2 In Review

Review: Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

Review: Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. ChoiEmergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on March 27, 2018
Pages: 394
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads
five-stars

For Penny Lee high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her. When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind.
Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a café and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him.
When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch—via text—and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other.

Have you ever read a book and just loved the characters so much you want to scoop them up, roll them in a grandma afghan, give them a home-cooked meal of meatloaf and mashed potatoes, and then let them sleep soundly forever? Because that’s what this book did to me. I am not the biggest fan of new adult because I find 98% of NA stories to be totally unrealistic as far as the romances go, but this one shocked me into submission by being absolutely perfect.

Review: 

How I’d Describe This Book to a Friend

This is, as you might have guessed by now, a new adult romance. It also happens to be an own voices book, and even better, it’s lovely. Emergency Contact is told in dual perspective, alternating between our two main characters.

 Penny: Penny is both me at 18 and not me at 18, and I love and adore her for it. Her inner monologue is hilarious, and she thinks with a writer’s brain and a giant heart. She was raised by her single mom who is basically … well, she’s Amy Poehler’s character from Mean Girls.

Penny, meanwhile, would rather fade into the background and write about it. She is enrolled in college to be a creative writer, a novelist. Penny’s favorite book is the Maus graphic novel series. She is complex and thoughtful, attached to her precious rose gold iPhone like a lifeline, and cannot tolerate stupidity. I fell instantly in love with her the moment I was able to get into her head, and just wanted to give the damn kid a hug. I still do. She is an old soul, and with that comes a heavy responsibility and burden on your shoulders. Anyone else I’d worry about, but not Penny. She’s a beast.

 Sam: Oh, sweet baby angel Sam. Sam is 21, a recovering alcoholic with a philandering ex girlfriend, and a love for documentary filmmaking, even though he is currently excelling in his position as a baker and barista for his favorite local coffee shop. I say “local,” because it’s very close to his home. So close, in fact, that his home is actually just a mattress on the floor of the domicile attached to the coffee shop. But Sam has a good head on his shoulders, and he has a plan to persevere. Until his ex-stepsister walks into his coffee shop one afternoon during college orientation with her new roommate, a shy girl who seems obsessed with germs and has his same shoes. Her name is Penny.

One day, Sam passes out from an anxiety attack on the street, and Penny happens to stumble upon him. She remembers him as her roommate’s family member of some sort from the coffee shop, and they both realize Sam doesn’t really have an emergency contact to go to if something like this happens again. So they put each other in their respective phones, and boom – emergency contacts. Or witty banter partners. Or, maybe …

The Bottom Line

I have a very small list of realistic slow-burn romances that I can refer to, and currently the only one I can name is Eliza & Her Monsters by the indelible Francesca Zappia. Emergency Contact will join that book up there, though, as a shining example of how a realistic romance should go. These characters are real – they leave their mark on you, and you feel as if you can walk around a corner and stumble upon one of them, eating a cheeseburger in the window of a McDonalds or flipping through books on film together at Barnes & Noble. These two are beautiful, and I just love them and their journey to pieces. If you like contemporary fiction at all, please do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Emergency Contact – it’ll give you all the warm fuzzies in all the right ways.

 

“Loving someone was traumatizing. You never knew what would happen to them out there in the world. Everything precious was also vulnerable.” 

five-stars
0 In WWW

WWW – April 18, 2018 Edition

Hey there innertubers, it’s Wednesday, and we all know what that means – it’s time for WWW! Which I will always and forever call “Whatcha Wreading Wednesday” in my head, and you can’t stop me.

Anyway! This beautiful gem of a weekly post is brought to you by Taking on a World of Words, and on this blessed and hallowed day, we answer three questions:
What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So without further ado, let’s jump in to this week’s post!

What are you currently reading?
Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi as a physical copy, and The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll from Netgalley on my Kindle app.

2.  What did you recently finish reading?
Bring Me Back
by B.A. Paris, via Netgalley. I won’t be posting a review on this one because yikes. These are my annual “so terrible they’re good” guilty pleasure books, and this one was next-level terrible.

3. What do you think you’ll read next?
I never know what Netgalley book I’ll be reading next because it could change at any moment – I try to read them in order of closest release date. But the next physical book I will pick up will probably be Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, before I totally forget everything I read in Illuminae!

Have you read any of these? Got any thoughts? Let me know down below!

7 In Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Freebie

Top Ten Tuesday is an awesome weekly theme post written by Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl, even though I am super mad at her right now because this week’s topic is a “freebie,” and that is way too much leeway for me to work productively – I don’t do well under pressure, as a natural-born procrastinator.

