0 In Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 8 Books On My Fall TBR

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday (as always, hosted by the inimitable Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl) is simple enough: what are the top ten books in your Fall TBR pile?

First things first: Fall starts Friday and I am living for it. That’s the most important thing in this entire entry, let’s be real.

Because I live in Georgia where the climate is whackadoodle every day of the year, I consider Fall to be August-October, and Winter to be November-January – I realize that’s not the norm, but I live where it’s still over 90 degrees without the humidity every single day, so you’ll have to forgive me for not equating Fall with chunky scarves and hot beverages.

That said! The focal point of Fall, to me, is Halloween. So this Fall, I am going to endeavor to read mostly creepy/interesting/scary/ghosty/spooky/woo-woo books. But that only comprises about half of my TBR. The rest of my list is books that just happen to come out this Fall! I also made this my top 8 because I couldn’t make 10 work in collages in a nice way and it was annoying me. Sorry guys.

My list is as follows:

1. Sawkill Girls

2. Hunting Prince Dracula

3. City of Ghosts

4. Scream All Night

 

5. Escaping From Houdini

6. A Spark of Light

7. Vicious

8. The Anatomical Shape of the Heart

 

Are any of these on your Fall TBR? What are you super jazzed for? Tell me down below!

1 In Review

Review: People Kill People by Ellen Hopkins

Review: People Kill People by Ellen HopkinsPeople Kill People by Ellen Hopkins
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on September 4, 2018
Pages: 448
Goodreads

Someone will shoot. And someone will die.
#1 New York Times bestselling author Ellen Hopkins tackles gun violence and white supremacy in this compelling and complex novel.
People kill people. Guns just make it easier.
A gun is sold in the classifieds after killing a spouse, bought by a teenager for needed protection. But which was it? Each has the incentive to pick up a gun, to fire it. Was it Rand or Cami, married teenagers with a young son? Was it Silas or Ashlyn, members of a white supremacist youth organization? Daniel, who fears retaliation because of his race, who possessively clings to Grace, the love of his life? Or Noelle, who lost everything after a devastating accident, and has sunk quietly into depression?
One tense week brings all six people into close contact in a town wrought with political and personal tensions. Someone will fire. And someone will die. But who?

I read a lot of books about gun violence. Not because I am big into the second amendment or my firearm rights – on the contrary, I am very much an anti-gun person. But with gun violence ever on the rise in America, I feel it’s very important to carefully let our teenagers, our young adults and new adults alike, understand what society is doing, what some of this fighting really is all about.

Ellen Hopkins is known for her no-nonsense, unflinching takes on certain hot-button topics that other YA authors would’t touch with an 8 1/2 foot pole, including but not limited to hard drugs, abuse disguised as religion, prostitution – the list goes on. She is also the sweetest woman in the world who sent me an ARC of this book from her very own personal stash, and I my inner high schooler flailed like she was 15 again.

Rating: 

How I’d Describe This Book to a Friend

I really had to sit with this book for a hot minute after I finished it, just to let it digest. This is a whopper, potentially the Moby Dick of YA books about gun violence. Unlike most traditional “YA gun violence” books, though, it does not take place in a school shooting. Rather, there is no clear-cut perpetrator, nor victim. At least, not until past page 400.

We meet six POV characters, and cycle through each one’s thoughts and emotions. Chapters are broken up by Hopkins’ trademark poetry, and what might be the most interesting aspect of this one is the narrative style. People Kill People is told in second person – a rarity for just about any book, much less YA. But similar to The Book Thief, we have an abstract concept narrating the story to us: violence.

These characters are like us – and in so many ways, they aren’t at all. We meet Cami and Rand – a couple who got pregnant way too young and married as babies themselves. Now they are nineteen years old, with a four year old and struggling with the weight that most people don’t feel until their late twenties, if ever: how do I keep my family afloat? We meet Noelle, a girl who struggles with binge eating as her only form of control after being hit with a stray bullet while her father was driving. Grace, Noelle’s BFF who is more into boys than she used to be, and Grace’s clingy, vaguely terrifying boyfriend Daniel. We also have Silas – a white nationalist whose mother is dating a Jewish man and whose father is dating a woman from Mexico. Silas cannot stand either of those things.

