5 In Review

Review: Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

Review: Alex, Approximately by Jenn BennettAlex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett
Published by Simon Pulse on April 4, 2017
Pages: 391
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads

The one guy Bailey Rydell can’t stand is actually the boy of her dreams—she just doesn’t know it yet.
Classic movie fan Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online as Alex. Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush.
Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep in real life—or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth—a.k.a. her new archnemesis. But life is a whole lot messier than the movies, especially when Bailey discovers that tricky fine line between hate, love, and whatever it is she’s starting to feel for Porter.
And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex…Approximately.

Bailey Rydell is perhaps the most cultured, educated 17 year old I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading about. She is incredibly intelligent and sassy, with an interest in being a museum curator and a dream of working with classic films. A child of a rather sloppy divorce, Bailey is taking a huge risk and moving from her mom’s (mostly useless) arms in Washington DC to her father’s beachside town in California. And that’s where our story begins.

Rating: 

How I’d Describe This Book to a Friend

Bailey is, like most teenagers were when I was 17 (way back in Ye Olde 2006), active on message boards – in particular, one about classic films. There, under her screen name Mink, she meets another witty teen, a guy named Alex. They exchange banter for what feels like lifetimes, but Bailey knows he lives in California – what he doesn’t know is that she’s moving there.

Our precocious Bailey has the idea to take a map of her father’s – and allegedly Alex’s – beachside paradise town, and via process of elimination figure out which store Alex must work in using context clues from hints he’s dropped over the months. Unfortunately, Bailey’s Nancy Drew-ing is cut short by her dad’s insistence that she get a summer job – luckily, he’s even gotten one for her, at a local museum called The Cave. It’s like spelunking meets the Winchester House, and I am here for it – and so is Bailey, grudgingly. The bad part? One of the security guards – Porter – is such a cocky jerk that Bailey can’t stand being around him without wanting to scratch his eyes out.

The twist? Porter is Alex. The twist: part 2? Bailey has no idea, and neither does Porter. (I’m not spoiling you because 1) it’s obvious and 2) it’s on the book flap).

So while we enjoy waiting for the two of them to figure out what we’ve known all along, we watch them slowly start to become closer and closer. I love Porter because he’s realistic – he has flaws and issues, and he fights against them just like we all do – he is not the typical perfect guy we see in YA romances. Each character in this beautiful novel can stand on their own – they have their distinct personalities, and even folks like Bailey’s dad’s girlfriend are memorable – characters that ordinarily would be glazed over by the author. This book is the perfect summer read.

The Bottom Line

What I really want to talk about is this sort of B-plot that involves Bailey having what is likely PTSD, stemming from a gun violence-related incident in her past that I won’t spoil for you. I knew I loved Bailey when I got to that part of the book, because I also have gun violence-related PTSD. When she spoke up after hearing an unexpected gunshot, I felt empathy rocket from my heart all over my body – oh, Bailey. I understand. “For the love of guns, it had been four years! How long did I have to be in “trauma” mode? Wasn’t I allowed to make some decisions for myself and enjoy life?” – I’ve been here, stood in these shoes (though it hasn’t been four years for me yet), and I understood her viewpoint so deeply that I knew I was Team Bailey Ride or Die forever from that point forward.

Jenn Bennett does not sugarcoat these things, ranging from the aforementioned PTSD to self-pleasure. Normal things a 17 year old would engage in, but for some reason YA authors never discuss. I am beyond grateful that Ms. Bennett discusses them anyway – with great aplomb, and more than once, no less.

Let’s be real: once you read the book flap you know how this book will end. And you’re not wrong. But you’re not reading it for the plot twists any more than you watch You’ve Got Mail because you think ShopGirl will realize who she’s been talking to this whole time. You’re reading it for Bailey, for Porter, for Bailey’s BFF Grace, for their families. Trust me, you might think you know how this book will go, but don’t let that stop you from falling for this story line. I promise, it’s worth it.

When I had 60 pages left, I immediately bought Ms. Bennett’s other 2 books. That alone should tell you something.

“Sometimes you have to endure painful things to realize that you’re a whole lot stronger than you think.”

11 In Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books of 2018 (So Far!)

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday (as always, hosted by the inimitable Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl) is a simple enough premise (which is good because I have no time to write this entry today, Tuesday snuck up on me oops): what are your favorite books that you’ve read so far in 2018? I’ve read a lot of books this year, and I have to laugh at my current GoodReads goal that is still set to a measly 28 books – I am currently on book 40! Oops. I should probably revisit that number and set it to maybe 50? That will still be an undershot. But anyway.

These are in no particular order or size – rather, they are how my favorite graphic website decided to arrange them, and it’s aesthetically pleasant enough to work. This is not an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s safe to say that these books are my top 10 out of the 39 I’ve read so far. Just don’t ask me to rank them, because I can’t and you can’t make me!

What’s on your top ten list? Anything in common? Let me know in the comments!