I figured I’d remedy this by looking at other people’s posts, but then I just felt like everyone else in the world was more brilliant than I was, so I had a small pity party, drank some coffee, and put on my big girl panties.

ANYWAY. All this to say, this week’s theme for me is:

Top Ten Books That I Think Would Make Excellent Video Games

I love video games, and if I am not reading I am probably on my PC, playing Overwatch or watching a friend’s Twitch stream. So it felt only natural to combine two of my greatest, lifelong loves into one TTT post. There are a lot of books that I read and think, “wow, this would make a great movie/TV series,” but I also tend to think of books as more interactive! So without further ado, here are ten books that I think would be amazing to play out in real-time as a video game:

  • – I am not putting Harry Potter here because it’s too obvious! Assume I have that as number 11 on this list, because duh. We all want that Harry Potter MMORPG and I am no exception.
  1. Matilda. Can you just imagine running around a school, using your powers to manipulate time and space and also to beat up your evil principal? Smuggling books into your house so you can increase your knowledge stat without your parents finding out?
  2. Gone Girl. I know! But wait. Hear me out. You play as Amy, and your job is to plant as much doubt in your husband’s mind as you can. It is a game of psychological manipulation, and in order to win you must fly under the radar while planting seeds of distrust, all the while still acting normal.
  3. Truly Devious. Maureen Johnson’s latest book would make a perfect mystery video game, and I am certain that as the series goes on, my opinion on this will just grow stronger. You couldn’t possibly go wrong with an open-world murder mystery game that takes place in a boarding school.
  4. Redwall. I think this has been done before, but I mean done right. A World of Warcraft-level MMORPG where you choose a certain animal faction and train up to conquer your enemies, big raids on a certain fox den or mouse’s abbey … it’s perfect.
  5. Red Rising. Is it cheating if I haven’t read this yet? Probably. But do I know enough about the plot to know that it would make a damn good space video game? Yes, yes I do. If you won’t accept it, then pretend I said Ender’s Game, because it would also be a good one.
  6. The Martian. Outer space, Mars simulation survival RPG where you have to plant crops, watch your oxygen supply and try not to die as your peers come to try to rescue you. You know you want it. I’d sneak in Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century references somewhere, too.
  7. Ready Player One, if done in a certain way, would make a super fun MMORPG. I think this would only work if two criteria are met: it has to be a live Easter egg search, and the topic that you must master in order to find them will rotate. So sometimes it’s for Chemistry nerds, sometimes it’s for people who know too much about Harry Potter. But even if you don’t know the subject, you’ll still learn a lot by playing along. Take that, modern American education system.
  8. Cinder, and all the other Lunar Chronicles books. I am thinking a Skyrim-esque game here, not an MMO but just an RPG. You select your character’s species and explore space, trying to overthrow the bad guys while still worrying about stuff like your cyborg self being noticed or staving off your wolf tendencies.
  9. Percy Jackson. Preferably the entire universe. An MMORPG where you can select your parentage and then play as a demigod, running around with your bunk mates, exploring the world, killing the bad guys and winning contests for Camp Half Blood.
  10. Call of the Wild, or any other “animal must get through (issue) to save (place/person)” story. I know this is kind of a wildcard, and I haven’t read it since I was in elementary school. But my favorite part of the Zelda game where you could turn into a wolf was being a wolf and just running around town, doing wolf stuff like chasing cats and terrorizing old ladies. I think it would be a ton of fun to play as a wolf and lead a team of sled dogs through Alaska or something.

So there you have it! What do you think of my list? Is it missing something? What books would you include? Let’s talk down below!

1 In Review

Review: Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Jar of Hearts by Jennifer HillierJar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier
Published by Minotaur Books on June 12, 2018
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Goodreads
four-half-stars

This is the story of three best friends: one who was murdered, one who went to prison, and one who's been searching for the truth all these years . . .
When she was sixteen years old, Angela Wong—one of the most popular girls in school—disappeared without a trace. Nobody ever suspected that her best friend, Georgina Shaw, now an executive and rising star at her Seattle pharmaceutical company, was involved in any way. Certainly not Kaiser Brody, who was close with both girls back in high school.
But fourteen years later, Angela Wong's remains are discovered in the woods near Geo's childhood home. And Kaiser—now a detective with Seattle PD—finally learns the truth: Angela was a victim of Calvin James. The same Calvin James who murdered at least three other women.
How far will someone go to bury her secrets and hide her grief? How long can you get away with a lie? How long can you live with it?

