books and reading

What I Read This Week

These are the books I finished this week:

31707102And We’re Off by Dana Schwartz: Nora is seventeen and an aspiring artist, about to take a trip to Europe on her grandfather’s dime. But at the last minute, her mom decides to tag along, throwing a huge wrench in all of her plans. Can the two get along and navigate Europe together?

Hailed as Gilmore Girls meets 13 Little Blue Envelopes, I really enjoyed this sweet story about mother-daughter relationships and traveling through Europe. It’s a totally enjoyable, if a bit forgettable YA novel that should appeal to a variety of teens.

 

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling: In Harry’s sixth year at1 Hogwarts, things are not good. Voldemort is returned to power, Dumbledore has special assignments for Harry, and a new Potions master means that Harry’s dealing with Snape as the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. And there’s something going on with Draco Malfoy, too.

I finished this on audio this week, which means I’m down to one more book (I haven’t decided if I’ll also re-read The Cursed Child, since there’s no audio for it). I’m excited/sad to finish listening to the series (my backlog of podcasts is getting ridiculous). Onward!

29010395I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez: Julia is not the perfect Mexican daughter the way her sister Olga is. She has big dreams: college, New York, a writing career…but now that her sister Olga is dead, Julia wonders if she can have any of it. Struggling with her grief over the loss of her sister while also trying to figure out the mysteries of Olga’s life, Julia uncovers a lot about herself in the process.

Well-written and moving, but I had a really hard time getting into it. I felt like this was a book that came to me at the wrong time, and it says more about me than about the book. Definitely an outstanding read from the last year, though.

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books and reading

What I Read This Week

These are the books I read this week. Without further ado:

26067909The Assistants by Camille Perri: Tina Fontana is an executive assistant to Robert Barlow, a multimedia billionaire CEO. She’s living paycheck to paycheck while he rakes in literal billions. When a technical error with an expense report offers Tina a chance to pay off her student loan debt, she hesitates and then actually does it. But then other assistants start cashing in favors about their debt, too, and before Tina knows it, she’s caught up in a scheme that is completely illegal.

It’s probably best not to think about this one too hard, because it’s pretty silly, but it’s also kind of fun to read a story about a bunch of women taking down a billionaire man. I wanted it to have more depth, and I wanted the characters to have more development, but it was a perfectly diverting read.

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Dear Martin by Nic Stone: Justyce is at the top of his class, on a scholarship to a prestigious prep school, and he’s definitely Ivy League bound. None of that matters when a police officer puts him in handcuffs. Another altercation with an off-duty cop puts Justyce in the midst of controversy he never wanted any part of. Turning to the teachings of Dr. King to try to find answers, Justyce has to find a way to grapple with the realities of his life.

I really liked this moving account of a black kid caught between two worlds. It’s a great readalike to The Hate U Give, which I thought had more nuance than this one, but both are definitely recommended reading. Nic Stone will be an author to watch.

333676Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling: Harry keeps dreaming about a locked door at the end of a corridor. Dumbledore insists Harry should study occlumency lessons with Snape but won’t say why. An anti-Voldemort group called the Order of the Phoenix is hard at work but won’t let Harry know what they’re planning. A new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher is making life hell at Hogwarts.

I’m still going strong on my re-listening to the Harry Potter series, and I enjoyed this one immensely. I can’t wait to get into the last two books, which I remember the least of all of them.

 

 

 

books and reading · reviews

Book Review: Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

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Eliza Mirk’s real life is quiet and friendless. But online, she’s got a core group of friends and is the author of the insanely popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. No one knows that she’s the writer except for her two best friends. When she meets Wallace Warland at school and discovers that he’s a MS fan as well as the most popular writer of the series’ fanfiction, the two slowly start to become friends or maybe more. But she doesn’t tell him who she is, and she’s stacking a house of cards that’s sure to fall down at some point.

This smart, sweet, captivating novel about high school misfits who find each other through their shared love of fantasy is a standout. Zappia has created not only one memorable world, but another fully-realized world within a world. Fans of Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl will find a great readalike here, with a ton of depth and complexity.

What stands out in this novel is Zappia’s commitment to showing the how painful and self-absorbing mental illness can be while also developing characters who are more than just their illnesses. Wallace and Eliza’s relationship is unusual to say the least, but it is realistic and absorbing. Their relationship with one another, as well as their own grappling with their own issues, helps illustrate the feelings of helplessness that young people so often experience.

Incredibly respectful to fandoms the world over, this is a memorable read. Teens are likely to tear through this one more than once (I had a seventh-grade girl tell me she’s on her fifth read of it the other day), and it’s very likely to find a fervent audience. I enjoyed the hell out of this one. One of my favorite reads of 2017.

Recommended.

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia. Greenwillow Books: 2017. Library copy.

 

books and reading

What I Read This Week

Here’s what I read this week:

9461872Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares:

It’s been 10 years since the girls lost the Pants on a trip to Greece. Although they all have careers and men in their lives that they love, they feel like something is missing. When Tibby reaches out to them and plans a reunion trip in Greece, they all realize they need to see one another. But a tragic accident sends the girls reeling in another journey of self-discovery.

I read this when it came out and haven’t revisited it since. I remember really liking it, but I wonder now how much of that was fueled by my love for the series, because this was Not Great. The characters are totally stalled in terms of development, and they’re all kind of the worst, to be honest. There’s a lot of stalling in terms of the plot, too, which makes for a strangely bogged-down read. This is one that didn’t age well.

