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June 2014 - ALA Annual @ Las Vegas | July 2014 - Comic-Con SD

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Review: Free To Fall by Lauren Miller (ARC)

Free To Fall by Lauren Miller
Harper Teen, 469 pages
US Release Date: May 13, 2014
Format/Source: Print ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!

What if there was an app that told you what song to listen to, what coffee to order, who to date, even what to do with your life—an app that could ensure your complete and utter happiness? What if you never had to fail or make a wrong choice?

What if you never had to fall?

Fast-forward to a time when Apple and Google have been replaced by Gnosis, a monolith corporation that has developed the most life-changing technology to ever hit the market: Lux, an app that flawlessly optimizes decision making for the best personal results. Just like everyone else, sixteen-year-old Rory Vaughn knows the key to a happy, healthy life is following what Lux recommends. When she’s accepted to the elite boarding school Theden Academy, her future happiness seems all the more assured. But once on campus, something feels wrong beneath the polished surface of her prestigious dream school. Then she meets North, a handsome townie who doesn’t use Lux, and begins to fall for him and his outsider way of life. Soon, Rory is going against Lux’s recommendations, listening instead to the inner voice that everyone has been taught to ignore — a choice that leads her to uncover a truth neither she nor the world ever saw coming.
-------------------------Goodreads Summary
Notable Quote
How many sunsets would it take to remind him of what was true?
I’m always astounded by Lauren Miller’s writing. I think it’s fairly obvious she’s a screenwriter, because there’s so much depth and story to her books. There’s a shocking amount of thought and intelligence woven into each plot, and I read every single one like I’m watching Inception or something.

One of the reasons I wanted to read this book is because of the premise and how it’s one of those futures that doesn’t seem too far away—it’s likely and almost probable. Ignoring the politics to make it happen, I completely see all our technology merging into one, similar to Gnosis, and having this crazy ridiculous influence in our life—like Lux. How many of us already turn to social media for ideas, opinions, help, advice? Who never looks up directions because you just plug into into your phone or GPS and it tells us the distance and time? All of this happens in Free to Fall, and I can completely seeing it happen to us in real life.

Aside from the social commentary, Free To Fall was a fantastic story, filled with some great friendships, hot boys (wooooo!), and a great mix of intrigue and drama and comedy—there’s even a secret society!! How could you say no to a book with a secret society?!

Like I mentioned, there are a lot of layers to this plot. Like…a lot. A. LOT. And sometimes I felt slightly lost or like it was a little convoluted, especially as it’s all revealed how they relate or influence the other, so definitely read carefully guys. But it’s all completely worth it, to know and learn of this compelling story.

I feel like I’m making this seem like a really serious book, and it isn’t entirely. There’s a lot of fun, too. There are some great friendships, lovely coffee shop meetings, and even a fun masked ball! No matter how much happens in this book, it’s still set in high school, and encompasses all the drama and angst of those years, too.

So, I have to talk about the boys and the ending. No spoilers, of course…but I thought both were a bit predictable and wrapped up too nicely---but I don’t really mean it in a bad way. I’m glad all turned out the way they did, that everything came to the conclusion it did, because somehow it all just fit. It was a nice commentary on life and slowing down and having the freedom of choice and failing and falling. And those are lessons I think we all need a reminder of.

4 stars

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Review: The Museum of Intangible Things by Wendy Wunder (ARC)

The Museum of Intangible Things by Wendy Wunder
Razorbill (an imprint of Penguin), 304 pages
US Release Date: April 10, 2014
Format/Source: ARC from author - thank you Wendy!!

Loyalty. Envy. Obligation. Dreams. Disappointment. Fear. Negligence. Coping. Elation. Lust. Nature. Freedom. Heartbreak. Insouciance. Audacity. Gluttony. Belief. God. Karma. Knowing what you want (there is probably a French word for it). Saying Yes. Destiny. Truth. Devotion. Forgiveness. Life. Happiness (ever after).

Hannah and Zoe haven’t had much in their lives, but they’ve always had each other. So when Zoe tells Hannah she needs to get out of their down-and-out New Jersey town, they pile into Hannah’s beat-up old Le Mans and head west, putting everything—their deadbeat parents, their disappointing love lives, their inevitable enrollment at community college—behind them.