April has been an amazing month for domestic thrillers and me. I have loved them for ages, but they don’t always love me back, and I am oftentimes leery to try, having been burnt so many times by authors who fancy themselves the next Gillian Flynn. I am so glad that I took a chance on Jar of Hearts, though – and as someone who primarily reads YA fiction and has to be in a very particular mood to appreciate the nuances of adult fiction, I promise this one is worth it.

Review: 

How I’d Describe This Book to a Friend

Georgina – “Geo” to those close to her – and Angela are the very best of friends. Cheerleaders and confidants, they do everything together, along with their third wheel best friend Kaiser who acts as part body guard, part droopy-eyed puppy dog. Together, the three of them have a happy, carefree high school experience, until one day they stop at a gas station and meet Calvin.

Calvin is older. Calvin is the cool, unobtainable guy. And he fancies Geo – second fiddle to Angela, always the bridesmaid Geo. This creates a lot of friction in their otherwise happy friendship, but the girls eventually rally and buoy past it, until one fateful night when suddenly nothing can buoy anywhere any more. One night, backlit by alcohol and stale pizza, Angela is murdered by Calvin. Geo knows this, because Geo was there, too.

24 years later, Geo is 30 years old, engaged to a high-profile businessman – and a very successful businesswoman herself. So it’s with a mix of trepidation and relief when she is arrested for the death of her best friend, all these years ago. Geo is taken to help prosecute her ex boyfriend Calvin, and then escorted to prison herself to serve a five year sentence. But right as Geo is released from prison, murders begin to happen again. And they’re taking a very familiar shape …

Told from Geo’s perspective in two timelines (16 year old Geo and 30-35 year old Geo), we learn the inner machinations of a very complicated young woman, one you set out to hate and wind up in love with by the conclusion of the book. Geo is nuanced and has had a rough life. We feel for her at 16, dating a terribly abusive young man that she can’t seem to get out from underneath, and again at 30, finally imprisoned for a crime she committed so long ago and tried to put behind her as best she could, and again at 35, released from prison and trying to put behind her a past that just won’t stop rising from the ashes.

It took me until the end of the book to “get” the twist, and the only ding I have against this book is the epilogue – it ranks up there with the Harry Potter-level epilogues I’ve read, in the league of “what just happened to this plot?!” endings wrapped up with a shiny red bow where it’s just not realistic for there to be any sort of bow, much less the giant “I just bought this brand new car” sort of bow that you see in these epilogues.

The Bottom Line

Jar of Hearts is a thrill ride from start to finish. Geo is flawed, but ultimately likable as our main character, and I think we can all see at least a small part of ourselves in her. It doesn’t take a lot of work to remember what it’s like to be 16 years old and jealous – of your best friend’s love life, of her clothes, her other friends, of anything at all – and Geo really puts you back in those awkward, ungainly shoes again. If this book were a perfume, it would smell of cinnamon and wood smoke, and it would cling to your clothes long after you’ve finished turning the pages. Look for Jar of Hearts on shelves on June 12, 2018, and remember: it’s never too late for the past to haunt you.

four-half-stars
0 In Review

Review: Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi

Review: Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani ChokshiAru Shah and the End of Time (Pandava Quartet, #1) by Roshani Chokshi
Published by Rick Riordan Presents on March 27, 2018
Pages: 368
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads
five-stars

Twelve-year-old Aru Shah has a tendency to stretch the truth in order to fit in at school. While her classmates are jetting off to family vacations in exotic locales, she'll be spending her autumn break at home, in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, waiting for her mom to return from her latest archeological trip. Is it any wonder that Aru makes up stories about being royalty, traveling to Paris, and having a chauffeur?
One day, three schoolmates show up at Aru's doorstep to catch her in a lie. They don't believe her claim that the museum's Lamp of Bharata is cursed, and they dare Aru to prove it. Just a quick light, Aru thinks. Then she can get herself out of this mess and never ever fib again.
But lighting the lamp has dire consequences. She unwittingly frees the Sleeper, an ancient demon whose duty it is to awaken the God of Destruction. Her classmates and beloved mother are frozen in time, and it's up to Aru to save them.
The only way to stop the demon is to find the reincarnations of the five legendary Pandava brothers, protagonists of the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata, and journey through the Kingdom of Death. But how is one girl in Spider-Man pajamas supposed to do all that?

Aru Shah is a liar, and I love her for it. A twelve year old girl who wants nothing more than to fit in in her middle school, Aru embellishes the truth when it’s convenient and manipulates the truth at times to make friends. She is not full of flowery, adult language and she often gets words wrong when she tries to define them in context. The only thing bigger than her imagination is her heart, and she spends this entire book wearing the same pair of Spider-Man pajamas.

