Sunday, February 1, 2015

I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

  • Release Date: February 3, 2015
  • Pages: 400
  • Genre: Contemporary
  • Publisher: Henry Holt & Co (Macmillan)

Skylar Evans has one goal; get out of her small backwoods hometown of Creek View, California. With her acceptance letter to San Francisco State in hand the only thing standing between Skylar and the next step in her life is the summer. But when her mom loses her job and sobriety she's not sure the summer is going to end how she planned.

 Right away this book reminded me of one of my favorite chapters from Cheryl Strayed's Tiny Beautiful Things called How To Get Unstuck about Strayed's time as a counselor to girls whose success was measured by two things; not getting pregnant and getting a job at Taco Bell.  This sort of mentality is evident in Skylar's story, her best friend is a teen mom and her mom worked at Taco Bell for 18 years. Skylar herself is trying to get "unstuck" from this life cycle. Creek View is a place where future plans are very short sided and people drink and party to forget about their problems.

I feel like the setting of this book is very important to understanding the story. Creek View is this lower income area with a mix of lower income white people and Mexican migrant worker families. Creek Views represents a town we don't see a lot of in contemporary YA; most YAs tend take place in nondescript suburban bubbles.

Skylar is an art student (why is everyone and their mother in YA an artist ?) but it's never explained how she came across art considering where she grew up.  I had such a hard time believing the references to art. It felt like Demetrios was name dropping with no context. I'm really hard on this in books because one of my favorite books , Graffiti Moon, does an amazing job of integrating art into the story.

The love interest, Josh Mitchell, occasionally gets a POV that is written in this short stream of consciousness style. He is usually working through some PTSD or self actualization and at first I thought these were not going to work for me because I'm not one for angst, but they were actually some of the best parts of the book. As Josh recalled his time overseas I started to realize there was something real going on here and judging by all the Marines she thanks in the acknowledgments, I assume many of these moments are based on some real experiences.

I appreciated what Demetrios did with Josh. His POV was extremely unfiltered, I usually  have this tendency to gloss over cursing and in YA, but even I was like "we can say this???" I also felt like she kept Josh true to his upbringing. Yes, he's a Marine but he also grew up as kind of a douche-bro in a backwoods town so he can be politically incorrect at times. He uses the term "gay" to mean bad and calls people faggots, which is super cringe-worthy but also authentic.

I wish this book has been all in Josh's stream of consciousness  POV and maybe 200 pages shorter because I think it's a type of voice we don't see a lot in YA. Towards the end it felt like there had to be forced drama to keep the will they/won't they of Skylar and Josh's relationship and then it gets folded up all too neatly too quickly.

I think this book tells an important story and a type of story we need to see more of in the future, because the Iraq War has been a formative experience for many young men and women. Young adult fiction is having a moment in the sun right now and I think it's important we have books that look at the current events that are shaping young people's lives.

P.S. I'm calling this book getting a cover change in paperback. This cover  really doesn't tell you much of anything about what is inside book. It's almost looks like an adult mystery.

* ARC received for review from NetGalley

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Book Swap #1 ! The Golem and The Jinni / Fangirl

Jess and I did a book swap as a way to force the other to read and review a book. The theme for our first book swap was 5 star reviews; we gave each other a book we'd previously reviewed as five stars. Jess gave me The Golem in The Jinni and I gave her Fangirl.

  • Release Date: September 10th, 2013
  • Pages: 445
  • Genre: Contemporary
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin (MacMillan)
  • Jess' Rating: 

When Kat gives a book high marks I know I'm going to like it. In a lot of ways this book was my college experience; I went to college with a sibling and during this time that I stumbled (read ; lurked) across Livejournal and the crazy world of fandom. I also remember the last Harry Potter book coming out at the start of Freshmen year, that was kind of surreal.

Fangirl chronicles the first year of college for Cath, the ultimate  fangirl of the fictional Simon Snow novels. Her longest running fanfiction Carry On, Simon has legions of readers. For the first time Cath  is separated from her twin sister, moving away from her father and learning how to manage college, all while holding on to the fandom that meant so much for her.

It wasn't so much the fandom or freshmen firsts that really kept me reading. It was the way  Fangirl talked about Cath's journey as a writer. In college I secretly wondered what it was like to be in a creative writing class.  It was a little frustrating at first about how Cath is afraid to breakaway from fanfiction and this is something I wish the book would have delved a little more in.

I loved the side characters in this book, I feel like Regan and Levi are the people you will eventually meet in college. I even liked  Cath's sister's  roommate, the seemingly "basic" Courtney, who is described as being "subtle as a Spencer's Gift Shop", which I thought was a pretty funny description.  

I feel like Fangirl was really popular for a moment and then kind of faded. Personally, I would love to have some more time with these characters. Cath is the kind of character I would want Rowell to pick up and write again in 10 years, just to see where she is.