5 In Review

Review: The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir

Review: The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean WeirThe Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir
Published by Knopf Publishing Group on June 12, 2018
Pages: 319
Format: ARC
Goodreads

Esther Ann Hicks--Essie--is the youngest child on Six for Hicks, a reality television phenomenon. She's grown up in the spotlight, both idolized and despised for her family's fire-and-brimstone brand of faith. When Essie's mother, Celia, discovers that Essie is pregnant, she arranges an emergency meeting with the show's producers: Do they sneak Essie out of the country for an abortion? Do they pass the child off as Celia's? Or do they try to arrange a marriage--and a ratings-blockbuster wedding? Meanwhile, Essie is quietly pairing herself up with Roarke Richards, a senior at her school with a secret of his own to protect. As the newly formed couple attempt to sell their fabricated love story to the media--through exclusive interviews with an infamously conservative reporter named Liberty Bell--Essie finds she has questions of her own: What was the real reason for her older sister leaving home? Who can she trust with the truth about her family? And how much is she willing to sacrifice to win her own freedom?

I assume that you, like most denizens of the Internet, know who the Duggar family is. And if you don’t … well, frankly I admire you and would love to know how you’ve managed to avoid them all these years. But anyway, I digress.

The Book of Essie is what I’ve hoped to see come limping out of the garbage fire that is the Duggar family, all these years later. An unflinching look at religious zeal, having your family broadcast for the world to see, family dynamics, the whole nine yards. I figured it would go off in one particular direction, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover how wrong I was.

Review: 

How I’d Describe This Book to a Friend

Esther Ann Hicks, “Essie” to most everyone, is the youngest of six children whose lives have been broadcast on a TV show known aptly as Six For Hicks. Similarly to the Duggar family, their world is one of church, mission trips, worship services, and going everywhere with a camera crew in tow. There are some differences – Essie is allowed to attend public school, for instance, after audiences decided it would make the family more relatable to have the baby of the family in the public’s eye – but by and large, this is reminiscent of most large, American families founded on a religious cornerstone.

The book opens with a punch – Essie is listening in on a conversation her mother and the producers of the family TV show are having over what to do about Essie’s unborn baby. Essie is not part of this discussion, but rather is reduced to snooping via a spot in the laundry room that lets her overhear conversation between the crew and her family. We do not know who the father of this child is – what we know is that Essie is 17 years old, and this was clearly not an intentional pregnancy. Her mother – Celia – can be cast as one of the villains of this story, and we see her act in a way I can only describe as akin to Maleficent, or maybe the evil queen in Once Upon a Time – she is cool, collected, calm, and another c-word that is 4 letters that I refuse to type out. If it doesn’t benefit the ratings, Celia has no interest in it: this would include terminating her youngest child’s pregnancy. It is decided, then and there, that a sham wedding might just be the best thing for Essie and her baby. Luckily, Essie already has this planned out, and she knows just the guy: enter Roarke.

Roarke is the son of two poor parents who own the local hunting shop, and are in debt up to their eyeballs with no relief in sight. To marry their son off to Esther Hicks means a lifetime of not having to worry about anything, no debt for them or their son. And while Roarke goes to school with Essie Hicks, he doesn’t know her from Adam and has no desire to really speak to her. At the end of the day, however, Roarke goes through with it – for his family, mainly – he still has no interest in Essie Hicks as a person. But that is bound to change eventually, right? It does, just not in the way you think it will.

We also have a B-story from the point of view of Liberty Bell (hurr hurr hurr), a reporter who is in charge of interviewing Essie and who seems to have grown up with an equally terrible religious conviction, although hers seems to have involved her twin sister, Justice (ha ha ha!) being murdered. I really enjoyed this side plot, and how Essie and Justice’s friendship began to develop over their shared bond of religious fuckery, but I can see why there is some condemnation of Liberty’s storyline being unnecessary to the plot of the main story.

The Bottom Line

I went into this book thinking I was going to see your bog-standard “girl and boy get together out of necessity, hate each other, fall in love” storyline. I can tell you this much – that doesn’t happen. Nothing close to that happens. Meghan MacLain Weir has a gift of taking your expectations, waiting until you let your guard down, and then subverting them so you’re left guessing. I love a book like that, and they are not common these days – it’s all too easy to guess who the bad guy is, but I can safely say that until I was about 50% through this book I was guessing wrong. The other 50%? I was rooting for Essie and Roarke and Liberty like they were my own close, personal friends.

I am giving this four stars instead of five simply because while I absolutely adored it, the ending is not realistic at all. I can’t say much without spoilers, but this is what we want to happen in a situation like this – sadly, it’s not really what actually happens, and we’ve seen this played out in reality. But the ending is sweet and gives us hope, so I can’t be too mad at it. Essie is bold, confident and knows what she’s doing – I suggest going along for the ride with her, you won’t regret it.