Rating: 

How I’d Describe This Book to a Friend

Aru Shah reminds me, in many ways, of myself as a preteen. I remember wanting to be cool so desperately that I lied on the school bus and told my friend April that I had seen The Sixth Sense, even though I hadn’t because everyone else had. When they asked me to talk about a scene I’d seen in the film, I blanched. I still recall feeling that hot shame roll across my face like a tidal wave: a sensation I know Aru would understand intimately.

So when Aru lights a lamp that her mother has always made her promise to never touch, just on a dare to prove to her classmates that she can be cool after all, the world changes – the Sleeper is awakened, an evil man who will awaken Vishnu and bring forth the end of the days. Suddenly she is thrust into the world of Indian gods and goddesses, and learns she is a Pandava – basically, an Indian Power Ranger if the Power Rangers were also demigods.

Seriously! Look!

There were five Pandava brothers in the legends she grew up learning, but little did she know that they were reincarnated, and that she was the latest iteration of one of them. And now, she has to put a stop to all of this destruction before the Sleeper gets a chance to annihilate everything Aru holds dear. She is joined primarily by another of the Pandava “brothers” – Mini, a young girl who is short in stature and big in mentality, who knows a little about everything and has a terrible fear of anything that could remotely harm or cause death. Together, they present enough oppositional force to make the dialogue snappy and fun, and the game we play alongside them delicious witty and clever.

The Bottom Line

Aru is flawed because she is human. I rarely see protagonists who are truly, intrinsically flawed, and it really heartened me to see Aru mature and progress through these difficult emotions, of just wanting to be liked, of fitting in. I personally don’t know a lot about 98% of the Indian deities, with an exception of the ones everyone knows (Vishnu, Ganesh, etc). This taught me a whole lot about the mythos of this incredibly deep, multi-faceted religion, and I loved every minute of it. These are not just a couple of kids herp-derping their way across the landscape to defeat evil, they are two nuanced children who have tempers, fight, get flustered and blustery. They lie, they screech, they throw things. They might be demigods, but damn it, they’re twelve. I love Roshani Chokshi for that.

If you enjoy Rick Riordan’s books and are looking for something a little different, pick this one up. It’s got girl power in spades, no insta-love or love interests (yay middle grade lit!), and best of all it’s an own voices story! I just adored this book, and I can’t wait to meet the other Pandava sisters in 2019.

Actual footage of me reading Aru Shah

five-stars
0 In Review

Review: The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian

Review: The Flight Attendant by Chris BohjalianThe Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian
on March 13, 2018
Format: Audiobook
Goodreads
five-stars

Cassandra Bowden is no stranger to hungover mornings. She's a binge drinker, her job with the airline making it easy to find adventure, and the occasional blackouts seem to be inevitable. She lives with them, and the accompanying self-loathing. When she awakes in a Dubai hotel room, she tries to piece the previous night back together, already counting the minutes until she has to catch her crew shuttle to the airport. She quietly slides out of bed, careful not to aggravate her already pounding head, and looks at the man she spent the night with. She sees his dark hair. His utter stillness. And blood, a slick, still wet pool on the crisp white sheets. Afraid to call the police--she's a single woman alone in a hotel room far from home--Cassie begins to lie. She lies as she joins the other flight attendants and pilots in the van. She lies on the way to Paris as she works the first class cabin. She lies to the FBI agents in New York who meet her at the gate. Soon it's too late to come clean-or face the truth about what really happened back in Dubai. Could she have killed him? If not, who did?

I spend much of my life chasing my next Gone Girl-esque thrill. Ever since I read Gillian Flynn’s domestic thriller that turned the world upside down and ruined many a first date, I’ve sought the next book that gave me the same reaction. What reaction?

This reaction.

The only other book I’ve found since then has been Big Little Lies, and I read that a long time ago. So when I was looking for something to spend an Audible credit on, I flipped to the mystery & thriller section and saw that The Flight Attendant had just come out as a new release, and better still, it was receiving great acclaim. So I gave it a download, and listened to its 11-odd hours over the course of many a work commute and a road trip. I finished it last night driving home from grad school night classes, and felt the same jaw-dropping sensation that had washed over me when I closed the cover of Gone Girl. This is a good one, friends.

My Rating: 

How I’d Describe This Book To A Friend

Cassandra Bowden is an asshole, plain and simple. An alcoholic who grew up in a broken home, she pursues her rockstar flight attendant life with irreverent gusto – sleeping with anyone she’d like, drinking herself sick and then waking up and doing it all over again. She is reliable with her job, though not so much in other, more personal matters.