The game – though I hesitate to call it a game – we are going to play, we’re told early on, is this: someone dies. Who? Who shoots them, and why? We dip in and out of their heads enough – put in their shoes with all of the “you” directives – that it’s anybody’s guess. And the answer surprised me – I didn’t see it coming, to be honest.

The Bottom Line

Hopkins has done something that is not always easy to do – she combines two very important hot-button topics (white nationalism and gun control) into one narrative, and still keeps it approachable for her teenage readers. A lot of the reviews I’ve been reading rate this book low on the totem pole, saying it’s offensive. It might be, but only because the subject matter is offensive. It’s uncomfortable to sit in the shoes of someone you know you wouldn’t be able to stand in reality, isn’t it? But that’s how we grow.

This book is disturbing. It’s thought-provoking, powerful and earnest in its sincerity. It is not a fluff piece to read in an airport. It is meant to be digested slowly, piecemeal. I highly recommend it, but don’t go into it expecting to be anything it’s not – it deserves its very own impressions.

“Like a god
I am nothing
without you
but I am relentless
I know you can hear me
and sooner or later
you’ll heed my call.”

5 In Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Bingeworthy TV Shows

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday (as always, hosted by the inimitable Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl) is all about one of America’s most beloved pastimes: television.

“Patricia, what the Hell? This is a book blog, am I in the right place?” Yes, my child. But as Jana pointed out, September is the return of Fall (aka: the good) TV, and what better time to talk about it than to discuss the shows you binge when you don’t have your nose stuck in a book?

So in no particular order:

1. Friends

I mean, who doesn’t love a good Friends binge? It’s the perfect mindless background noise TV show where you know every episode, but you put it on again and again anyway because it’s just so funny and wholesome and lovely.

Controversial Opinion Corner: While I, along with every other female in the world, would prefer a Chandler, I honestly wouldn’t hate dating a Ross. There, I said it. Also, I’m a Monica.

2. Parks & Recreation

This is the sweetest, most wonderful show about some amazing people doing public service in an unforgiving and increasingly hostile world. As someone pursing a Masters in Public Administration, I basically want to be Leslie Knope when I “grow up,” and I am proud of that. I could use a liberal dose of her optimism, but I do what I can. (I, too, sleep about 3 1/2 to 4 hours a night).

3. Gilmore Girls

Am I a real red-blooded American female if I don’t put Gilmore Girls on this list? The ultimate show for fast-talking, smart, witty Millennials everywhere, Gilmore Girls is the perfect background noise for a Fall or Winter afternoon where you’re cleaning your apartment and wishing it was in Star’s Hollow.

Controversial Opinion CornerI’m team Dean. I’m not sorry, and no, I won’t change my mind. Jess has way too much romanticized baggage, and as for Logan … you can’t buy love. Dean kind of sucks too, technically I’m on team Rory Should Just Be Single, but nobody asked me. The nerve.

4. Parenthood

I now have a Pavlovian cry response to hearing “Forever Young,” and it’s all this damn show’s fault. I discovered Parenthood when it was in its second season. My fiance had just dumped me, and I was feeling rudderless and lost. But then I discovered the Braverman clan, and it suddenly all felt right again. I enjoy This Is Us, but Parenthood will always have my heart as the drama that taught me so much about family and love.  Ugh I want to rewatch it all over again now.

5. The Fosters

I was not 100% sure which terrible ABC Family sitcom to put here, because I have also loved and adored The Secret Life of the American Teenager and Switched At Birth, but I think The Fosters wins because it actually made me feel real emotion beyond laughing at how outrageous it is. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I do that too. But I also shed a few tears.

6. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Are you easily offended? If so, maybe don’t watch this show. But if you can roll with the punches, appreciate absurdist humor, and love a good Internet meme this might just be the show for you. You can watch this in any order, backwards or forwards, one episode or one hundred. But it’s still airing, and it’s still got some of my favorite one-liners. Gotta count for something.

7. Superstore

This show is so good. Everything you loved about The Office, but at what is clearly a pot shot at Walmart. It’s hilarious and surprisingly heartwarming – I got attached to these characters quickly, and I have missed watching them since the season ended. It makes me want to work retail again, and who the hell wants to work retail on purpose? Exactly.