13 In Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Red, White, and Blue

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday (as always, hosted by the inimitable Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl) is all about America. (or your country of origin, your port of call as it were). Simply enough, this week we’re just showing off our favorite red, white, and blue covers!

Of course, symmetry doesn’t work with ten books and three colors, so this is really more of a top nine Tuesday – sorry, perfectionists. I can’t help it, doing it as a cluster of ten made me feel twitchy.

I went through my “read” shelf on Goodreads and picked out the three books of each color that are my favorites in recent memories, which was a lot of fun and kept me from reaching for my same standby books. I can safely say that these nine sort of make up “me,” as far as what I consider my book taste. This ranges from young adult to plain ol’ adult, from fantasy to creative nonfiction, domestic thrillers to fairy romances.

Happy early birthday, America.

4 In Review

Review: The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden

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 Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann BradenThe Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden
Published by Sky Pony Press on September 4, 2018
Pages: 256
Format: ARC
Goodreads

Seventh-grader Zoey has her hands full as she takes care of her much younger siblings after school every day while her mom works her shift at the pizza parlor. Not that her mom seems to appreciate it. At least there’s Lenny, her mom’s boyfriend—they all get to live in his nice, clean trailer.
At school, Zoey tries to stay under the radar. Her only friend Fuchsia has her own issues, and since they're in an entirely different world than the rich kids, it’s best if no one notices them.
Zoey thinks how much easier everything would be if she were an octopus: eight arms to do eight things at once. Incredible camouflage ability and steady, unblinking vision. Powerful protective defenses.
Unfortunately, she’s not totally invisible, and one of her teachers forces her to join the debate club. Even though Zoey resists participating, debate ultimately leads her to see things in a new way: her mom’s relationship with Lenny, Fuchsia’s situation, and her own place in this town of people who think they’re better than her. Can Zoey find the courage to speak up, even if it means risking the most stable home she’s ever had?
This moving debut novel explores the cultural divides around class and the gun debate through the eyes of one girl, living on the edges of society, trying to find her way forward.

There seems to have been a recent surge of quality when it comes to middle grade literature (see: Aru ShahBreakout), and let me tell you: I am here for it. Middle grade books have all of the drama and intense subject matter of young adult literature, but none of the romantic entanglements. There is rarely, if ever, any sort of romance in middle grade literature, and if there is it’s simply a crush or a chaste first kiss. This tends to make the plots of middle grade move quicker, and leaves them more room to get their message across.

When I requested The Benefits of Being an Octopus on NetGalley, I was figuring I’d get something about strained family dynamics and puberty. I had no idea what I was actually getting myself into, and it was something that will stick with me for a while to come.

Rating: 

How I’d Describe This Book to a Friend

Zoey is a seventh grader, and if any book character can remind me of what it’s like to be in middle school, it’s Zoey. We feel her tension in the classroom, with the boy she has a crush on who rides her school bus. We see her hatred for speaking up in class, her disdain for the popular girls. But there is something different about Zoey that we never see in other literature: Zoey is poor.

We meet Zoey when she and her family are in flux – they are living with her mother’s latest boyfriend Lenny, sharing a cramped trailer between Lenny, his father, Zoey, her mom, and her three younger siblings (infant Hector, preschoolers Bryce and Aurora). Her mother works part time at the local pizza place, and they scrape by just enough day after day – but they have a roof over their head, and so Zoey doesn’t mind shoplifting cans of Easy Cheese from the local convenience store to keep her siblings occupied. She is their sole caretaker for most of their day, and she must keep them quiet so they don’t bother Lenny or his dad. This means that homework and school are not a priority. In fact, Zoey just doesn’t do it – she doesn’t have time. But her lifelong passion for the octopus – an animal that I have learned so much about through Zoey’s eyes! – leads her to fill out an assignment packet for once, to participate in a debate about what the superior animal is. And that little packet will change everything.

The Bottom Line

There are so many hot-button topics in this story, and they are wound seamlessly here through the eyes of a twelve year old. We see poverty, child neglect and abuse, the failed foster system. There is a subplot about gun control that I honestly cannot applaud the author for enough – I myself am fairly anti-gun, and I found myself agreeing with some characters in the book who felt the same way as I did. But when Zoey started thinking about all the reasons they’ve helped her and her friends – people who rely on hunting, her neighbor Silas whose father hunts to make ends meet and put food on the table – it made me question my own belief systems as a 29 year old woman. This is not easy to do.

I absolutely adored Zoey. I saw her mother’s quiet strength and dignity, the way she fell apart when she thought no one was looking and how she had to be strong for her children – how she always put them first, without fail. We see how growing up around anger affects children – little Bryce, who becomes stoic and withdrawn and just wants to fight everyone. We see Zoey’s best friend Fuschia, a byproduct of a failed foster system who is now stuck with her mother she hates and her mom’s boyfriend who is downright dangerous. And perhaps most influential of all, Zoey’s Social Studies teacher, who won’t let her fade into the backdrop. We meet all of these truly unique characters who are flawed, but not failing. And that’s an important distinction.