This is how I pictured Cassie the entire time.

One day, on a flight to Dubai, Cassie takes a liking to a man named Alex in her section on the plane. After some mild-mannered flirting, she goes back to his hotel room with him, for a night of drinking and debauchery. At one point a colleague of his named Miranda comes over, bringing more liquor, before she goes back to her hotel room. Cassie has every intention of going back to her own hotel – she has to work the next day, after all – but she must have blacked out, because when she wakes up, she’s still in Alex’s room. He’s still there next to her, sleeping solidly. So Cassie is a little shocked, to say the least, when she adjusts her hungover brain to the light and sees that Alex isn’t moving not because he’s a sound sleeper, but because he is super dead – somebody slit his throat in the night. But Cassie wouldn’t have done that, right? She blacked out sometimes, but not that badly … right? But if she didn’t do it, then who did?

What follows is a slow-burning thriller told in alternating perspectives – Cassie and Miranda. We know early on that Miranda is who killed Alex – this is not a spoiler, it’s blatantly obvious 20 pages into the book. What keeps the plot moving forward compulsively is that we know what Cassie doesn’t – we know who did it, and we are in Miranda’s head – we know what she plans to do next. She should have killed Cassie, and now she has to go finish what she started …

The Bottom Line

I didn’t see the last 100 pages or so of this book coming. It was a total surprise, which was amazing. Time flew by while listening to this audiobook, and I loved every minute of it. There was something about Cassie’s suffering that brought on a crazy amount of schadenfreude.

Like dis.

She knows she is a train wreck. You know she is a train wreck. But she is an addict, and by definition, it’s not easy to just cold turkey kick these habits. You’ll feel for Cassie while at the same time wanting to just smack her upside the head. While flawed, she is truly a good person deep down and is one of the most realistic, nuanced main characters I’ve ever read – she is not perfect, nor do we expect her to be.

I highly suggest getting on a flight with Cassie and experiencing her life – you’ll never look at the other passengers on a plane ride the same way again.

five-stars
5 In Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I’m Scared to Re-read

I will admit that when I first saw the subject line for this week’s TTT, I assumed it would be like that episode of Friends where Joey puts his copy of The Shining in the refrigerator, and we’d have to name ten books we were afraid to re-read because they scared us.

This is, however, not the case this week. Maybe I will suggest “top ten freezer books” to Jana, though, who runs Top Ten Tuesdays over at her blog, That Artsy Reader Girl. What this week’s topic actually is about is the top ten books you read once, loved, and are afraid to re-read now because they won’t be as loved the second time around, for whatever reason. I haven’t actually been able to name ten books for the last few weeks, so I am pumped that I can actually name ten this time!

  1. Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
    This pretty much goes for all of the Sookie Stackhouse books. My childhood best friend brought the first one of these books into class one day – a recent acquisition from the “new releases” library shelf – and told me I had to read it. So I did. I know for a fact this book contained the first sexual imagery I’d ever read – something about Bill in the shower? – and I read that scene a few times over. We read these books as they came out until there were maybe six or so, then we stopped. I know now that if I went back and tried to pick these up again, it would be an abysmal failure – these books are not written well.
  2. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
    I read these first books by Cassie Clare before I knew about the drama concerning plagiarism, and the fact that it was a weird, uncomfortable fanfiction gone wrong. I actually enjoyed them – and I was too old for them really, 20 years old or so in college – but I know if I looked back at them now, I’d be appalled that I’d given money to this franchise. I just can’t do it.
  3. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
    This should really speak for itself, but I used to love these books. I remember going to the library to get my release-day copy of New Moon. But at some point between books 2 and 3, I realized that Edward Cullen was a weird dude. Then I learned about the Harry Potter fanfiction and the thinly veiled Mormon agenda underlying the plot and I just … no.
  4. Storm Front by Jim Butcher
    I loved and adored the Dresden Files for years, having read over half of the series. But at some point I went back to pick up the first book in the series and get reacquainted with Harry Dresden, and I was appalled to discover that my memories were pretty rose-colored, because this guy was a grade-A misogynist, who rationalized every move he made and thought of most women as objects that were either beautiful or ugly (or had weirdly dainty hands?). I just couldn’t do it again, and I am sorry because I know he gets better at writing as the series goes on … but nothing will fix this one for me.
  5. White Oleander by Janet Fitch
    I am not a big re-reader, if I am being honest. But in high school, I read this book like it was my Bible. Tragically, 11 years removed from the high school setting, I remember almost nothing from this book. Yet when I recall it, I have a warm, effervescent emotion bubbling up inside of me – this is a nostalgic book for me, one that reminds me of a time in my life when I was confused, but so were my peers. I think if I picked it back up again today, I wouldn’t get that magical nostalgia back – so I don’t want to even try.
  6. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
    I enjoyed this book well enough when I first read it, right when it came out. But once people started pointing out the problems with it – how the main love interest is pretty problematic, how people cheat with an alarming regularity in Perkins’ world and everyone seems to be OK with it for some reason – I couldn’t ever get back into the mindset that this was a sweet book. It’s sweet … if you like cheating on your partner.
  7. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
    The biggest appeal of this book to me was the “whodunit” aspect – we had no idea who had killed and who had been killed. I absolutely adored this book and would recommend it to anyone looking for a little light reading material, but I have no impetus to reread it now that I know the story between the covers, even if it is excellent.
  8. We Were Liars by e. lockheart
    I want my money and hours I wasted on this book back. This is one of the worst “twists” I’ve ever read and I will take that opinion to my grave. Sorry to everyone who loved this one but I just … no.
  9. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
    I read this when it was a new release, and loved it. But like several others on this list, I realized how problematic it was long after I’d finished it. It has an awesome premise, but the world really don’t need any more egocentric white men telling us how they are the best at life, you know?
  10. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
    This book messed me up in a way I can’t even explain. I mean, seriously. But I can really only get that total “whaaat?!” once out of a book, and unless we invent some sort of mind-erasure tool that lets us re-read books like we’ve never read them before, I’d never get the same enjoyment out of Gone Girl the second time that I did the first.