I've started reading Rowell's debut novel Attachments and to me the stories she tells, with Fangirl in particular, come off to me along the lines of women's fiction (ala Lauren Weisnberger with a little less glamour), I think it has something to do with the writer-minded-girl-with-a-plan protagonist backed up by a cast of quirky characters and nice guy love interest.

I think this book will appeal to the Harry Potter generation, in many ways this book is a love letter to them. I don't usually do contemporary YA, but this book had me wanting to read "just one more chapter" so for that alone I can give this book 5 stars.

  • Release Date: April 23, 2013
  • Pages: 496
  • Genre: Literary Urban Fantasy
  • Publisher: Harper Collins

  • Kat's Rating: 

 My default is usually contemporary, but Jess' five star reviews have led me  to some amazing non-contemporary novels like Legend, Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Divergent. When I saw her glowing review of  The Golem and the Jinni I expected I was in for a treat.

But while this book was five stars for her it wasn't exactly a five star for me. The reading experience reminded me of when I read another literary novel last year, Never Let Me Go, I knew I was reading something good and important, but I couldn't get lost in it. I had to constantly reorient myself in the book and its mythologies. I do attribute some of this to the fact that the font in the paperback is fairly small and kind of stylized.

 Pretty much everything you need to know about The Golem and The Jinni is right on the cover. It's the story of a Golem, named Chava and a Jinni named Ahmad who find themselves in turn of the century New York City navigating close knit immigrant neighborhoods.

  You don't have to look far for praise for this book.This book is good and there is no doubt about it. Wecker's writing is amazing, she easily weaves together different narratives and creates characters with rich backgrounds that pay homage to Syrian and Jewish backgrounds. I actually really enjoyed the historical aspect, because I learned a lot. Like how at that time most Syrian immigrants were Catholic not Muslim.

If you are looking for historical fiction with a flair, or delving into non-Western mythology then The Golem and The Jinni serves up something delightful.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

National Readathon Day is This Saturday !

When I first heard about National Readathon Day on the Books on The Nightstand Podcast I thought it sounded awesome. What is National Readathon Day ? It's an event created by Penguin Random House where readers across the world will use the hours from 12 Noon  to 4PM on Saturday Jan. 24th 2015 to do nothing but read. You can do it in a school, in the library, at home or wherever and don't forget to #timetoread.

National Readathon Day is also a fundraiser for the National Book Foundation. You can raise money yourself or join a team and donate what you can to them. I'll be joining the Books on The Nightstand Team and I encourage you to because it's an awesome podcast hosted by two book lovers/ PRH employees.

Learn more about National Readathon Day on their website ! 

In many states libraries and bookstores  are hosting reading events. We have a couple near me in Virginia, but I'll probably be participating either from my couch or at a local coffee shop !

I'm not sure what I'll feel like reading that day. I have a little bit of  everything loaded up.

Kindle book- A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray
Hardcover - Like No Other by Una LaMarche
Paperback -  A Lot Like Love by Julie James
Graphic Novel - Saga by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Book Review : Suddenly Royal by Nichole Chase

  • Release Date: April 23rd 2013
  • Genre: New Adult/ Women's Fiction
  • Pages : 464
  • Publisher: Avon
The story of an American woman who discovers she is a duchess  sounded a lot more interesting when I started this book than when I finished. This concept of normal women finding themselves mixed up with royalty is nothing new with movies like The Princess Diaries and The Prince and Me but I couldn't find the same  charm in Suddenly Royal.

Samantha Rousseau is a graduate student working towards her PhD and taking care of her cancer stricken stepfather. Her life is turned upside down when it's discovered she is a long lost duchess from the France-expy country Lilaria. Suddenly this American girl is plucked from obscurity and into the world of royalty, paparazzi and fame all while  keeping her eyes out for Prince Alex aka Prince Yummy.

Chase executed the premise well, explaining how the families are being brought together but there wasn't much of a follow through as far as plot was concerned.

 I don't know if it was the cookie cutterhero or the low ball conflict but the more I thought about it the more I realized this wasn't the kind of story I expected. We get a lot of Sam going to Lilaria and about her responsibilities,  but honestly it wasn't that interesting. . . just a lot of people telling her things.  I wanted something more akin to the  first season of Downton Abbey. I wanted more awkward dinner parties, culture shock,  witty banter and actual tension between the leads..

The start of their romance sort of comes out of nowhere, I mean Prince Alex was so perfect he didn't have to try. He's a handsome blonde haired blue eyed prince, who runs a charity for a cause the heroine is passionate about. All of the men in the books (Except the gay ones and the one who is the hero in the next book) were portrayed as creepy jerks who only served to make Prince Alex even  more likeable. Prince Alex's only flaw is that he had a sex scandal a while ago and  that is really only mentioned off hand. There was nothing interesting about him.

For me this book read more like YA then NA. I mean sure the character are college aged but it is a pretty tame story until the last few  chapters which get unusually steamy, and just don't mesh with the rest of the book.