Zoey draws parallels constantly between herself and an octopus – she yearns to have more arms, to wrangle her siblings. She utilizes her octopus camouflage to blend in when she feels uncomfortable. And as odd as that might sound, let me tell you it works, and it works well. I am absolutely captivated by Zoey’s story, her family’s journey, and the love that surrounds her. If you work with students or kids, please pick this book up – honestly, you should pick it up no matter what. I promise you won’t regret it. Middle grade literature has set the bar very high for me in 2018, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

“Sometimes if you don’t have a jacket and you’re sitting next to someone who does, you feel colder. But sometimes, if the right person is wearing it, you feel warmer.”

7 In Wrap Up

June Wrap-Up & July TBR

Wow, it’s already July! I eagerly await July 5th, the day the school supplies come out en masse and I get to buy lots of cute stationary items on sale. But anyway, that’s not the point of this post – seriously, though, my favorite time of year is when Target’s back seasonal section turns into a giant backyard BBQ/back to school/Halloween smorgasbord. Pumpkin spice will be back before we know it!

I was thinking that I hadn’t really read anything this month, but in actuality I read 6 books which was just as much as I read in May. I did experience a pretty significant reading slump in June, though, which might have contributed to why I felt like I was just aimlessly spinning my wheels for almost a week.

 Pages Read: 2,406 – an average of 401 pages per book

 Average Rating: 4.5 stars

 Least FavoriteHidden Pieces

 Most FavoriteLittle Do We Know

I actually wound up reading more pages this month than I did last month, though I still averaged a 4.5 rating. Either I only read books proven to be good, or I am way too lenient with my rating system. I’ll have to examine that moving forward!

My disclaimer for this is that, as always, I am a mood reader and I almost never stick to a TBR – this is really just more of an excuse to list the books I am most interested in the possibility of reading. But I refuse to be tied to anything officially, other than my spurious whims.

  The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir – This is kind of cheating because I’m reading it right now, but at least this way I’m assured a minimum of one book that is considered “follow through” on my commitments.

 The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager – I loved and adored Final Girls last year, so I am thrilled to get my hands on this puppy next week and read it. Mr. Sager did what I want most suspense novel authors to do – he pulled a fast one on me, so fast I didn’t even realize what was happening. That’s talent.

 Vicious by V.E. Schwab – I am spitballing at this point, but this book is definitely up there on my list, if not at the top. I want to read my first Schwab book, and with the sequel to this one coming out not too, too far from now, this seems to be the most likely candidate.

 Save the Date by Morgan Matson – I told myself this is a “July or August” book, so “July or August” it shall be.

 Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett – Same thing I said about Save the Date, but with added pressure from Pages & Pugs to read a Jenn Bennett book.

Have you read any of these and loved – or hated! – them? Let me know! I love to compare notes on wrap-ups and TBRs every month!

6 In Review

Review: Little Do We Know by Tamara Ireland Stone

Review: Little Do We Know by Tamara Ireland StoneLittle Do We Know by Tamara Ireland Stone
Published by Disney Hyperion on June 5, 2018
Pages: 304
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads

Next-door neighbors and ex-best friends Hannah and Emory haven’t spoken in months. Not since the fight—the one where they said things they couldn’t take back.
Now, Emory is fine-tuning her UCLA performing arts application and trying to make the most of the months she has left with her boyfriend, Luke, before they head off to separate colleges. Meanwhile, Hannah’s strong faith is shaken when her family’s financial problems come to light, and she finds herself turning to unexpected places—and people—for answers to the difficult questions she’s suddenly facing.
No matter how much Hannah and Emory desperately want to bridge the thirty-six steps between their bedroom windows, they can’t. Not anymore.
Until their paths cross unexpectedly when, one night, Hannah finds Luke doubled over in his car outside her house. In the aftermath of the accident, all three struggle to understand what happened in their own ways. But when a devastating secret about Hannah and Emory’s argument ultimately comes to light, they must all reexamine the things they hold true.
In alternating chapters, a skeptic and a believer piece together the story of their complex relationship and the boy caught somewhere in the middle. New York Times best-selling author Tamara Ireland Stone deftly crafts a moving portrait of faith, love, and friendship.

I finished this beautiful book last night, and I think when I closed the cover I actually said “oof” out loud. There was just so much to take in and process, this book packs a punch on multiple levels and I wish so much it had existed when I was 17 years old. I can’t recommend it enough. I will attempt to make words, but I know they’ll fall short.

Rating: 

How I’d Describe This Book to a Friend

Emory and Hannah have been best friends since they were in diapers. Next-door neighbors, they were always just a few steps away from each other, and they shared everything, as only children often do with their best friends. And then one day, for a reason we don’t find out until the book is almost finished, they cease all communication. They don’t hate each other, but they certainly don’t like each other and they make no attempt to hide that. What you might think is a simple young adult book about girl drama and relationships is actually so much more than what you see on the surface, though: don’t judge a book by its cover (though this book has a stunning cover, might I add).