I’m just glad that I was actually able to name ten books this week! A promising start to the week.

0 In Review

Review: The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene GooThe Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo
on May 8, 2018
Pages: 288
Format: ARC
Goodreads
four-stars

From the author of I Believe in a Thing Called Love, a laugh-out-loud story of love, new friendships, and one unique food truck.
Clara Shin lives for pranks and disruption. When she takes one joke too far, her dad sentences her to a summer working on his food truck, the KoBra, alongside her uptight classmate Rose Carver. Not the carefree summer Clara had imagined. But maybe Rose isn't so bad. Maybe the boy named Hamlet (yes, Hamlet) crushing on her is pretty cute. Maybe Clara actually feels invested in her dad’s business. What if taking this summer seriously means that Clara has to leave her old self behind?
With Maurene Goo's signature warmth and humor, The Way You Make Me Feel is a relatable story of falling in love and finding yourself in the places you’d never thought to look.

Let me begin by saying that, first of all, you should not come within a five-foot radius of this book if you are hungry. This book is meant for a hot, sticky summer day. Preferably poolside, with a nice drink and a basket of greasy fries. You can, of course, read this hungry, but this is a book where the main setting is a food truck that loves to detail how its Korean-Brazilian food is made. Yeah, exactly. Grab a snack, you’ll thank me later.

Review

How I’d Describe This Book to a Friend

First of all, this is another amazing own voices novel. These are popping up all over the place this year, and I am here for it – way to be, 2018! To take this one one step further, there are no (prominent) white people in this entire almost-300 page book. I know, right? Our main characters are Brazilian, Korean, African-American, the list goes on – but nobody is lily white. That is something I take for granted, as someone who is sometimes too pale for the palest shade of foundation made and whose Norwegian roots are stronger than a tree trunk. It was so refreshing to read a book that lovingly gave everyone else time in the spotlight, and I commend Ms. Goo for that.

Our main character is Clara. I will say this much: Clara sucks. At first, at least. She is an only child, born to now-separated parents when they were very young. Now she lives with her early-thirties dad in Los Angeles who runs a food truck called the KoBra – a Korean/Brazilian fusion menu, while her mother is a social media influencer maven who spends all of her time jetsetting around the world, getting paid to take Instagram photos and name drop products. Clara idolizes her mother, and though she thinks her dad can be a bit of a drag, it’s obvious she loves him a lot – they share a very special bond.