Suddenly Royal is one out of three in a series and this book is odd  to me.  I would have though the other boos would have been about the other found royabs, butthe second book Recklessly Royal is about Prince Alex's sister Cathy and the third book Reluctantly Royal is about his offhandedly mentioned brother, Maxwell.

Suddenly Royal is a lukewarm romance that lost its charm for me. I want a little bit more conflict and work for the HEA.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Kat Joins Bout of Books (Better Late Than Never ! )

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 5th and runs through Sunday, January 11th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 12 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

Wow, I didn't realize Bout of Books was this week ! This year the hosts of Bout of Books are doing no goals, which I think is great ! But I do want to list which books I'm going to be reading. It turned into a lot of contemporary YA, so I thew in some sci-fi adult titles. I'll be updating on Twitter and Goodreads !

BookBox: embed book widget, share book list

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

15 Books We Can't Wait For In 2015

I cannot believe 2015 is here ! 2014 was not the year of books for me, but with my new found interest in the romance genre and a new audiobook project I'm working on  I hope this will be the year of the book. Here are some books that are on Kat and I's  TBR list this year !

1. Boy In The Black Suit by Jason Reynolds  (January 6, 2015)

Reynolds sophomore YA novel is the story of a boy who works at a a funeral parlor and meets a girl who has learned to deal with too much. I'm really curious to read about  the funeral industry aspect. - Jess

2. Fairest and Winter by Marissa Meyer (January 2015 and November 2015)

The Lunar Chronicles is my favorite Sci-Fi/Dystopian  YA series and this year we get double the Lunar Chronicles; one novella plus the final book in the series ! - Jess

3. When by Victoria Laurie (January 15, 2015)

This is the YA debut from cozy paranormal mystery writer Victoria Laurie. It follows a girl who can see death dates on people's foreheads. She uses her ability to make money, but what happens when a client go missing ? I can't wait to get caught up in this mystery. - Jess

4. Anne & Henry by Dawn Ius (November 2015)
A contemporary YA interpretation of the relationship between Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII ? So. . . is he going to cut off her head ? - Jess

5. The Winner's Crime (March 3, 2015)

So, even though the Winner's Curse wasn't a winner for me, I want to give this book a second chance. This time I'm thinking audio. - Jess

6. New Adult

I've been really getting into romance and now I want to connect the YA and romance bridge and try some New Adult. This year I'm hoping to read some of the favorites like J. Lynn, M. Leighton and Colleen Hoover. - Jess

7. Because You'll Never Meet Me (June 2, 2015)

I'm going to say it, there's a lot of sicklit going on this year, but this story has an interesting angle; a  boy with an electric pace maker is best friends with a boy  who is allergic to electricity. - Kat

8. Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Sarah Dessen wrote a new novel. That is all. (although this book sounds a lot like The Truth About Forever) - Kat

9. When I Wake by Elizabeth Norris

This book exists in an alternate universe where prohibition was never repealed. I get  White Cat vibes with its focus on a girl tangled up in organized crime.

10. Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn

I discovered Kheun in 2014 and her twisty, psychological books put my head through a blender. I'm so excited for her new book. It follows three teens who are uncovering dark secrets. In interviews Kuehn has described this books as more like thriller.

11. The Raven Boys #4

Why must it end ????

12. Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry
I binged five season of Sons of Anarchy last year, but had to stop because of the And I Must Scream and  I've been hankering for more motorcycle club romances to fill the void. I really hope there is less misogyny since this is YA

13. Hello, I Love You (June 2015)

I've been following Katie Stout's book blog since I started blogging and am excited to see her first book coming out. It's about an American girl who attends boarding school in Korea where sparks fly with her roomate's brother--a Korean popstar.

14.  None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio (April 2015)

A high school homecoming queen discovers she's intersex, meaning despite appearing female on the outside she is genetically male. This is something I've never seen addressed in a YA book and I'll be interested in learning more about what intersexuality means. Plus, I.W. Gregorio is kind of awesome; she's the VP of Development for We Need Diverse Books and a surgeon ! - Kat  

15. Under The Lights by Shannon Stacey (May 2015)

This isn't YA, but a romance that kind of centers around high school. This  new series about the golden boys of a championship football team returning to their town 14 years later.  The first one is about a former player coming back to help his old coach only to start falling for the coach's daughter. - Kat

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Jess Joins 2015 Diversity on the Shelf Reading Challenge.

My Little Pocketbooks

BookBox: embed book widget, share book list
It has been a while since I've done any reading challenges, but this year I want to dedicate a large portion  my reading and reviewing to diverse books. To help me keep track I'm going to sign up for the 2015 Diversity On The Shelf Challenge hosted by Alysia at My Little Pocket Books !

I'm starting out modestly at the 1st Shelf Level, but hope to move up

1st Shelf: Read 1-6 books

For more information and if you would like to sign up click here and head over to My Little Pocket Book


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