Emory is a theater kid. She’s always been showy and dramatic, and longs to go to college for acting. It’s just her and her mom, and her mom’s fiance who Emory makes no attempt to hide her disdain for. She has a boyfriend named Luke, a star lacrosse player, and while she loves him to pieces, she knows deep down it won’t last once they leave for college. So Emory, ever pragmatic, has a countdown in place for how long she can remain with Luke until it’s time to let him go.

Hannah comes from a deeply religious family – her father is the principal of the area’s Christian school, and Hannah is part of the acapella group there, SonRise. But whatever happened with Emory really shook her up, and we see her conviction with her religion start to come apart at the seams, piece by piece over the course of the story. What role does religion have in her life? Is she only a Christian because that’s how she was raised, is she a sheep? Or does she truly believe in what she’s grown up “knowing”?

We see these girls do so much growing up, in many different ways. Through their eyes, we question our moral convictions and religions. We think about relationships, and analyze the bonds we have with others. Hannah and Emory make us remember our “first” BFFs, our childhood and high school besties. Is there a higher power out there that puts things into motion, or are we just doing what our parents did, and what our parents’ parents did, all those years ago? What makes a person “good”? Can we ever really “get over” a traumatic incident? These are tough questions, and the girls tackle them with aplomb. Your heart will soar in time with theirs.

I am not a book crier, but I will freely admit I cried at this book twice. That alone should say something, because while I’m emotional, it never hits me at that meta “book” level. The other huge point I give this book is this: the ending is not all sunshine and rainbows. We don’t get an unrealistic, happy, “tied up with a bow” fairy tale. We get realism, the nitty gritty, good and bad both. And that is just how it should be.

The Bottom Line

If I’d had Emory and Hannah in my life when I was in high school, I would have felt so much better about my own personal struggle with religion and its role in my life. This is truly a one of a kind book that tackles the issues teens face today, but more importantly it’s the ones we don’t want to talk about because they’re too garish for the light of day – Ms. Stone drags them out into the sunshine and shows you their ugly face. If you are interested in raw, rich contemporaries that might have romance but it’s not the focal point, please look no further. Every teenage girl should read this book.

6 In Tag

Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag

Well, it’s just about the end of June. Lawnmowers wake me up every weekend morning, and I wish for the sweet kiss of death to release me just walking from my office to my car every evening. (if you can’t tell, I live in the south and hate myself for it every year, May-August). July heralds in the midpoint of the year, and along with it 4th of July decorations at the store that will leave and then Target will transform into its ultimate form on July 5th: School Supply Land.

Anyway! I’ve stolen this tag from what feels like everyone and their mother, so if you haven’t done it yet, please steal it from me and do it yourself! I am genuinely loving everyone’s answers to this one.

1. Best book that you’ve read so far in 2018?

Photo credit to Jessica at CrossroadReads

I have to say that hands down the book that has shaken me the most so far this year has been Scythe, which is something Neal Shusterman does to me every single time and I just keep on letting him do it. I have put off reading Thunderhead because I know it’s going to happen again! This man is unfairly good at putting my heart in a vice and twisting. But I love it in a weird, masochistic way. Keep it coming, please, Mr. Shusterman.

2. Best sequel that you’ve read so far in 2018?

You know, believe it or not I haven’t read that many sequels yet this year – mostly standalones, or first books. Luckily I’ve finished my beloved Legendary this month, and so I am able to say that it’s far and above the best sequel of 2018 so far. (possibly also the only sequel of 2018 so far, but I digress).

3. New release that you haven’t read yet but want to?

I haven’t picked up my copy of My Lady Jane since I got it on super sale ($5 or something for the paperback?) earlier this year, and I don’t want to read My Plain Jane until I do that. I hear so many good things, though! My Plain Jane came out yesterday, so happy belated book birthday to you! I do wonder how many Janes there are in this world for them to play with … Peter Pan’s Jane, maybe?

4. Most anticipated release for the next half of 2018?

Gotta give this one to Jodi P, my annual heartbreaker. Every year she smashes it out of the park, and every year I crawl back into the wreckage for another hit. I’ve been reading her new releases each and every year since 2006 or so, and I have no plans to stop any time soon. I was fairly “meh” about her books for a few years in there, but last year’s Small Great Things hit it out of the park, so I can’t wait to see where A Spark of Light takes me.

5. Biggest disappointment of 2018?

Photo credit to BookAddictsGuide

Probably There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins. I wanted a gritty, campy slasher movie shaped like a book. I got a romantic drama that occasionally had blood in it. Believe me, I was way more upset about this than I had any right to be.

6. Biggest surprise of 2018?

Courtesy of Redbubble

I gotta go with The Cruel Prince by Holly Black. I am not the biggest fan of fantasy, and I’ve never much cared for fae and fairy stories. But people kept insisting how amazing this book was, and I figured “what the hell, why not?” and dove right in. I was blown away by how perfect this piece of literature was, and I am waiting anxiously with baited breath for the sequel in January.

7. Favorite new (or new to you) author?

I do not cry at books. I really don’t. But halfway through Little Do We Know yesterday, in the middle of test proctoring for some doctoral students, I started to feel tears well in my eyes. Therefore, this badge of honor goes to Tamara Ireland Stone, whose backlog I will be picking up immediately.

8. Newest fictional crush?

Sorry to disappoint, but I’ve never been a big fan of “book boyfriends” and I don’t see that changing any time soon. Though I did have a giant crush on Jon from the Song of the Lioness quartet in middle school.

9. Newest favorite character?

Credit to Instagram user AynaBraun

I gotta give it up to my girl Jude from The Cruel Prince. She is the definition of a badass, she doesn’t care what anybody thinks of her, and she’s going to get what she wants come hell or high water. A credit to human females everywhere.

10. A book that made you cry?

Well, I accidentally answered this one up at number 7. Whoops.

11. A book that made you happy?

Oh, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, I waited too long to read you but I am so glad I did. What a beautiful story.

12. The most beautiful book you’ve bought or received in 2018?

The cover for Maureen Johnson’s Truly Devious is stunning, and it’s even more beautiful in person.

13. What books do you need to read by the end of 2018?

This list could, in theory, last for pages. Let’s just condense it down a tiny bit, shall we?

  • Hunting Prince Dracula
  • My Lady Jane
  • Vicious
  • A Darker Shade of Magic
  • The Red Queen
  • The Last Time I Lied
  • Gemina
  • A Spark of Light
  • Broken Things
  • City of Ghosts
  • At least 20 more books that I can’t think of right now plus the sequels to the ones I listed up above if applicable

6 In Tag

100 Truths Tag

I shamelessly stole this 100 Truths Tag from Katie over at Pages & Pugs, aka my blogging soul sister. Who doesn’t love a classic MySpace meme to pass the time on a slow Friday?

General Facts

1. What is your name?

Patricia.

2. Any nicknames?

Trish and Tricia, mostly.

3. Gender?

Female.

4. Star sign

Aries.

5. How old are you?

29.

6. Relationship status?

Single.

7. Any children?

No.

8. Any pets?

Two orange tabby cats named Pixel and Pumpkin.

9. Any tattoos/ piercings?

I have a tattoo of a star on the inside of my right ankle, and a semicolon on the inside of my left wrist.

10. What do you like about yourself?

I’m quick, resilient and always willing to stand up for what I think is right.

11. What do you dislike about yourself?

My inability to commit to a weight-loss plan.

12. Righty or lefty?

I’m a leftie, actually!

 

Lasts

12. Thing you drank?

Diet Dr. Pepper.

14. Thing you ate?

Chicken alfredo.

15. Text message?

“She’s shocked, lol”

16. Phone call?

Somebody pretending to be the IRS telling me I had 24 hours to pay my delinquent taxes or I’d be arrested in 24 hours.

17. Email?

An invitation to a reception I will likely skip because anxiety.

18. Last song you listened to?

Paper Planes by M.I.A.

19. Book read?

Legendary by Stephanie Garber.

20: Time you cried?

It’s been a few days but I can’t recall why any more.

21. Blog you read?

Jessica, over at Reading With Jessica!

22. Last person you spoke to?

My coworker.

23. Last place you visited?

Like, on a vacation? Chattanooga, Tennessee for my friend’s wedding.

24: Holiday abroad?

Abroad meaning “overseas”? I’ve never left the US.

Have you ever …

25. Gotten back with an ex?

Yes, and I never recommend it.

26. Been cheated on?

Yes, by the guy in #25. See also: I’m an idiot.

27. Cheated on someone?

No, never.

28. Lost someone special to you?

Of course, it’s an unfortunate byproduct of being human.

29. Been so drunk you threw up?

Maybe twice in my life.

30: Fallen out of love with someone?

Yes.

31. Met someone who changed you?

I think we all have.

32. Been in a situation where you found who your real friends were?

Sure.

33. Kissed someone you shouldn’t have?

No.

34. Found out people were talking about you behind your back?

I attended high school, so …

35. Broken someones heart?

Maybe but I don’t think so.

36. Kissed a stranger?

No!

37. Had your heart broken?

Of course.

38. Had sex on a first date?

No.

39 Been arrested?

No.

40. Been attracted to the gender that isn’t the one you find attractive?

No.

41. Done something you regret?

Any answer but “yes” is a lie, folks.

42. Had a threesome?

43. Embarrassed yourself in public?

Duh!

44. Misjudged someone?

Sure.

Beliefs/Opinions

45. Do you believe in god?

I’m a Deist. I believe there was something at some point, but they have not been around in a long time.

46. Believe in yourself?

I have to.

47. Believe in Santa?

My mother used to tell me that if I stopped believing in Santa, I’d start to get socks and underwear for Christmas. So I haven’t believed in Santa since age 18 or so.

48. Believe in ghosts?

Yes. At the very least, I believe that we can leave behind energy when we pass on. Do I believe in the apparition woo-woo haunted house sort of ghost? I don’t think so.

49. Believe in aliens?

I refuse to believe we’re the most intelligent thing out there.

50. Believe in miracles?

Not in the Biblical sense, but yes.

51. Believe in the power of positive thinking?

I think it’s important to not be a 24/7 pessimist, but I wouldn’t say I go out of my way to be Positive Patricia.

52. Believe in love at first sight?

No, but I do think one date can tell you everything.

53. Can money make you happy?

Happy? No. But can it buy stability and relief? Yes.

54. Would you say you’re a feminist?

I think that all women should have the same opportunities afforded to them as men, and that no one is a superior gender.

55. Pro-life or pro-choice?

Pro-choice. I do not have – nor do I want – the ability to manipulate someone’s future on this level. That is a decision between you, the partner involved, and whatever higher power you answer to.

56.Strong political beliefs?

I am fairly liberal socially, and conservative fiscally.

57. Strong religious beliefs?

No.

58. Most important thing to give a child?

Self-assuredness.

Right Now

59. Eating anything?

No, lunch was 30 minutes ago.

60. Drinking anything?

Polishing off the Diet Dr. Pepper.

61. Listening to?

People talking.

62. What are you thinking?

About how much I want to go home, not even gonna lie.

63. What are you waiting for?

4:30 pm!

64. Most excited about?

The weekend!

65. What is your pet peeve?

People who walk slowly side-by-side taking up an entire hallway.

66. What is your favourite thing?

Cuddling.

67. If you weren’t writing these questions what would you be doing?

Working, but I’m taking a break and digesting from lunch.

Firsts

68. Best Friend?

Her name was Jenny, she was in my classes Pre-K to 2nd grade and then they moved to Florida. I always wonder what happened to her but I can’t find her on Facebook …

69. Kiss?

Mike.

70. Celebrity Crush?

In fifth grade, I had a friend give me an N*SYNC photo of the band at my birthday party. Everyone put on lip stick and kissed their favorite. I went last, and kissed JC out of a sense of empathy because nobody else had. So it was probably JC, but twas all a lie.

71. Holiday?

I know this means vacation, but I have no idea, so I will say Easter, LOL.

72. Pet?

A cat my parents got as newlyweds named Decker.

73. Regret?

Being a JC-kissing faker, probably.

74. Job?

I worked in an after-school care center at a local church for 3 years.

75. Childhood memory?

Crawling from my parents kitchen into the living room, in the house I grew up in.

Which would you choose?

76. Love or money?

Money. Sorry!

77. Twitter or Facebook?

Twitter.

78. Hook up or relationship?

Relationship.

79. Dogs or cats?

Cats.

80. Coffee or tea?

Coffee.

81. Beer or wine?

Wine, but the real answer here is a rum punch.

82. Sweet or Savory?

Sweet.

83. Introvert or extrovert?

Introvert.

84. Vampires or Werewolves?

Vampires.

85. Seaside or countryside?

Seaside.

86. Summer or Winter?

Winter.

87. Books or Movies?

Books! Duh.

88. Horror or comedy?

I like both and which one I reach for depends entirely on my mood.

Random

89. Do you wish you could change the past?

No, it made me who I am.

90. Dream job?

Nonprofit manager.

91. Guilty Pleasure?

I refuse to be ashamed of the things I enjoy.

92. What are you afraid of?

Heights, bugs, guns and the dark when I am somewhere unfamiliar.

93. What did you want to be when you grew up when you were younger?

A veterinarian, then a teacher.

94. If you could have any superpower what would it be?

Teleportation.

95. If you could change anything about your life what would it be?

I’d give myself a pay raise.

96. Would you want immortality?

Only if my loved ones could join me. Including my cats.

97. If you could interview anyone dead or alive who would it be?

Anderson Cooper.

98. Would you say that you are happy?

I think “content” might be a better word.

99. What advice would you give your younger self?

He’s not worth it. Don’t stop reading or trying hard. You’ll find your stride in college and never look back. Above all: be brave.

100. Where would you like to be in five years time?

Fulfilled.

This was a lot of  fun, thanks for posting it Katie! I tag Lauren at Northern Plunder, Kris at Boston Book Reader, Nicola at Fantastic Book Dragon, Sarah at Book Hooked Nook, and Jessica at Reading With Jessica! Thanks and enjoy!

5 In Review

Review: Legendary by Stephanie Garber

Review: Legendary by Stephanie GarberLegendary (Caraval, #2) by Stephanie Garber
Published by Flatiron Books on May 29, 2018
Pages: 451
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads

A heart to protect. A debt to repay. A game to win.
After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister Scarlett from a disastrous arranged marriage. The girls should be celebrating, but Tella isn’t yet free. She made a desperate bargain with a mysterious criminal, and what Tella owes him no one has ever been able to deliver: Caraval Master Legend’s true name.
The only chance of uncovering Legend’s identity is to win Caraval, so Tella throws herself into the legendary competition once more—and into the path of the murderous heir to the throne, a doomed love story, and a web of secrets…including her sister's. Caraval has always demanded bravery, cunning, and sacrifice. But now the game is asking for more. If Tella can’t fulfill her bargain and deliver Legend’s name, she’ll lose everything she cares about—maybe even her life. But if she wins, Legend and Caraval will be destroyed forever.
Welcome, welcome to Caraval...the games have only just begun.

Last year’s smash hit Caraval was one of my favorite releases of 2017, however I know many people didn’t feel that way. I suppose I am a sucker for purple prose and beautiful, immersive descriptions, though I can see how that could get on the nerves of some more literal readers. I have clung to my stubborn beliefs that Stephanie Garber is a mastermind of the written word, and I almost lost my mind when I saw Legendary available for preorder on Amazon.

My copy arrived in the mail alongside my apprehension – what if this suffered from Sequel Syndrome and fell flat in all the ways its older, established sibling succeeded? Was I setting myself up for failure?

Nah.

Rating: 

There are spoilers for Caraval here, though they won’t be any more major than what you can get off the Legendary book flap. Just a warning!

How I’d Describe This Book to a Friend

We are left with a cliffhanger the size of a crater when we are forced to exit the world of Caraval, and so I’ve been holding onto those questions for quite some time now. Thankfully, Legendary manages to answer a good many of them, but it also tacks on enough new ones to make up for that imbalance – after all, you have to be persuaded to buy the third book next year, right?

This time, we get into Donatella’s head: the perpetual little sister, the baby, the one who was presented in the first book as an airhead who would stick her tongue down the throat of any man kind enough to smile at her.

Donatella, I said. 

It’s clear that Tella feels her reputation like a brand on her skin, as she is constantly thinking about how she is more than just a pretty face, not a toy to be played with. Tella is constantly fighting against this mark against her, and begins to use these feminine wiles and more ladylike attributes in her favor toward the middle and end of the book.

We begin with a sort of “recap and what’s to come” session, learning about how Tella had died in order for her sister Scarlett to win Caraval, how Scarlett is currently dating some actor guy who is utterly forgettable and whose name starts with J, and how – most importantly – Tella has been corresponding with a “friend” who has promised to find her mother (who we’ve assumed was very much dead) in exchange for a simple favor.

Of course, as you can guess, the favor is not so simple: her friend wants Legend’s name. His real name.

Though Caraval itself was just mere days ago, there is another one being planned in the capital city to celebrate the empress’s birthday – a special Caraval, where everyone across the land can participate. And the winner will meet Legend himself. Naturally, the only way to get his real name would be to meet him – possibly kick him in the shins, but shake the man’s hand first. So it is with trepidation that Tella ventures to the castle in the capital city, to sign up for the game and win not just Legend’s name, but her mother’s life.

From there, we’re trapped in a whirlwind that would give too many spoilers if I say too much more than that. But this is a sequel to a book that had so many plot twists you might as well have been doing a dot-to-dot of a lightning bolt, so this shouldn’t surprise you.

Among others, the things you’ll find in Legendary include: Mardi Gras-esque costumes, wool cloaks, undead ghost people, cults, magic rings, top hats, curtains, wanted posters, tattoos, and a deck of cards. Oh, and a good time. A hell of a good time.

The Bottom Line

Guys, I just really unashamedly love this universe. Sure, the prose is purple and Ms. Garber can’t just say “the water was blue,” she has to give it 5 modifying adjectives, but I like that. It creates a sense of immersion I don’t ever find in any other books – I can’t compare this series to anything because it’s its own unique blend of mystery and awe.

I remember exiting the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus with my father as a young child, no older than 5 or 6, and walking across a breezeway back to our car. A stuffed elephant plushie was pinned under my arm, one hand clenched in my father’s, my other brandishing a purple and pink plastic sword made to look like a dragon breathing fire. My sword pulsated light into the dimly-lit summertime sunset as we walked across broken popcorn kernels, cracked peanut shells, abandoned cotton candy sticks: the detritus of a circus’s remains.

That feeling of nostalgia, awe and wonder at the things I’d seen and would never forget … that’s what Caraval and Legendary did for me. And if they did it for you in the first book, they’ll do it again in the second. A different way, but still there nevertheless. Please grab your purple and pink plastic dragon sword and venture out into the carnival night – and remember, it’s only a game.

 

“Not everyone gets a true ending. There are two types of endings because most people give up at the part of the story where things are the worst, where the situation feels hopeless. But that’s when hope is needed most. only those who persevere can find their true ending.”