Anyway, my main beef with Clara is her … well, her entire personality. You know that “only child” trope? Clara takes that and runs with it. She is ostentatious, dramatic, stubborn, whiny, and would have been the kind of person I hated were I in classes with her in high school. Clara’s archenemy is Rose, a young African-American girl in her grade who is the number one everything – student council, debate team, you name it, she’s queen of it. Clara and Rose have hated each other since Rose tattled on Clara for smoking in the bathroom at school, and so when Clara gets nominated for prom queen as a joke by her friends, she turns the whole nomination into a farce. Rose, who takes this (and everything in life) very seriously, is offended, and sets out for her own revenge. Things happen, the school almost catches on fire on prom night … and let’s just say that Clara and Rose are suddenly forced to spend a lot of time together with the food truck this summer. And there’s a cute boy named Hamlet who sells coffee near one of the places they park the food truck whose reminds Clara of a Labrador Retriever, yet she can’t keep him out of her mind …

Clara and Rose’s relationship is best described with 500 GIFs of Dwight versus Jim from The Office, but we don’t have time for that, so just look at this one.

The Bottom Line

This book is not perfect. It prominently features insta-love, which I detest, especially in my YA. But even Clara – shitty personality Clara – grew on me by the end. Is this book predictable? Sure, but it’s a sweet summer romance that teaches you about the value of friendship and family, it’s not meant to break ground and really make you think critically. I grew up a Rose and hated all of the Claras I came across, so it was nice to read something from the opposite side of the fence, to maybe see what goes on in people’s heads when you think there can’t possibly be a redeeming quality to them at all.

Clara is meant to grate on your nerves. Is she rude to her poor father more than she needs to be? Oh yeah. Does she cover her mother in hero worship that she doesn’t deserve? Yep. Is her boyfriend, Hamlet, too perfect to be remotely realistic? Absolutely. But this is a sweet own voices book that will make you think a little harder about who you place value on in your life, and that’s worth its weight in Korean-Brazilian fusion cuisine. Look for The Way You Make Me Feel on shelves on May 8th, and remember: bring a snack.

four-stars
2 In Review

Review: Time Bomb by Joelle Charbonneau

Review: Time Bomb by Joelle CharbonneauTime Bomb by Joelle Charbonneau
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on March 13th 2018
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads
three-stars

A congressman's daughter who has to be perfect. A star quarterback with a secret. A guy who's tired of being ignored. A clarinet player who's done trying to fit in. An orphaned rebel who wants to teach someone a lesson. A guy who wants people to see him, not his religion.
They couldn't be more different, but before the morning's over, they'll all be trapped in a school that's been rocked by a bombing. When they hear that someone inside is the bomber, they'll also be looking to one another for answers.

Oh, Time Bomb. I really, really wanted to like you. I’ve been hoping for a newer, spiritual successor cousin to Jodi Picoult’s Nineteen Minutes for years now. I was disappointed by This Is Where It Ends, and I really wanted – needed – Time Bomb to fill in where others have fallen flat. Unfortunately for me, this just wasn’t it. This book wasn’t bad per se, but it wasn’t good, either – it was entirely, incandescently mediocre.

Rating: 

How I’d Describe This Book to My Friends

We all know the basic premise of The Breakfast Club by now, right? Even if you’ve never actually sat down and watched it, you know it’s a classic 80s film about a bunch of kids who get stuck together in Saturday detention for various reasons. They have nothing in common, there is thinly-veiled sexual tension omnipresent in the library they are stuck in, and eventually they learn to cooperate and love and all that good, wholesome jazz.

They also do this weird, iconic dance thing?

Time Bomb takes this premise and flips it around a little bit. We have here six characters who each have a reason to be at school the week before the new school year starts. Whether it’s to get a new student ID, work on the newspaper, practice football … the book starts with six chapters where we get to know a little bit about each teenager and why they in particular are disgruntled. Everyone’s chapter ends with them grabbing their backpack and setting off to school determined to do … whatever it is they are going to do. It’s blatantly obvious to us from the get-go that the bomber in this case is one of the six, but which one? They are all there with backpacks! Oh the humanity.

We know right away (… okay, we hope to all that is good that) it’s not the Muslim student, because why would you do that? So now we’re left with five suspects with equally oddball motives. The Stereotype Gang is all here: the princess, the shy chubby outcast, the really pissed off goth kid, the closeted football player and his non-closeted love interest who is exasperated at his partner’s closeted-ness. The students are spread throughout the school doing whatever it is they are doing in that moment, when a bomb goes off. And from there, the 300-odd remaining pages take off.

It was very jarring to me to have six POVs. I understand why Charbonneau did this – it would have taken a bunch of the magic of the “whodunnit” away from the reader if they only had a handful of perspectives to absorb, so we have to go with all of them. But the trouble is that without them mentioning what makes them different periodically throughout the chapters (“I thought of my family and how different they treated me since I’d come out,” or “I had to use my father’s vast political empire to my advantage”), we’d likely have a hard time deciphering everyone’s voices. Add to this the fact that while I commend Ms. Charbonneau for writing in so many varied POVs … it’s definitely not an own voices book, and that makes it hard for me to get into the head of, say, an African-American football player or a young Muslim boy struggling with his facial hair brought on by early puberty. The characters are just sort of one big jar of sad, angsty mayonnaise waiting to get extracted from the wreckage of their high school.

