Friday, June 26, 2015

Love Fortunes and Other Disasters Review

Love Fortunes and Other Disasters by Kimberly Karalius
Release Date: May 12, 2015
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Pages: 368
Keywords: romance, high school, fortune telling
Format Read: finished copy (signed!)
Goodreads | Buy It!
Love is real in the town of Grimbaud, and Fallon Dupree has dreamed of attending high school there for years. After all, generations of Duprees have successfully followed the (100% accurate!) love fortunes from Zita’s famous Love Charms Shop to happily marry their high school sweethearts. It’s a tradition. So she is both stunned and devastated when her fortune states that she will NEVER find love.
Fortunately, Fallon isn’t the only student with a terrible love fortune, and a rebellion is brewing. Fallon is determined to take control of her own fate—even if it means working with a notorious heartbreaker like Sebastian.
Will Fallon and Sebastian be able to overthrow Zita’s tyranny and fall in love?

I absolutely adore this cover. The whole book is beautiful, and I so wish that were just the start of my praises, but sadly, it's one of the high points of the book. The illustrations are so cute and fit so well with how I pictured this town, and I want to keep the book because it's so pretty, but I really really don't want it taking up precious space on my (NYC tiny) shelf.

The premise was pretty cool—an entire town ran by the love fortunes passed out by Zita, a mysterious, never-seen woman who always gets everything right. Her fortunes are so trusted that there aren't even other love fortune tellers in the area. The whole town centers their lives around their fortunes, and everyone looks up to this mysterious woman and trusts her completely.

But my issues with the book begin there. Everyone goes to get their love fortune once a year until they're married, I guess? It doesn't really explain when you stop going. They start, however, during their first year of high school. 14 years old. And these kids take it SO SERIOUSLY. Literally all they think about is getting married and having kids, and I spent the whole time wondering why the hell they even go to school. Sure, it seems like to learn and get a career, but on top of that, family trades seem incredibly important to all the characters, and most follow in the footsteps of their parents and older siblings. So I ask again, if their careers and planned and their marriage is planned, what is the actual point of school? It can't be learning because no one ever seems to do any school work aside from comment on how they should study for finals. We're told that this is simply because of "tradition," but no other explanation is given, so I simply didn't buy it.

But I tried to suspend the disbelief. I really did. I was behind the kids trying to overtake Zita. They had enough and the kids with bad fortunes decided they wanted to write their own history. The twins that incited the group seemed cool, but they popped up out of nowhere, and I had no reason to trust or believe them. They didn't even verify that they too had bad fortunes. I just had too many questions that the book absolutely did not begin to answer.

I was also really bugged about the logistics of the town and their relationships. The high school freshman had their own apartments. I would buy a dorm-style sort of thing, but it's implied they clean and cook and are tenants of actual apartment buildings. Hm. In addition, it's said that this is away from Fallon's hometown, yet her family seems to have this super crazy reputation of being crazy health inspectors. But they don't live in the town, and some people haven't heard of them, and their legacy seems to be health inspectors, but Fallon makes it to be like their family reputation is staked on her getting married (at fourteen, apparently?).

Aside from these main issues, the dialogue was cheesy (not in a great way) and it pulled me out of the story quite a bit from groaning. I felt like a super-grown up. Maybe I'm just too old for this? But even in high school, I would think it's completely ridiculous and groan-worthy to be this sappy and irritating. And at one point a character laughed at the idea of a true love's kiss. As if staking your entire future on a love fortune in high school was totally normal but it was absolutely ridiculous to think about true love's kiss? There were major consistency issues here.

Unless you're really into sappy romance plots and don't mind consistency issues with plot, I'd honestly skip this one. I kept thinking it was going to explain plot issues, and I was pretty disappointed with the result. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Devil You Know Review

The Devil You Know by Trish Doller
Release Date: June 2, 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 256
Keywords: thriller, mystery, road trip, summer
Format Read: ARC via publisher (thank you!)
Other Books Read: Where the Stars Still Shine
Goodreads | Buy It!
Eighteen-year-old Arcadia wants adventure. Living in a tiny Florida town with her dad and four-year-old brother, Cadie spends most of her time working, going to school, and taking care of her family. So when she meets two handsome cousins at a campfire party, she finally has a chance for fun. They invite her and friend to join them on a road trip, and it's just the risk she's been craving—the opportunity to escape. But what starts out as a fun, sexy journey quickly becomes dangerous when she discovers that one of them is not at all who he claims to be. One of them has deadly intentions. 

Can I just say FINALLY. I love this cover because it takes itself seriously as a YA thriller. It's not a cheesy lovey-dovey kissy cover. That's not what this book is about, and I'm glad the design is something that conveys that.