Controversial Opinion CornerI think I am a Dina. I’m trying my best to be less Dina-y in my day-to-day life, but fact of the matter is that she is inescapable. Sorry, I’ll title my autobiography To All The People I’ve Dina’d At Work.

8. Fresh Off the Boat

I love Jessica with a fierce, reckless abandon. I want to be her when I grow up. Her persistent, undying love for her family that she covers up with a gruff exterior is just so perfect. Her relationship with her husband is the sweetest, and the kids are hysterical, not to mention grandma. Plus it’s great to relive the 90s through the lens of teenage boys desperately trying to be cool in a time when nobody was. Can’t wait to watch this one again.

9. The Good Place

I feel like The Good Place was a sleeper hit for a long time, and now that it’s about to enter season 3 it’s finally gained the traction it deserves. This show is hysterical, the casting is diverse and damn-near perfect, and it’s got such sly inside jokes ala Arrested Development that I have watched season 1 twice now and still don’t think I’ve picked up on every nuance. If you haven’t watched this magnificent comedy, please do yourself a favor and change that.

10. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

I’ll admit that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has not improved with time, but that seasons 1 and 2 are peak comedy. The first couple of episodes are cringeworthy, but if you can push past that you’ll find a hilarious show with a big heart, catchy show tunes, and its tongue pushed so far into its cheek that you can see it poking out if you stand beside it. I have the soundtrack on permanent rotation in my car. God bless this show.

Honorable Mentions:

  • The Office
  • Black-ish
  • Arrested Development
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine
  • Breaking Bad

Anything here you agree or disagree with? What’s on your list? I’d love to see!

2 In Wrap Up

August Wrap-Up & September TBR

August is over, and there is less than a month until Autumn!

If you can’t tell, I just really hate the summer. Honestly, September through December is the best third of the year and you cannot possibly convince me otherwise – cooler weather, beautiful scenery, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, excuses to snuggle, crock pot meals and hot drinks. What’s not to love? Nothing. Summertime means … bug bites, heat rash, sweat, high power bills, kids everywhere, your car trying to burn you when you get inside of it after a long day at work. What is good about any of that? Nothing. OK great. (I am also a mountains over beach person which might contribute to this).

 Pages Read: 2,236, an average of 372 per book

 Average Rating: 3.5 stars

Least Favorite: That’s Not What Happened

 Most Favorite: An Anonymous Girl

My goal was to read more in August, and I think it’s safe to say I definitely did that – I read over 900 pages more this month than last. However I didn’t like the books as much as I did in July, so it is what it is. I am not even factoring in the insanely terrible piece of crap I read called No One Else Can Have You that I didn’t even write a review for because it would just be me high-pitched keening and slamming my face into the desk – that would have significantly lowered my average rating but increased my pages read by about 350.

I am such a mood reader that these are always hard for me, but I will also – as always – make a fair shake attempt at it.

 My Lady Jane is my “gimmie” for September, because I’m reading it now. Always keep a win up your sleeve, folks.

 I am also hopefully going to buddy read The Kiss Quotient with Katie at Too Old for YA and Destiny at Howling Libraries. Woop!

Other than that, I have no idea. I am saving my spooky reads for October, so I think what I read during Summer’s last gasp will largely depend on what I feel like picking up at any given moment. 🙂

What about you this month? Come talk to me in the comments!

1 In Review

Review: The Space Between by Dete Meserve

Review: The Space Between by Dete MeserveThe Space Between by Dete Meserve
Published by Lake Union Publishing on July 24, 2018
Pages: 300
Format: Paperback
Goodreads

The truth isn’t what it seems in this stirring novel of suspense.
After presenting a major scientific breakthrough to a rapt audience across the country, renowned astronomer Sarah Mayfield returns home to a disturbing discovery. Her husband, Ben, a Los Angeles restaurateur, has disappeared, leaving behind an unexplained bank deposit of a million dollars, a loaded Glock in the nightstand, and a video security system that’s been wiped clean. The only answers their son, Zack, can offer are the last words his father said to him: keep the doors locked and set the alarm.
Sarah’s marriage was more troubled than anyone suspected, but now she is afraid that her husband’s recent past could be darker than she dares to admit. Suspecting that nothing about Ben’s vanishing is what it seems, Sarah must delve into the space between old memories, newfound fears, and misleading clues to piece together the mystery of her husband’s disappearance—and find what she hopes in her heart is the truth.

