiting you can see an original image based on the book provided by the publisher!

   

Courtney Summers lives and writes in Canada, where she divides most of her time between a camera, a piano and a word processing program. She is also the author of What Goes Around, This is Not a Test, Fall for Anything, Some Girls Are, Cracked Up to Be, and Please Remain Calm.


   

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Topics Time: Fake Relationships

Welcome to Topics Time, where I give you a few recommendations based on a particular topic for the week, including new releases and some older backlisted books you can find for cheap or at your library if you're on a budget. This week's discussion? Fake boyfriends/girlfriends!

This Topics Time is actually inspired by how excited I am to read Kasie West's The Fill-in Boyfriend, and I have the ARC, and I'm starting it this week and absolutely cannot wait. The main character in it has talked up her boyfriend to her friends, and at the prom, when he's finally going to meet them all, he DUMPS her. How rude. So she sees a guy in the parking lot and they strike up a deal to be each other's "boyfriend" and "girlfriend."

I feel like there's the obvious other ones like To All the Boys I've Loved Before and The Selection, but Topics Time is about finding those lesser known titles that are just waiting to be found in a used/backlisted section that won't hurt your bank account and still be something in the topic you want to read! I've scoured the internet and taken the hard work out for you, and here are four titles to tide you over (for the small month it is until the book comes out)!


1. The Truth About Faking by Leigh T. Moore
These kids have ulterior motives when they start fake dating. Jason wants to date Harley and Harley wants to date Trent and Trent is still hung up on Stephanie. Confusing, right? So Jason and Harley decide to fake date to make their crushes jealous so they'll want them even more. But there's a whole host of secrets to uncover, and some feelings may just turn out differently than these characters have planned.

2. Switched by Cassie Mae
Man, do the characters in this book have some confusing relationships. Kayla is the main girl here, and she's always had a crush on the hot jock of the school, which becomes a problem when her BFF starts dating him. Oof. So she and her other best friend (who's a guy and also madly in love with Kayla) team up to try and break the other couple up before the big dance. Sounds like a hot mess and like something I definitely want to see unfold. 

3. Under a Georgia Moon by Cindy Roland Anderson
This is a grown-up one that I discovered on a whim trying to find books in this topic, and now I'm very excited to read it. It's from a smaller publisher and looks super cute. Addie gets dumped by her fiancé, and like three months later he gets married to someone else, which is a dick move if you ask me. So she flees to Georgia to spend time with her aunt and clear her head. Chase is a guy who's in Georgia, and his ex-girlfriend is giving him equal issues. When Addie's ex shows up, she and Chase decide to hide from their exes by pretending to date. This sounds like such a fun southern story, and I'm all about southern stories, so it definitely got put on my TBR.

4. Endless Summer by Jennifer Echols
Jennifer Echols never disappoints in my book. I've owned this book combo forever, and I've never gotten around to it, and never really paid attention to what it's about, but now I totally wish I had it with me in my New York apartment instead of it living at home in Kentucky. Lori likes hanging at the lake, and she's always been one of the guys. But now it looks like she's interested in one (he happens to have an equally hot brother), and to make one jealous, she fake dates the other, and it sounds like a lot of complicated stuff happens and I'm totally into it. (I'm also reading 99 Days right now, and this sounds like one I want to read alongside Katie Cotugno's book about brothers and rival romances.)

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Happy Book Stuff #4

I find things all the time that make me drool because I want to own them, and I definitely can't afford them right now. So I wanted a place to compile all the pretty bookish things that I plan on (someday) having in my possession. Want to see more happy book stuff?


I'm obsessed with plants — I have been since high school. We never had plants in my house growing up because my mother (accidentally) can't keep any green things alive. But I got a tiny cactus in high school and fell in love with tiny plants. I have a really wonderful exotic angel plant and a rapidly expanding aloe plant, and I love them both. So I'd really love these little plant bookmarks.



 Another high school memory: When my AP class discussed Kafka's Metamorphosis, I fell in love with talking about classic literature. It hadn't clicked until then. Also I have vivid memories of my teacher screaming "GREGOR IS NOT A BUG!" so I will forever argue that Gregor doesn't actually transform. But that's another argument for another day. How cute is this bug pin?



Duh, HP is awesome. I would love these coasters, and I also feel like I could DIY this on a Saturday and have a ton of fun. I'd just have to find beat-up enough copies because destroying a perfectly good one is sad...