It’s like this, but there are six of them, and they all sound the same.

What put the final nail in the coffin for me was the ending, when we discovered which student had coordinated this attack, and why. I think I actually said out loud, in public no less, “what the hell?” – it didn’t make sense to me, and felt like such a weak premise. At no point did I buy it.

Bottom Line

This book tries. It really does. I will give it that credit. However, it tries too hard to be effective, in my opinion – had it been about four or even three students, it might have been easier to keep track of what was going on. But the bland “sameness” of it all just made it very difficult to really get truly invested in any one character.

Time Bomb was my March Once Upon a Book Club book, and I did enjoy the gifts that came along with it. That alone, though, was not enough to redeem the utter blahness of the story as a whole. I finished this about a week ago, and I had to stop and really think before I could remember who the culprit was. That alone should tell you how memorable this story unfortunately is.

three-stars
4 In Tag

Do Re Mi Book Tag

I was tagged by the amazing Adrianna over at For the Luv of Books to participate in her new book tag! This is the Do Re Mi tag, based off the ever-popular ditty from The Sound of Music that will now be stuck in my head the rest of the day. Whoops.

Anyway, let’s get on with it!

Well this was an awkward second to capture for a gif …

Do, a deer, a female deer
Name a book character with an animal sidekick!

By the amazingly talented r-i-v-e-r on Tumblr

I was going to go with Hedwig here, but that felt like a cop out. So I thought about the books I’ve read in the last few months, and if there were any animals featured in them – immediately, I thought of sweet Legs from Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. I don’t want to say much about this book for fear of spoiling you, but let’s just say that the romance here burns so slow and sweetly, and this dog is such a fun part of the cast.

Re, a drop of golden sun 
Name a book character who puts a smile on everyone’s faces, they just light everything up with their presence!

Tim Mason from The Boy Most Likely To. I am not the biggest “summery beach romantic comedy with angst thrown in for good measure” fan, but Huntley Fitzpatrick always manages to seamlessly deliver characters that are flawed, but not unlovable. We’ve met Tim in a prior book, so when we see him here at center stage, it’s easy to fall even more in love with him, despite his flaws and insecurities. Tim is funny, and high school me would have loved him.

Mi, a name I call myself
Name a book character with a name you always pronounce wrong or one you wish was pronounced differently! 

Like, half the cast of The Cruel Prince. Most notably: Cardan and Madoc. I listened to the audiobook, and so when I read reviews online it took me a minute to get through the cognitive dissonance of their names being spelled differently from how they sound. I expected “Carden” and “Maddock.” I like the spelling, I think it’s unique, but boy was it confusing for a minute.

Fa, a long, long way to run
Name a book character who is either forced or chooses to runaway from home

Connor, Lev and Risa from the Unwind series. There are way more kids of course, but let’s just stick to the first book for now. In a universe where you can “unwind” your children once they reach maturity, and donate all of their body parts to science and the government, let’s just say that these children don’t have much of a choice in the matter when it comes to leaving home, whether it’s because their parents want to get rid of them, they are a ward of the state, or they’re being raised as a sacrificial lamb. GoI love this book.

 

So, a needle pulling thread
Name a book character who’s a healer or puts people back together in some way

Gotta go with Noah Shaw from The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and its subsequent books. I can’t say too much without giving you spoilers, but let’s just say Mara’s boyfriend has some pretty convenient powers.

La, a note to follow So
Name a book character who’s a bit of a follower, but could totally be a leader with some encouragement!

Gotta be sweet Mabel Rose from The Diviners series. Evie is the spark that sets the world on fire, and Mabel just sort of steps back and stomps out the rogue snarls of flame. Mabel is such a fun character, but she is crippled by her devotion to Evie, and her crush (and paralyzing fear of rejection …) on Jericho. I’d love to watch Mabel shine in a later book.

Ti, a drink with jam and bread
Name a food that a book character made you want to eat and who that character is!

Hi, the entirety of the A Song of Ice & Fire series and its subsequent television productions. George R.R. Martin takes forever to write, but you can be sure that when he finishes something you’ll be starving, even if you just ate.

 

I had so much fun writing this! I am going to tag a few people, but please steal this if you want to do it as well!

Tagging: