Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Broken Things by Lauren Oliver

Rating: ★★★ | 408 pages | Mystery YA | HarperCollins | Release Date: 10/02/2018
Mia Ferguson and Brynn McNally are the notorious Monsters of Brickhouse Lane. Five years ago they murdered their best friend Summer Marks in the exact way described in their fanfiction and then got away with it. But here’s the thing nobody will believe; they really didn’t do it. On the 5th anniversary of Summer’s death, the former friends reunite to find the truth.

Jess gave me this book for my birthday and it was so much in my wheelhouse. I’ve been a fan of Oliver’s writing since the Delirium series and one of the few true comes stories I’m fascinated by is the Slenderman stabbing. I was excited to see how these elements and fanfiction was going to be used and...I was a little disappointed in the execution. The inclusion of the fanfic didn’t feel natural or realistic and most of what they were “discovering” had no bearing on the mystery.

Also yes, yes, there are some strong Pretty Little Liars vibes, particularly in how the dead girl is treated and the way we go back and forth between past and present to learn not everything is what it seems.

While I enjoyed the ride, the ending did leave me (and judging by the Goodreads question section other readers) somewhat confused. I was left with more questions than answers about why exactly the killer did what they did.

Still, I want to read more mystery YA now !

*stares at copy of Sadie that’s been sitting on my nightstand for 2 years*

*Although, I would like to read something where a female character isn't the one victimized

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan

Rating: ★★★ | 408 pages | Contemporary | Putnam | Release Date: 4/30/2019
16-year-old Elouise doesn't love being the dancing hot dog at the dilated amusement park Magic Castle Playland but the park is her second home and she plans to make her summer working there her best one yet. But as summer commences absolutely nothing goes as she plans.

From the cover, I assumed Hot Dog Girl was a quicky romantic comedy but it feels more like a CW-style romance drama as we watch this group of teens navigate their relationships to each other. I thought the friendship between Elouise and her best friend, Seeley felt genuine and lived in. Elouise is bisexual and Seeley is a lesbian and their identities are part of the story and friendship but not the entire story.

I had some trouble with Elouise. She schemes and uses people (Seeley included) in a way that is meant to be adorable but gave me some Zach Morris is Trash vibes. Instead of facing consequences for her actions (like stealing someone's bank statement to see how much they make) she is seen as endearing and even rewarded for it. It made it hard for me to root for her getting her romance in the end.

I did this on audiobook and the narration was stellar. Brittany Presley’s bright, energetic voice molded to fit the cast of teens in the book. The audiobook features phone sound effects during the texting scenes and I thought it was a nice touch. As more books incorporate texting, e-mails and social media I hope we get more of these audio cues. It added a lot of clarity.

Hot Dog Girl is a somewhat tedious but endearing story of friendship, love and growing up.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

The Revolution of Birdie Randolph by Brandy Colbert

Rating: ★★★ +.5 | 6 hours 30 minutes | Contemporary | LBFYR | Release Date: 8/20/2019

16-year-old Dove “Birdie” Randolph obediently follows every expectation her strict mother sets out for her. But the summer before her junior year her estranged Aunt--recovering from addiction--moves in with the family and Birdie starts to challenge everything she’s ever been told.

This book delivered a lot of what I expect from Colbert; quiet, deeply character-driven, slice-of-life YAs that can serve as an introduction to sensitive topics to teens. I liked the journey Dove went on as she learns about addiction and recovery from her aunt and starts dating a new boy.

Dove’s mother owns a hair salon and I’m not sure I’ve seen a lot about black hair in YA and it was kind of refreshing but I struggled a lot with Dove’s mom as a character. She came off as judgemental and harsh and I’m not sure the book redeems her well enough.

A large part of this book revolves around a secret. As an adult who has consumed a lot of media, I literally clocked the secret from page one and genre-savvy teen readers will too. I wish Colbert had revealed it sooner because it happens so late in the book that by the time Dove learns it, there isn’t much room for it to really land. There is a secondary revelation that I didn’t see coming through.

This looks to be the first and only book narrated by Andrea Lang. I thought she did a great job giving voice to all the characters. She must also be a fast reader too because this book is over 300 pages but the audiobook is only 6 hours long.

Colbert delivers another story about coming-of-age when you have complicated family dynamics.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Siege and Storm and Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

Rating: ★★★ | 435 pages | Henry Holt and Co. | Fantasy | 06/04/2013 
In book two of the Grisha series Alina and Mal have deftly escaped the clutches of the Darkling and, with the help of a mysterious pirate,  head back to Ravka to raise an army. But the Darkling won't let them go without a fight. Now drunk with power, he sails the seas to bring Alina back to his side. 

I thought this book was just okay. Honestly, I'm reading the series so I can read Six of Crows (And so I can watch the Netflix Show).  Mal and Alina escape Ravka in the first book and I was intrigued by the idea of exploring other countries in this world, but somehow the characters literally end up back where they started.