AND LET'S TALK ABOUT HOW MUCH I WANT TO OWN HOBBIT SOCKS.



Which one of these would you most like to own?
Would YOU wear hobbit socks?

Is there a specific category you'd like to see in Happy Book Stuff? All LOTR? Only socks? Give me suggestions!

Let's discuss in the comments!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Kissing Ted Callahan Review

Kissing Ted Callahan by Amy Spalding
Release Date: April 14, 2015
Publisher: Poppy
Pages: 320
Keywords: music, high school, romance
Format Read: eARC via NetGalley (thank you!)
Goodreads | IndieBound
After catching their bandmates in a compromising position, sixteen-year-old Los Angelenos Riley and Reid become painfully aware of the romance missing from their own lives. And so a pact is formed: they'll both try to make something happen with their respective crushes and document the experiences in a shared notebook.
While Reid struggles with the moral dilemma of adopting a dog to win over someone's heart, Riley tries to make progress with Ted Callahan, who she's been obsessed with forever. His floppy hair! His undeniable intelligence! But suddenly cute guys are popping up everywhere. How did she never notice them before?! With their love lives going from 0 to 60 in the blink of an eye, Riley and Reid realize the results of their pact may be more than they bargained for.
   THE COVER
I love the cover of this, though I wish it would have incorporated a little bit of Reid's adventures with girls because after all, a big part of the book is the manifesto they BOTH write back and forth to one another. Yes, the MC is Riley. But since the front looks handwritten, I wanted it to include Reid too!

   WHY I LIKED IT
This one was just so accurate about high school romances — short-lived, confusing, and full of firsts and weird emotions. I totally loved all of Riley's confusion about who she actually liked (Ted actually wasn't my favorite... but I'll let you discover for yourself among all the other guys in this book! There are plenty to choose from!). It was fun to watch her struggle with her "firsts" and how to actually talk to someone she liked for the first time.
I also want to mention the adorableness that was Reid, who actually adopted a dog by accident for a girl he liked, and he ended up loving the dog and it became a loyal companion throughout the book. This part actually made me laugh out loud.
The voice was the other really strong point of this book, and I laughed out loud several times while reading (which garnered some funny looks since I read the whole thing on a train ride back from Boston). Here's a favorite quote:
"Are you okay?"
He probably thinks I just had a stroke. "I don't smell burnt toast if that's what you're wondering."
Garrick stares at me as blankly as a boy genius can. "You know, they say you smell toast if you have a stroke. 
MORE BLANK STARING. "I didn't have a stroke is what I'm saying."
"I'm glad we cleared that up."
This book was full of fun one-liners and lots of funny interactions and awkwardness, and it totally took me back to freshman year when literally everyone was this panicky and awkward about every interaction with someone they thought was cute and had floppy hair.

   THE SHOCK VALUE
I mean, it's a cute high school contemporary. With the plot in the title. So pretty predictable, but in a good way. It's not one of those books that needs a shock value, really.

   RESERVATIONS?
The only thing I didn't totally love, which I mentioned before, was the fact that I didn't really love Ted. He just didn't have a personality. He didn't like music that much, and he and Riley never really had anything in common or anything to talk about. I just didn't see why she was in love with him, especially since he'd never interacted with her before. I wanted him to be this dreamboat rockstar guy that she admires from afar, but he was just a person with floppy hair she admired from afar and had LITERALLY NO CLUE what he was like at all.

   FINAL THOUGHTS
Excellent book to read on the train. It helped pass the time so quickly, and I laughed a lot because of how realistic a lot of the romance situations are. This was a super fun one, especially if you're a fan of contemporary books and music.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Miss Mayhem Review

This review is for Miss Mayhem, the second in the series. It will contain spoilers only if you haven't read the first book. If you're looking for a thousand reasons to read Rebel Belle, the first in the series, I gush about how much I love it.

Miss Mayhem by Rachel Hawkins
(Rebel Belle #2)
Release Date: April 7, 2015
Publisher: Putnam
Pages: 288
Keywords: paranormal, high school, popularity
Format Read: ARC via publisher (thank you!)
Goodreads | Buy it!
Life is almost back to normal for Harper Price. The Ephors have been silent after their deadly attack at Cotillion months ago, and best friend Bee has returned after a mysterious disappearance. Now Harper can return her focus to the important things in life: school, canoodling with David, her nemesis-turned-ward-slash-boyfie, and even competing in the Miss Pine Grove pageant.
Unfortunately, supernatural chores are never done. The Ephors have decided they’d rather train David than kill him. The catch: Harper has to come along for the ride, but she can’t stay David’s Paladin unless she undergoes an ancient trial that will either kill her . . . or connect her to David for life. 


   THE COVER
Very cute, but I don't like it as much as the first. The first combined a knife with a "girly" aspect. This one has a statue that is all golden, and even though she's holding a sword, you don't really get the feel that an actual character in the book does that. But still, it's fine.

   WHY I LIKED IT
The SNARK in this book is on point. (On fleek? I just heard that was a phrase people were saying, and boy, do I feel old. What even is that?)
The dialogue and narration in these books make me feel so connected to the characters, especially Harper, because they just feel so real. It's not outdated or stuffy language. It's vernacular, and it's the way people are talking, and some of the things in this book made me laugh a LOT.
I did miss the tension between Harper and David because now that they're together, we missed a lot of that. Obviously, it's still great, and I love how different their characters are, but I do miss the chase.
Another thing I really enjoy about this series is Hawkins doesn't just forget things about the plot. Like, oh, Harper's ex still needs to be friends with her because he's kind of involved in David's scenario too, and their interactions don't just magically become better. It's awkward and it's real, and you can truly see how uncomfortable they are now that they've broken up, which I enjoy. It's refreshing to read a book where not all the problems (even smaller ones within the plot) are magically solved.

   RESERVATIONS
It wasn't as long! This was about half the size of the first one, and I feel like everything wrapped up really quickly! I wanted a meatier story, and I realize that because this is a series, the author is pressured with deadlines. But still. I was sad. I just want more!

   FINAL THOUGHTS
This is one of the sassiest series I've ever read, and you can bet I will definitely be reading more of Hawkins in the future.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda Review

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Release Date: April 7, 2015
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Pages: 320
Keywords: first love, LGBT, friendship
Format Read: ARC via publisher (thank you!)
Goodreads | Buy It!
Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.
With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.
   THE COVER
I don't really have a ton to say about the cover I don't think. No strong opinions one way or the other.

   WHY I LIKED IT
Oh, let me count the ways.
1. The romance — Simon is having his first real romance entirely through email, which is kind of cool because now that's the "archaic" communication form. They don't text or call to protect each other's identities, but as the story progresses, they both realize they are ready for something more and something real.
2. The friendship — Wow, were these friendships complicated, realistic, and well-thought out. Nick, Abby, and Leah help Simon through the rough times he faces at school when all hell breaks loose. There's also the fact that Simon now has to tell his best friends he's gay — which is no easy feat. He's tired of coming out. And brings up an excellent point why straight people don't have to come out after his parents celebrate seemingly strange milestones in his life and he gets embarrassed.
But the friendships are truly what make this book. My best friend came out in high school, and I know how scared he was to tell me, afraid it would ruin the foundation we had built our friendship on the last few years. Watching Simon struggle with the same thing made my heart ache and I wanted to hug him and be his real life friend even though, you know, he's in a book.
3. The dialogue — It's like the author time-warped straight back to high school and recorded down what all these kids are saying. There was funny, awkward, cute, straight up weird, and everything in between. No matter the gender or orientation, I felt like I knew every kid in the book and connected with them as teenagers rather than fictional people.

   RESERVATIONS?
I want to say none. Really. I did have a tiny issue for like a half second about how fast Simon changed his mind about this one guy, but then I was like, that's high school! Truly, kids change their minds all the time and go back and forth on decisions, and as soon as I realized that, that reservation just shot right out.

   THE SHOCK VALUE
At the beginning, I had no clue who Blue was, and I really liked that. As the story progressed, I found myself guessing at every single character, thinking that it could be them! But, I was able to figure it out before the character was revealed. Even so, I still loved it, and knowing a bit before didn't make me sad or disappointed. In fact, it almost made me more excited to keep reading and see Simon's reaction.

   FINAL THOUGHTS
This is an important book for bringing up LGBT issues and lifestyle to both those who have questions about it and those who are a part of it. Because people are people, and everyone's just looking for love. It was an abordable, hopeful story about what everyone really wants out of life. And oreos.