We can get one thing out of the way—it's Trish freaking Doller. I love her books, and I will always be excited to read a new work she has coming out. She's got a super realistic way of seeing and writing the world that I intensely appreciate. Sex in her books is depicted realistically—it's not this magical, sparkly moment. It's messy, it's awkward, and sometimes heat-of-the moment. Cadie is in one of those situations, and I totally love that her situation seems much more real than most depictions of sex.

I also loved the creepy factor. I was intensely creeped out by pretty much everyone and everything in this book. And sure, there's a clear gross person at the end when things are revealed, but even now, after the fact, I still really don't feel comfortable with multiple characters, and I don't trust them. In fact, I wanted several people in the book to be absorbed by swamp monsters (the book takes places in the marshlands of Florida) because I was that creeped out.

It was a page turner. I didn't really know who to trust (I annotate my books, and I went back and looked, and my first guess of the correct outcome was around page 70), and even though I kind of knew what was happening, I was still so nervous because everything was so insanely creepy about this whole thing.

Even though I loved how fast-paced it was, there was one thing I simply could not get past: WHO WOULD GO ON A ROAD TRIP WITH TOTAL STRANGERS? Now that I've gotten that out of the way, let me explain. Cadie, understandably, is at a tipping point. She's tired of being the adult and she wants to be young and stupid. Hanging out and hooking up with a cute guy at a campfire party with friends is one thing. Leaving everything to go on a road trip with them is past having fun—it's idiotic. And I really am not victim-blaming because obviously she shouldn't have to assume that something crazy terrible is going to happen, but I mean... they teach stranger danger in kindergarten for a reason. Literally ANYONE should know not to road trip with strangers. For someone who is as responsible and level-headed as Cadie, I simply didn't believe, even for a millisecond, that she would ever do this. (And then her cell phone dies after her friend goes missing. HELLO?! Has she honestly never seen a horror movie? Or even have basic common sense?)

Feelings also went from overnight hookup, which I'm totally okay with because it's way more realistic, and shot straight out of the park to instalove, which made me groan. Ugh.

It's Trish freaking Doller, so it was really good. Fast-paced, page-turner, and I was totally into the story. The whole time I was reading, though, in the back of my mind I just KNEW this was insane and idiotic because I could not get over the fact that she just LEFT WITH STRANGERS. Oof.

What do you think? Do you understand the whole road-tripping with strangers thing? I sure don't!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Hello, I Love You: Blog Tour & Giveaway!

I have the happiest of posts for you today! Let's give a big hand and warm welcome to Katie M. Stout, author (who is ONLY 24, btw, and making me feel incredibly behind on my non-existent writing life) of Hello, I Love You, which was released on June 9. 

But first, let's set the mood with one of Katie's recommendations (a band rec, I have no idea about songs, but I listened to quite a few and really liked this one). It had me dancing with myself in the library room in my building:

First, we'll do a quick run down of what the book is all about. Grace is a rich kid running—she wants away from the mansion her record-producing father bought, her famous country singer big bro, and the mom who blames her for pretty much everything. So she runs to a boarding school in Korea.

She wants literally nothing to do with the rich music world she ran from, but her roommate's twin brother just happens to be the hottest new KPOP star out there. Of course, we all know what's coming...

Katie was kind enough to answer a few questions about herself, so thank you, and enjoy!

What does your daily life look like as a writer?
Well, I have a day job, so my writing days never look the same. Sometimes, I’ll sneak in some writing or editing time at my desk when my boss isn’t looking (shhhhh don’t tell!), and other times, I write at night or on the weekends. I don’t have daily writing goals. I’ll go like five days without writing, then add 6,000 words to my manuscript in one night. So basically, I have no way to answer this question. Hah!

What are three things you can't live without while writing?
1. Music or background noise
2. Caffeine of some kind
3. My computer (most of the time; sometimes, I like writing on my iPad mini)

Are you a big K-Pop fan? What are your favorite songs/bands we should listen to while reading Hello, I Love You?
I love KPOP! Old school CN Blue was my biggest influence while writing, so I’d say definitely listen to that. Also Shinee, because that ends up being one of the bands my main character really loves.

You've traveled and lived in many countries, can you tell us about your favorite places?
Sure! I’ve got a lot of favorite places, and I recommend different places to different people, depending on who they are and what they like. But my personal favorites are Scotland, Thailand, and South Africa.