First I'll talk about (SPOILER AHOY !) the swaggery pirate who turns out to be the prince of Ravka (I saw this one coming since the first mention of him in book one). I thought he was probably the most interesting character in the book, I could never tell what he was going to do next.

But I guess the important thing in this book is Alina's "transformation" I guess? Once back in Ravka she takes the place of The Darkling and her rise to power felt...unjustified. I never got the sense she was a true leader. I mean she only went to the Grisha school for like a year and just because she's the Sun Summoner she has leadership skills? I feel like there is this odd mix where the characters get to act like teens but are also trusted also do adult stuff? One minute she's getting all the Grisha to mix lunch tables and getting the nerds to go to P.E (I mean the Materialki go to fight training)  but also signing off on military request? I just don't feel the power from her.

Like, there are no actual adults who take charge during this whole kerfuffle. I know it's YA and teens are going to take the lead but there could just be ONE? Who could be like a mentor? 

All the while Mal gets really broody.  Mal becomes Alina's guard knowing it's the closest he can get to her. He broods because he has to watch her be with Nikolai and fight her connection to the Darkling. So to cope he becomes a drunk bare-knuckle brawler ? I mean...okay.

Seriously there is some sort of love rhombus going on because literally every dude in this book kisses Alina at some point and I'm just not feeling a lot of these ships. I get why some people might like the Darkling, IDK what it is about powerful brooding bad boy (and I totes saw what Bardogu was doing there with that scene of them kissing in the church and making vows. MMMHMM) but the character-type feels overused to me.

Also, what's the deal with the Apparat? I never understood why his character was a villain, he seemed well-meaning to me. I was kind of shocked how "evil" he sounded in the audiobook. I just don't understand the antagonism towards the religion in this book.

This book felt a lot like Insurgent in which a bunch of secondary characters are introduced who you just know are gonna die. 

IDK, I'm having a hard time being invested in this world. I can't keep any of the Grisha order's straight and it was even harder on audio when I couldn't flip back and forth. Whenever they say any of the Grisha types I just have no idea what they are talking about. Some of the orders are used interchangeably and some aren't.

Rating: ★★ | 422 pages | Henry Holt and Co. | Fantasy | 06/17/2014
I finally reached the end of a YA fantasy series and I don't have that much to say. Rise and Ruin does a tidy job of wrapping up Alina and Mal's story but overall I just felt kind of meh on it. It's the same basic song and dance of Alina and Mal escaping, trying to find the Amplifier and having a big battle with the Darkling.

There are a ton of side characters who die, but to be honest, I had no idea who any of them were so I can't say I was emotionally invested. I did enjoy hearing the backstory of Morozova and the Darkling origins but HOLY MACKEREL can we not with graphic violence against toddlers?

I can imagine fans of the series being miffed because of how little the Darkling is in this book. It wasn't until I was reading other reviews that I even noticed it.

Look, it made me really mad that they gave the Darkling a funeral. I'm sorry---but I am not for redeeming villains who murdered innocent people.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Silent Reading Party Experience

From Silent Reading Party Instagram

Last month we headed to The Graduate Hotel Richmond to par-tay...and by party, I mean read books!

I’d read about the Silent Reading Party in and wanted to see what it was all about. The reading parties are organized by Richmonder Sarah Choi, and in the year she’s been hosting the event it has really taken off. I woke up bright and early at 6:30AM the day ticket went on sale to make sure I got two tickets for Jess and I to attend. I was glad I did because the 50 tickets were sold out in less than a minute. I just think that’s so amazing that people are vying for tickets just to sit and read.

The day of the party we arrived early and from the moment you walk into the reading space, there is no talking. Sarah greeted the readers with a silent wave and we were given cards to take to the bar to order our drinks. I got the Treasure Island cocktail. It was good but maybe not what I needed--I’m more a caffeine drinker when it comes to reading beverages.

The reading venue was the lobby of a boutique hotel in downtown Richmond. I liked that there was some hustle and bustle from the lobby so it wasn’t totally silent. Sitting in a space with a bunch of people quietly reading was such a surreal scene to be apart of, you sort of feel like you are in an interactive art exhibit. There was an array of readers from all age groups reading on everything from physical books to e-readers to iPads.

Speaking of books, I was a total nerd about it and bought two books. I read some of Broken Girls by Lauren Oliver and two stories in Hungry Hearts anthology. Jess took along A Conjuring of Light by V.E Schwab and Polaris Rising by Jessie Mihalik

I have a short attention span when it comes to reading so we left after about an hour and half--which was fine because participants can come and go as they please.

Overall, I thought it was a cool event and it was fun to go to a place in the city that I wouldn't normally visit. I also just love that people are excited about reading! I totally see myself going again when I need to carve out some dedicated reading time.


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