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Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick:

Nanette O’Hare is a star soccer player and straight-A student. But she’s lonely, and when her beloved English teacher gives her his copy of The Bubblegum Reaper, she becomes obsessed with the piece of fiction. She befriends the author, falls in love with a troubled young poet, and discovers more about herself than she ever thought possible.

The first half of this novel feels like well-trodden ground, and then it veers off into something quite different. The result is a strong offering from Quick, who is a smart writer of prose and an even better writer of dialogue. A strong female protagonist also makes this one a standout. I really liked it.

28110139The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller: 

Olivia Rawlings is a renowned pastry chef who literally sets the Boston dinner club she works at on fire with her flambeed dessert. Since her love life is also a fiery mess, she decides to hightail it up to rural Vermont to crash with her best friend. But then a job offer at the Sugar Maple Inn comes available, and Olivia finds herself settling down out of the city and forging connections she never thought possible.

I loved, loved, loved this one, devouring it in about two sittings. It might be a case of the book coming to me at the right time, but it hardly matters, because it was pure escapism. Something about this reminded me a little of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s books, although hers might delve deeper into her characters. Even so, this was a delight from start to finish and I hope Miller has more to offer in the future.

What did you read this week?

 

books and reading · reviews

Book Review: There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

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Moving from Hawaii to Nebraska was supposed to give high school senior Makani Young a chance to start over. Her past is full of dark secrets, and she’d like to keep it that way. She’s found friends and has started dating Ollie Larson, but just when she thinks things might start to go her way, her classmates start getting murdered in really gruesome ways. Can Makani confront her past and maybe save some lives at the same time? Or is she next?

Perkins takes a sharp turn out of the YA romance genre to explore YA horror with a bloody, fast-paced slasher story. While Perkins doesn’t shy away from the violence in this one (seriously, it’s super, super gory) and it’s clear that she has a love of horror movies, her talents at writing budding love stories still manage to shine through here. This overshadows the slasher storyline significantly.

Makani’s burgeoning relationship with Ollie is sweet, compelling, and believable. They have a nice rapport and chemistry that jumps off the page. Perkins works hard to not reveal Makani’s secrets nor the killer’s identity in an attempt to ramp up the tension, it’s the two teen’s relationship that allows readers to feel any connection to the characters. The result is a mixed bag: it’s not a scary read, but it is a bloody one.

The novel’s very bloody end wraps things up, providing the killer’s identity as well as their motivations, but it feels like almost too little too late. While teens are likely to gobble this one up quickly, there’s not a lot of substance here, and it could have been a lot scarier than it was. Still, it’s an interesting direction for Perkins to go, and it will be equally interesting to see what she does next.

There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins. Dutton Books for Young Readers: 2017. Library copy.

books and reading · reviews

Book Review: Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

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Jule Williams is 18 and an orphan. Her best friend is heiress Imogen Sokoloff, who lives off a trust fund and jet-sets all over the world. The two are inseparable, or are they? Jule seems to be running, but from who?

The convoluted plot of Lockhart’s latest is best left to the vague description above, as trying to explain it further will confuse readers. Starting with chapter 18 and working backward in time, Lockhart’s latest is a pale imitation of her previous (and far superior) effort We Were Liars. I’m frankly stunned by the starred reviews this one has garnered, because it isn’t nearly as good as it thinks it is.

It is, however, fast-paced, and it reads very quickly as a result. As Jule moves from New York to London to California to Mexico, her intense narrative keeps readers turning pages to discover what’s really going on. As narrators go, Jules is completely unreliable, and the mysteries surrounding her are equal parts compelling and aggravating.

There is some suspense to be found here, and there’s certainly some teen appeal, especially for readers who like their stories twisty and their characters complex. There are moments that are truly unsettling, and even more moments that are actually quite gruesome, which might put some readers off the story.

On the whole, though, the book never quite gelled for me. It feels too much like an attempt to recapture the magic of Lockhart’s last book, and it’s as though I could see the author pulling the strings to move the plot along. Perhaps it just wasn’t for me, but there’s certainly an audience for this one. Might make a good movie, too.

Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart. Delacorte: 2017. Library copy.

books and reading

What I Read This Week

Another slow week for me. Here’s what I read this week:

31931941Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia: Eliza Mirk is shy to the point of being friendless. But that’s in the real world, because in the online world, she has friends. And she’s Lady Constellation, the author of the super popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. When new kid Wallace Warland enters her life, she realizes he’s the author of the most popular Monstrous Sea fanfic around. And the two become friends, but she can’t seem to bring herself to tell him who she is.

I was surprised by how much I loved this one. Sweet and funny, with serious respect for the world of fandom, I devoured this in just a couple sittings. Definitely one of the best YA books of the year.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling: Harry’s second year at15881 Hogwarts is marked by mysterious whispering from something in the walls, people are turning up petrified solid, and there’s the mystery of the diary that seems to be blank until it isn’t. But who is the heir of Slytherin, and how is the chamber opening again?

I’ve been listening to the Harry Potter books on audiobook, and they aren’t disappointing this time around. It’s been years since I listened to Jim Dale’s narration, and it’s like delicious comfort food. One of my least favorites of the series, I actually enjoyed it this time around, but I can’t wait to get further into the series.

9303735Backstage Pass by Olivia Cunning: Brian Sinclair hasn’t written new music in months. His band, Sinners on Fire, needs new tunes to entertain their fans, but he’s blocked. Then he meets Myrna, a sex psychologist, and the two have steamy encounters that ignite his muse. But she’s not looking to for a relationship, and he’s on the road constantly.

Pure erotica garbage. It’s not particularly well written, the characterization is a mess, and there’s no actual story here, but I couldn’t stop reading it because it was so silly.