When I lived in England, I was only five miles from the Scottish border, so I spent a lot of time visiting there. Edinburgh is one of my favorite European cities, and the Highlands are gorgeous. I lived three months in Thailand right after college, but I’ve been there nine times total. The culture is warm, and the food is amazing; it’s also gorgeous, from the mountains in the north to the beaches in the south. And South Africa just has amazing people, a laid back atmosphere, and LIONS (in game parks, but still); it was my introduction to Africa, and I still love it.

Why do you choose YA to write & read?
I’m one of the few YA authors who actually read YA as a teen, since it was already an established genre when I was in high school (I’m only 24). I loved it then, and I still love it now. I like that everything is new and exciting as a teen. Also, my teen years were hard, and I’d like to offer a little hope and a break from real life to my readers who may be struggling through high school now.

I had so much fun reading the answers to these questions, and I hope you did too! Make sure to visit Katie out on the interwebs (and tweet at her if you like).
Katie has a blog she regularly updates—and it's super adorable. She talks about her travels, her book, and her life.

And you can win your very own copy of Hello, I Love You. You must be 13 years or older to enter and must have a US mailing address. Address will be shared with publicist from St. Martin's Press who will be handling the mailing.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

What I've Been Reading: Comic Book Edition

Lately something changed and I found myself wanting to explore different types of storytelling I wasn't already reading. I mean, I'll truly never get tired of books, but after editing all day long, sometimes I come home and want to unwind by not looking at more walls of text. I still wanted to be entertained with stories (I'll never get over my Netflix problem), and I knew they had to be different forms I hadn't read before.

Enter comic books.
A few people I follow on Twitter have gotten into them as of lately, and there's this really great series called Adventures of a Comic Newbie the folks at Book Riot have put up. These inspired me to give comic books a shot after last year I discovered how much I loved graphic novels.

And I haven't been able to put them down. Which is why I've been blogging less than usual. I haven't been reading as many books because I'm obsessed with some comic series.
So I'm going to showcase them periodically because these (in my limited experience with comics) have been good crossover series for me, from books to comics, and I want to help others get started!

This ultra-femme series was created by Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, and Noelle Stevenson. Feel like you've heard that last name somewhere? You have. Noelle is none other than the illustrator of the cover of Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl (Yes, you read that correctly). And this series has also been in mainstream news quite a bit recently because Lumberjanes has been optioned for a live-action movie (which has a white male writing the script, but let's hope the diverse cast of females stays put).

The story follows five girls in Roanoke Cabin at Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's Camp for Hardcore Lady Types (say that as fast as you can, I double-dog dare you!), and if I were their counselor Jen, I would be hyperventilating right along with her. They're always up to something, though most of it is usually not their fault. So far, they've battled ancient Greek statues, solved Indiana Jones-like puzzles, warded off some rabid Boy Scouts, and had a seriously rad game of capture the flag involving some supernatural shit that I haven't figured out yet because my next issue hasn't gotten here.

I'm in love with this series for so many reasons: the art is awesome, the diversity all around is amazing, the characters are super funny and make obscure Shakespeare and Juliette Gordon Low references that actually make me lol, and it's super suspenseful! I'm already really nervous for when I do catch up to issue 15 and then have to ... you know ... WAIT for the next one to come out.

It's got totally rad girl power and some super female friendships (and possibly a budding romance? IDK I'm only halfway through and DYING to know) and some ridiculous and amazing plot lines happening. 

Basically it's what I'm recommending to literally anyone looking to shake up their reading rut a little bit and branch out and try something new.
It was easier to get into this style of storytelling than I expected, and I'm so glad I did.

How to Get It
That's the big question. I totally had no clue how to go about purchasing comics. To make it easier, publishers put out trades, which are compiled issues in a book form. The Lumberjanes Volume 1 trade is out now and compiles issues 1-4, and you can get it here. Past that, I began ordering individual issues for pretty cheap because the second trade isn't out (but you can pre-order it!), and I am subscribed to get every new issue from Midtown Comics. And I am so excited for new issues. Like, seriously cannot wait.

Have you ever read comic books? Have any questions for me about how to get started? I'm new just like lots of people, so let's discuss together!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Last Year's Mistake Review

Small town girl moves away but can't shake someone from her past.

Last Year's Mistake by Gina Ciocca
Release Date: June 9, 2015
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 256
Keywords: high school, moving
Format Read: ARC via publisher (thank you!)
Goodreads | Buy It!
Kelsey and David became best friends the summer before freshman year and were inseparable ever after. Until the night a misunderstanding turned Kelsey into the school joke, and everything around her crumbled—including her friendship with David. So when Kelsey's parents decided to move away, she couldn't wait to start over and leave the past behind. Except, David wasn't ready to let her go...