I am a long-time lover of domestic thrillers, as evidenced by the fact that my blog consists of either middle grade/YA book reviews, or overly complicated, twisted thrillers about husbands and wives gone horribly wrong.  So when I saw the adult offering for August’s Once Upon a Book Club box, I jumped on it – who doesn’t love a good ol’ yarn about a missing husband? And what’s even better, the wife who’s trying to puzzle it all out is a freakin’ astronomer!

Rating: 

How I’d Describe This Book to a Friend

Our main character, Sarah, returns home from a business trip where she has unveiled an amazing scientific discovery only to find that her husband, Ben, isn’t home yet. Their teenage son, Zack, has shrugged it off and gone about his business, so Sarah follows suit and goes to bed. But when she wakes up and Ben is still not home, that’s when things start to get a little hairy …

It turns out that when Zack saw his dad leave home last, he told him to lock the doors and turn on the alarm system – something Ben never told Zack to do. Things get even more problematic when Sarah discovers a loaded handgun in her bedside table, and a small loan of a million dollars in a remote bank account she set up for her son and rarely touched.

This is basically what happened.

All Hell begins to break loose as Sarah’s powerful restaurateur husband doesn’t return home yet another night, the police are called, and the house of cards slowly starts to fall down around them all. Where is Ben? And why is all of the security footage of the house suddenly wiped clean when Sarah needs it now more than ever?

The Bottom Line

What kept me from giving this book a higher rating was all of the names. There were so many men in this book, and they all had names that came up just often enough that you’d forget who the guy was, but not that you’d seen his name before. It made it difficult to know how to react when Sarah would gasp and say “Oh, that’s XYZ on the recovered DVR footage!” – who? Which one was the husband’s college BFF, again? The ending was also a little “meh” – schmaltzy and unrealistic, but if you like a happy ending with no loose ends to tie up when you finish your domestic thrillers, this is the book for you. I prefer a more genuine ending, where everyone is not perfectly happy, but you know it will eventually come around full circle.

On the other foot, Meserve’s writing is chock full of loving, beautiful prose about the night sky and its occupants. I learned a lot about skies and constellations from reading this book, and I could tell how much her own personal gentle adoration of the subject was coming out as she wrote – it shows.

Overall, if you enjoy the subject of astronomy and you like a Lifetime movie-temperature domestic thriller, check out The Space Between. It’s not perfect, but it’s a fun romp anyway.

1 In Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Back to School

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday (as always, hosted by the inimitable Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl) is about one of my most favorite things, which is simultaneously many people’s least favorites: school! I was that nerdy kid in all of your classes, asking the teacher if they intended to collect the homework assignment, and raising my hand like Hermione in Potions class every time I knew an answer. Year-round school was a dream for me. In short, I am many people’s worst scholastic nightmare.

In any case, today’s theme is a bit of a “free for all,” in the sense that we can choose any school-related topic and nerd out to our hearts’ delight. I chose what I assume many people will – my top books with a school setting. However, as much as I racked my brain I could only come up with eight, so you’ll be getting a Top Eight Tuesday – not the same alliterative flow, but better for my sanity.

PS: I did not use Harry Potter because it felt like a cop-out.

 

Have you read any of these? Any favorites in the bunch, or glaringly obvious books I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments!

5 In Review

Review: That’s Not What Happened by Kody Keplinger

Review: That’s Not What Happened by Kody KeplingerThat's Not What Happened by Kody Keplinger
Published by Scholastic Press on August 28, 2018
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Goodreads

It's been three years since the Virgil County High School Massacre. Three years since my best friend, Sarah, was killed in a bathroom stall during the mass shooting. Everyone knows Sarah's story--that she died proclaiming her faith.
But it's not true.
I know because I was with her when she died. I didn't say anything then, and people got hurt because of it. Now Sarah's parents are publishing a book about her, so this might be my last chance to set the record straight . . . but I'm not the only survivor with a story to tell about what did--and didn't--happen that day.
Except Sarah's martyrdom is important to a lot of people, people who don't take kindly to what I'm trying to do. And the more I learn, the less certain I am about what's right. I don't know what will be worse: the guilt of staying silent or the consequences of speaking up . . .

Do you remember the story of Cassie Bernall? I bet you do – she is the girl of “she said yes” fame, who was gunned down during the Columbine shooting but is more well-known for professing her devotion to God right before her death. While Columbine is now almost 20 years behind us, school shootings are more prevalent than ever, and the stakes continue to climb as gun control legislature is fought over tooth and nail by the US government.

Keplinger’s book is quite timely, right in the face of all this anxiety and uncertainty. She takes this concept – this idea of one girl becoming a martyr for her religion – and reminds us that it can still happen today. It could happen to you, your children … anyone, really.

Rating: 

How I’d Describe This Book to a Friend

What if Cassie Bernall’s mom got it all wrong, and her book turned out to be built on unintentional lies? What if the person who overheard Cassie confessing her belief in God heard wrong, and those words were wrong attributed? That’s where the premise of this book draws its inspiration: what if what the world believed happened didn’t really happen?

Lee is a survivor of the shooting at Virgil County High School – she, along with five of her peers, is trying to navigate the waters of recovery the best she can, three years out. But it’s not as easy as it seems – she lost her best friend Sarah in the chaos while they were both crammed into a bathroom stall, clinging to each other. Yet from that moment burst forth a whole new movement – Sarah became a figurehead for her local church, for religion, when a rumor started circulating that she’d told the shooter she still believed in God. The only problem? Lee was right there, and Sarah didn’t ever say a word.

We walk with Lee through her recovery, and feel as if we’re there when the PTSD starts to close in over her head like an anxious ocean wave. And when Lee discovers that Sarah’s parents are planning to release a book about their daughter’s story and martyrdom, she decides enough is enough: she’s got to tell the truth. Thing is … people don’t take kindly to it when others call them wrong. A fact Lee quickly realizes when Sarah’s parents immediately oust her from their home upon hearing the truth of the situation.

Lee decides that if each survivor writes a letter, explains their side of the story, that maybe after she graduates her story will live on at Virgil County High – the true story. She is flummoxed to discover that not everyone wants to share their experience, however, and that we all have different ways of coping after such a massive incident. Lee quickly realizes that she needs to fully step up, or just sit back and let the false memories go – neither is a good idea, but what’s the moral thing to do when your best friend would hate to know she’s being held up this way?

The Bottom Line

There are some really great aspects of this book that help to differentiate it between every other school shooting YA fiction out there:

 Lee is asexual, which we see come up as an issue when her senior prom arrives

 One of the survivors, Denny, is both African American and blind – a unique perspective

 This is perhaps my favorite of them all: we never learn the shooter’s name. Not once do we learn any identifying information about them beyond the fact that it is a male. In places where the name has been written, it’s blacked out and censored. We see so much about how we need to focus on the survivors of tragedies such as these, not the shooters – Keplinger really takes that to heart, and I appreciated it immensely.

So why only 3 1/2 stars? I liked the concept, enjoyed getting to know the characters, but I just didn’t care for Lee as a person. She was selfish and stubborn and didn’t seem to take anyone else’s emotions into account before charging into a situation. She’s not a bad person – she’s seen some shit, after all – but she’s just not that likable.

This is definitely a unique take on an unfortunately prevalent topic, and I would absolutely recommend it to anyone who works with teen populations, or wants to learn more about what it’s like in the aftermath of a shooting – not during.

1 In Review

Review: An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

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: An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah PekkanenAn Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks, Sarah Pekkanen
Published by St. Martin's Press on January 8, 2019
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Goodreads

The next novel of psychological suspense and obsession from the authors of the blockbuster bestseller The Wife Between Us
Seeking women ages 18–32 to participate in a study on ethics and morality. Generous compensation. Anonymity guaranteed.
When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr. Shields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money, and leave. But as the questions grow more and more intense and invasive and the sessions become outings where Jess is told what to wear and how to act, she begins to feel as though Dr. Shields may know what she’s thinking…and what she’s hiding. As Jess’s paranoia grows, it becomes clear that she can no longer trust what in her life is real, and what is one of Dr. Shields’ manipulative experiments. Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.
From the authors of the blockbuster bestseller The Wife Between Us comes an electrifying new novel about doubt, passion, and just how much you can trust someone.

When I got the email that I was eligible to get an eARC of An Anonymous Girl if I wanted one, I almost fell out of my chair. The Wife Between Us is towards the top of my “top 5 books of the year” list, and I couldn’t sing its praises more if I tried. I read mostly YA and middle grade, as you might have gathered by now, so for me to pick up a “grown up” book it’s got to be something special. Luckily the miracle combination of Hendricks and Pekkanen has this in spades.

Rating: 

How I’d Describe This Book to a Friend

Let me introduce you to Jess Farris. She’s like a lot of us – a struggling twenty-something, trying to make ends meet in her crappy studio apartment with her dog, perpetually single, and working as a freelance makeup artist for a company called Beauty Buzz. She’s bored, and she’s poor. So when a college student she’s giving a makeover to bemoans having to go to campus early the next morning for a paid study and ultimately decides against attending, Jess makes a life-altering judgement call: she picks up the girl’s phone and gets the information for the study. She shows up the next day, claims that the girl in question was unable to make it so she was sent in her place. Seems normal.

Jess is situated in a large lecture hall, alone with just a computer. She’s given questions – morality questions, honesty questions. When she’s called back for a second survey, she’s thrilled to bring in the extra cash. But suddenly, the researcher asks her to come to her office for further study – and further pay. And that’s where things get a bit … hairy.

I’d also like to introduce you to Dr. Lydia Shields. Lydia is a no nonsense woman who keeps her home immaculate, her clothing on trend, and her brows on fleek. (probably). She has been running this morality study for a while now, but she’s taken a shining to participant #52, a certain young woman named Jessica … she might be just what the doctor ordered (pun not intended but I’m leaving it here).

You see, Dr. Shields thinks her husband is cheating on her. And Jess? Jess is the perfect pawn to put into play on the chessboard to see if this theory holds any water. But what’s the harm in asking her to do these innocuous tasks for good money, right? What’s the worst that could happen?

The Bottom Line

I was sucked into An Anonymous Girl just as quickly as I was into The Wife Between Us. They both feature people who are absolutely despicable, and twist and turn you more than Primeval Whirl at Disney World.

Man, I hated this ride.

If you enjoy a good domestic thriller that keeps you on your toes, and also makes you really ponder your own morality (I spent a lot of time wondering what I’d do in these situations – it’s never as cut and dry as it seems when you’re not the one in them), I can’t recommend this book enough. Unfortunately any more information than what I’ve already said will start to wander into spoiler territory, and you need to go into this as untainted as possible. Trust me when I say this: it’s worth the ride. As long as that ride is not Primeval Whirl.

“Everyone has a price. Yours has yet to be determined. You are staring at the therapist. The carefully constructed facade is working. It is all you see. It’s all you will ever see.”

4 In Review

Review: Wild Blue Wonder by Carlie Sorosiak

Review: Wild Blue Wonder by Carlie SorosiakWild Blue Wonder by Carlie Sorosiak
Published by HarperTeen on June 26, 2018
Pages: 368
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads

There are two monsters in this story. One of them is me.
Ask anyone in Winship, Maine, and they’ll tell you the summer camp Quinn’s family owns is a magical place. Paper wishes hang from the ceiling. Blueberries grow in the dead of winter. According to local legend, a sea monster even lurks off the coast. Mostly, there’s just a feeling that something extraordinary could happen there.
Like Quinn falling in love with her best friend, Dylan.
After the accident, the magic drained from Quinn’s life. Now Dylan is gone, the camp is a lonely place, and Quinn knows it’s her fault.
But the new boy in town, Alexander, doesn’t see her as the monster she believes herself to be. As Quinn lets herself open up again, she begins to understand the truth about love, loss, and monsters—real and imagined.

I never went to summer camp as a child – just never had a desire. If given the opportunity now, I probably still wouldn’t to be honest: it’s too hot, there are bugs and the ground is hard and unforgiving. But sometimes I read a summer camp book (excluding ones about murder – sorry, The Last Time I Lied) that makes me want to throw caution to the wind and be a teenager at sleepaway camp. Wild Blue Wonder is one of those books.

Review: 

How I’d Describe This Book to a Friend

I’ll be honest – I wasn’t sure I’d care for this book at all when I received it in my July Once Upon a Book Club box. It seemed a little hokey, and I was concerned it wouldn’t be able to pick a genre – from the description alone it could have gone off in a few different directions: fantasy, mystery, romance … it actually managed to weave all three together seamlessly, which is no small feat.

Quinn had it all figured out. She was incredibly close with her older brother Reed and younger sister Fern, her parents loved them dearly and her grandmother was an unstoppable force to be reckoned with. And then there was Dylan – her brother’s best friend, her crush, her dream. But when we begin this story, it’s all wrong – we’ve never seen how Quinn used to operate with Reed and Fern, but we know this is not how it’s supposed to be – the siblings go out of their way to not interact, there’s a clear dislike of Quinn running as an undercurrent between them all. Dylan is gone – we presume he’s dead – and Quinn holds herself accountable. We see how Quinn struggles – once a star swimmer who could attend just about any college on a swim scholarship who now won’t touch the water – and we can’t help but wonder, what happened to Dylan? What happened to Quinn?

This story unravels on this quasi-magical plot of land known as The Hundreds – so named because it’s 100 acres in size, no relation to Pooh Bear. Each summer, Quinn’s family hosts several week-long summer camps, and this is where the writing shines so boldly: we’re right there with them. I can feel the summer heat on my skin and can see the hundreds of wishes scribbled on scraps of paper, dangling from the ceiling. When it’s winter, I can feel the oppressive snow and cold, eyelashes frozen – and I’m from Georgia, I’ve never seen snow this deep. But damn if I don’t feel it.

There is a love interest, your typical “new kid moves to town and doesn’t care about the local gossip about the main character” romance subplot, but it’s not the main focus of the story and it is certainly not heavyhanded. It’s a sweet, slow burning relationship that is very realistic and lovely. We get to know the boy in question – Alexander – quite well independent of his status as the love interest, and even Quinn’s best friend Hana gets fleshed out. These characters are easy to get to know and love – even siblings Reed and Fern who we don’t know much about at present are fleshed out in memories and flashbacks Quinn has to their childhood.

The Bottom Line

There’s lots to unpack here – redemption, family, friendship, guilt. The concept of your “found family,” the people you choose to keep close who aren’t related to you by blood. But it’s all handled delicately, captured within a narrative that feels like it’s held together with spun sugar – magic and wonder. This is the most captivating setting I’ve read about all year, and I can’t praise Sorosiak enough for her depiction of how PTSD manifests – how grief shows itself differently in everyone, but how when you witness a harrowing event it can feel even heavier and more dire.

I haven’t seen anyone mention this book all summer long, and I am not 100% sure why – this is Sorosiak’s sophomore book, but maybe this is just a sleeper hit? It seems deserving of a quiet, but striking and bold, narrative – just like The Hundreds, tucked away in the Maine woods by a lake … gentle and slow like a summer morning.

“When I look back on that summer, this is how I want to remember her. This is how I want to remember us. Belting out a song in the middle of a storm. Gobbling up firecracker Popsicles beneath an orange sky. I want to remember picnics in the wildflower meadow and lounging in the sun-washed grass, fresh blueberries and sweating bottles of cool lemonade, snorting with laughter and then laughing some more.”

7 In Review

Review: Save the Date by Morgan Matson

Review: Save the Date by Morgan MatsonSave the Date by Morgan Matson
on June 5, 2018
Pages: 432
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads

Charlie Grant’s older sister is getting married this weekend at their family home, and Charlie can’t wait—for the first time in years, all four of her older siblings will be under one roof. Charlie is desperate for one last perfect weekend, before the house is sold and everything changes. The house will be filled with jokes and games and laughs again. Making decisions about things like what college to attend and reuniting with longstanding crush Jesse Foster—all that can wait. She wants to focus on making the weekend perfect.
The only problem? The weekend is shaping up to be an absolute disaster.
There’s the unexpected dog with a penchant for howling, house alarm that won’t stop going off, and a papergirl with a grudge.
There are the relatives who aren’t speaking, the (awful) girl her favorite brother brought home unannounced, and a missing tuxedo.
Not to mention the neighbor who seems to be bent on sabotage and a storm that is bent on drenching everything. The justice of the peace is missing. The band will only play covers. The guests are all crazy. And the wedding planner’s nephew is unexpectedly, distractingly…cute.
Over the course of three ridiculously chaotic days, Charlie will learn more than she ever expected about the family she thought she knew by heart. And she’ll realize that sometimes, trying to keep everything like it was in the past means missing out on the future.

Morgan Matson and I have a strange, rather tumultuous relationship. I loved and adored Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour, and Second Chance Summer. But I DNFd Since You’ve Been Gone because it just wasn’t sticking to my ribs like I needed in that moment. I preordered Save the Date because Morgan Matson is, along with Sarah Dessen and Huntley Fitzpatrick, one of those authors you just buy automatically when they drop a new single, though in this case “single” means “Summer romantic comedy book thing.”

Rating: 

Unfortunately, it fell a little flat for me this year, much to my dismay.

How I’d Describe This Book to a Friend

We have all read or watched a variation on this plot, over and over. Whether it was Father of the Bride, My Best Friend’s Wedding or Something Borrowed, we all know this trope because we’ve run it into the ground. Big family comes together to celebrate a child’s wedding, shenanigans happen, hilarity ensues. Hell, it’s in the pilot for The Brady Bunch – this isn’t new.

Iconic, 10 out of 10, best monologue about hot dogs the world has ever seen.

If I had to guess, I’d say part of the reason this book just didn’t do it for me is because I don’t have a big, close-knit family. I have a dad who worked a ton to provide for his wife and kids so I hardly saw him, a mom who was just perpetually tired from dealing with life in general, and one sister who is nearly 10 years my junior. So while I could clearly see that certain parts of this book were touching and all that jazz, it just didn’t hit me with any sort of “Frozen Anna and Elsa sisters 4eva omg” vibe.

Add that to the fact that this is generally a fairly formulaic book – the family comes together in the Ancestral Home™ to celebrate Linnie’s wedding day. Something goes wrong. Charlie fixes it with the help of someone (her brother’s girlfriend, the cute wedding planner assistant boy, her own sheer force of will). Everyone breathes a collected sigh of relief. And then, uh oh, more shenanigans! I know there is a comic strip based on this family’s fictional circumstances, but it’s like The Family Circus came to life and started barfing up rainbows in the living room.

There are a couple of fairly strong B-storylines, mostly including relationships gone awry, but they are overshadowed by the Hilarity Of The Wedding™ – this book could have been titled Murphy’s Law: Wedding Edition and nothing would have changed. Charlie is fairly one-dimensional, focused solely on her family and them not changing ever ever ever – but it’s OK, because most of her family is equally static. JJ exists just to be the comic relief, her newly-minted brother in law Rodney exists just to be the voice of reason – they’re all pretty pigeonholed into their rolls. Don’t get me wrong – it works, but that doesn’t lead to many surprises.

The Bottom Line

If you have a big ol’ honkin’ family and your blunder years have a fair bit of nostalgic hold over you, I’d pick this one up. But if you are like me, fairly “eh” about weddings in general and don’t have a giant close-knit, hilarious family, maybe give this one a skip and pick up a Jenn Bennett book instead, or any of Matson’s other books. It’s not that this is a bad book, per se – more like it’s over 400 pages of wacky shenanigans and we could cut out 100 pages and the plot would not be affected in the slightest. Normally not a big deal, but by page 300 I was pretty over it.

You know what? Just go pay $2.99 to rent Father of the Bride on Amazon. It’s faster, cheaper and better overall. Sorry, Morgan. It’s not you, it’s me and weddings.