Now it's senior year and Kelsey has a new group of friends, genuine popularity, and a hot boyfriend. Her life is perfect. That is, until David's family moves to town and he shakes up everything. Soon old feelings bubble to the surface and threaten to destroy Kelsey's second chance at happiness. The more time she spends with David, the more she realizes she never truly let him go. And maybe she never wants to.
I'm a little bored with this one to be honest. It seems like a typical YA cover, but there's no real relevance with the car or sitting on it. I mean, there are cars in the story, but it's not totally important, so I think it could have a better cover than this.

The overall pacing was great. The book flipped between the past and present, following paralleling year story lines, and the unfolding of events kept me hooked, wondering what possibly could have happened in the past to make events in the present so awkward (although it was sophomore year and senior year, so I feel like Last Year's Mistake should include more of the actual last year, but I don't feel super strongly on this).

I also really liked David and Ryan. David is the friend from Kelsey's past and Ryan is her boyfriend in the present. Though at the beginning Ryan seemed like a beefy human without a brain, I was glad to see I was wrong. I could totally see why Kelsey ended up liking him at her new school. He was kind and truly meant well, though he didn't always make good decisions—but then, no one in this book made good decisions. David also felt extremely realistic. He had all kinds of friends and truly wanted everyone to get along. He had a hard time dealing with his own issues and decisions just like anyone would, and I liked seeing him struggle with Kelsey's feelings and hostility toward him.

It was also true to the teenage lifestyle in keeping with the themes of making bad decisions and not communicating well. There was some slut-shaming in this book, which I'll get to in a bit. It was rough to read but felt realistic to what high schoolers say, and I appreciated the honest look at it.

About the slut-shaming. While calling girls skanks happens in high school, I did not sympathize with the main character in why she felt these things. Throughout most of the book, we're wondering what happened that year that was so bad to Kelsey, but her actions begin with automatically making assumptions without having an inkling of a cause behind them. The girls she was talking about had literally done nothing up until about three-quarters of the way through, and even then, there was one girl I still sided with because I don't think Kelsey was justified in hating her.

For the most part, I didn't have an issue with the writing, but every once in a while, there were some lines of dialogue that were so over-the-top cheesy and terrible and lines that no one would say that it jolted me out of the story. These bothered me, and they were mostly in the beginning of the book. Once I got about 50 pages in, I liked the book much more, and it felt like a bit of a false start with the stilted dialogue.

Overall, it was a really good best friends-maybe-something-more book. I'm always a fan of those, and I will probably always like those. However, the details of the book did not impress me. Stilted dialogue and strange decisions with seemingly no consequences (or characters that didn't care about any consequences?) that really brought me out of the reality of the book, despite the fun back-and-forth nature of the MCs.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Vanishing Girls & Giveaway #2

One sister's dark secret, twisty relationships, and a mermaid act.

Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver
Release Date: March 10, 2015
Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 357
Keywords: thriller, sisters, summer
Format Read: ARC via publisher (thank you!)
Other Books Reviewed: Delirium
Goodreads | Buy It!
Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, but that was before the accident that left Dara's beautiful face scarred and the two sisters totally estranged. When Dara vanishes on her birthday, Nick thinks Dara is just playing around. But another girl, nine-year-old Madeline Snow, has vanished, too, and Nick becomes increasingly convinced that the two disappearances are linked. Now Nick has to find her sister, before it's too late.

In this edgy and compelling novel, Lauren Oliver creates a world of intrigue, loss, and suspicion as two sisters search to find themselves, and each other.


What's Going On?

Nick is our main girl, the older sister and infinitely more responsible one. While she's busy doing homework and wearing sweatshirts, Dara, about a year younger, is climbing out her bedroom window and hiding cocaine in her closet. Yikes.

Despite their polar opposite-ness, the two used to be inseparable. That is, until Nick did something to royally piss off Dara. All we know at the beginning is that Dara won't leave the house because of something that left her scarred, and Nick lives with the guilt every day.


Writer's Table

This takes me alllllll the way back to Oliver's debut, Before I Fall rather than reminding me of Delirium — and I have to say I'm thankful. Rather than focusing on love and sappy romance plot lines (that frankly make me throw up in my mouth a little), the book took into detail the complicated relationships of sisters and the fragility of those relationships when something happens. This familial relationship took the forefront and it wasn't overshadowed by some annoying romance plot just for the sake of it, and I loved focusing on just their story.


Really Didn't See That Coming

I love love love twist endings, unreliable narrators, and when people go missing. All of these things add up to an awesome thriller for me, and Oliver certainly delivered. The only time I knew what was really happening was about three pages before it was revealed, which is I'm sure when Oliver wanted us to figure it out. I was so impressed with her delivery of clues and not giving anything away too quickly.


I've Got A Golden Ticket (er, um, an ARC)

I liked this book so much, and I attended a signing, so I bought a finished copy! That means I have an ARC, which I had SIGNED, to give away to one lucky reader!
Contest is US only and you must be 13 years or older to enter. Good luck!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

BEA 2015 Recap & Giveaway #1

I did it!
2015 was my very first BEA trip, and I'm so glad I went.
I'm going to do a little reflecting and book hauling and starting my series of giveaways with Everything, Everything, because PRH was awesome and gave me two copies, and I just want to share the love!

I took Wednesday off work because I was attending the blogger's conference, and I wanted the whole day to peruse the show floor and meet people. I live pretty close to the Javits, so I just walked. And for those of you who have never been here, this is the behemoth that was at the end of the block.

And that's definitely not the whole building. Wouldn't fit in one shot.
I attended the blogger's conference, and I met a lot of new bloggers I didn't know about, so that was a lot of fun. The first panel I went to included Sarah from Forever Young Adult, which is a site I've followed for YEARS, so that was fun. She was also insightful and funny. There were some other people too, but I don't remember who (one was a BookTuber? I know a lot of people watch BookTube, but I haven't really found any videos I've gotten into. Someone recommend something to me!).

The second panel was literally useless. It was supposed to be on how to quickly create content because blogging is such a high-paced sort of thing, but it ended up being out-of-touch women (it'd be like if my mom did this) trying to tell me that Instagram is important, and have you downloaded Twitter yet?

Mostly concentrating my energies on the show floor after the bloggers' conference, I ended up accumulating a lot of books very quickly — and soon I will be giving some of those away to those of you who didn't get to be here!

These are the middle grade and YA titles I accumulating (with a few of the adult ones mixed in and in the side in the right photo). I feel like I got a good mix of all age ranges and genres, and I'm pretty excited to dive into stuff I don't have any prior knowledge of (like George, a MG novel about a young transgender boy who just wants to play Charlotte in the school play, and The Dogs, a book that was talked up to me by its publisher Sourcebooks and sounds AMAZING).

(Keep going to see what's happening with that extra copy of Everything, Everything)

I also had tickets to BookCon. I knew ahead of time I may not like this event, but I live super close to the event hall, so tickets were cheap for me because I didn't have to consider travel, room & board, food, etc. I ended up only attending Saturday, and even then, I got overwhelmed and left early in the afternoon. I stood in an absurdly long line for the BFF panel, which was Sarah (FYA again) moderating the discussion between the wonderful Gayle Forman, Sarah Dessen, and Jenny Han. It was amazing, and these ladies are brilliant, and I totally want to grow up to be them (I'll also settle for being BFFs with them).

I stayed put for the following panel because 1.) I was in the second row and didn't want to give up that awesome location and 2.) it was Felicia Day next, whom I love because yay for nerds!

I loved listening to her talk about how she grew up and got interested in what she does. I was a little frustrated with the fans there (mostly teens) because she was there to promote her book, and I was genuinely interested in learning about it, but the questions were all geared toward specific things in television shows. But it was still great. She was super funny and weird and adorable as expected.

But I left BookCon real quick because lines were insane and people were greedy and running everywhere and the good evening panels were filled up hours before they began.

Was it worth it?
That's the big question. As a BEA newbie, it was fun to finally be able to go and see what all the fuss was about. The thing I most enjoyed was getting to finally meet bloggers I've been internet friends with for years but never met in real life.
But I am living in NYC. I didn't have to figure in travel costs, hotel rooms, food, transportation, or anything else other then my regular things I spend money on.

The event was chaotic, but fun. But I don't think it's worth the money and hassle to travel to attend, let alone vacation time needed to actually attend. I will most likely not go next year in Chicago (unless work sends me or I'm for some reason living in the Chicago area). Too much money for not enough payout.

I picked up so many books, I have to give some away!
The lovely people at the PRH booth handed me TWO copies of Everything, Everything, and let me tell you, it is BEAUTIFUL. It's a soft cover and has illustrations on the inside and the title is embossed, and I love it.

So one of you can win your very own copy, even if you didn't get to go to BEA (or you did, and the line was too long and you didn't get a copy of this one).

It is US only and you must be 13 years or older to enter.

Did you go to BEA? What did you like? Favorite book you picked up?
Missed BEA? What did you do instead? What book would you most want to win next out of my pile? (If enough people want one, I may just do a contest based on demand for an ARC!)