As they chase storms and make new friends, Zoe tells Hannah she wants more for her. She wants her to live bigger, dream grander, aim higher. And so Zoe begins teaching Hannah all about life’s intangible things, concepts sadly missing from her existence—things like audacity, insouciance, karma, and even happiness.

An unforgettable read from the acclaimed author of The Probability of Miracles, The Museum of Intangible Things sparkles with the humor and heartbreak of true friendship and first love.
------------------------------Goodreads Summary
Notable Quote
“Perfect should never be a goal. Perfect just happens if you let it…Perfect happens only if you get out of its way."
So I can’t really give away what my favourite part of The Museum of Intangible Things is since it’s a little spoiler-y, but let me just say…there are small details that really got to me here. In the writing, in the design (physically in the book and in the words), in the concept, in the presentation of this story. I feel like there were little glimmers amongst everything, and it was lovely.

Things I can talk about: the concept of this book is so stunning. The idea of living the intangible words, even the echo of it with Zoe and her brother Noah who has to be taught feelings (one of his lines got me so hard: “I cannot tell you how I am.”)…there’s something so subtle and powerful in those ideas. Each chapter focuses on certain intangibles, and I found myself really digging into my life and my own thoughts when each one came up. It was an astounding read to take me into my own head and life at the same time I wanted to be in Zoe and Hannah’s.

The actual plot of this story is pretty interesting, sort of outside the norm of a road trip…it’s not really searching for something, but chasing, and you definitely got that feeling throughout everything. The tone, the pacing, everything kind of gets more frenetic as it goes on, and it sweeps the reader into it all.  For some reason, it made me think of Nobody But Us by Kristen Halbrook…nothing is quite similar, but it’s the same feeling as I read it.

I liked the friendship between Zoe and Hannah, though I definitely felt it was a bit uneven. It’s built into their personalities for Hannah to give consistently while Zoe takes constantly, but I wasn’t too much a fan of that. Felt a little strange, both as characters and as a reader. And while I’ve never seen the movie Thelma and Louise, I have seen the uh…important part(s)…and for some reason that just kept popping into my head. Especially towards the end, as Zoe becomes increasingly unstable and erratic.

Even though there are parts of this book that really got to me, I was still left a bit underwhelmed. It’s similar to how I felt with her debut novel, The Probability of Miracles—things feel a little forced, a little unnatural and a little too convenient. Part of the reason may have been Danny, because I wasn’t quite a fan of him in general and especially not as he became more and more involved into the story. He came across as pompous to me, even when he was being sweet or nice, and I didn’t like it.

However, the concept of The Museum of Intangible Things and the details of its execution within the novel really did save this. I was so blown away by the usage of intangibles and feelings that I am definitely willing to overlook some of the lackluster parts. If nothing else, read this for the reflection it will cause.

3.5 Stars

Monday, June 23, 2014

Review: Ask Again Later by Liz Czukas (ARC)

Ask Again Later by Liz Czukas
Harper Teen, 336 Pages
US Release Date: March 11, 2014
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!

Despite what her name might suggest, Heart has zero interest in complicated romance. So when her brilliant plan to go to prom with a group of friends is disrupted by two surprise invites, Heart knows there's only one drama-free solution: flip a coin.

Heads: The jock. He might spend all night staring at his ex or throw up in the limo, but how bad can her brother's best friend really be?

Tails: The theater geek...with a secret. What could be better than a guy who shares all Heart's interests--even if he wants to share all his feelings?

Heart's simple coin flip has somehow given her the chance to live out both dates. But where her prom night ends up might be the most surprising thing of all…
-------------------------------Goodreads summary
Notable Quote
Fate is only a comfort if you actually believe in it.
There are few things in the world I love more than a solid contemporary YA novel, and Ask Again Later definitely fulfilled everything I wanted. I knew I’d love it from the premise alone, and then it just turned into something better than expected.

The Heads/Tails split of parallel narratives was so much fun, and I love that it read like a dual narrative (we all know I love me some of those!). It was such a fun way to flip back and forth.

The characters were definitely the best part. They’re all so much fun and funny and I loved the chemistry between every single character. They felt like natural people, like they were really any of the people I knew in high school and I just happened to be reading about them. Even Heart and her brother Phil were interesting and a pretty great representation of a sibling relationship. They kind of reminded me of my brother and I together (though I suspect he and I are close than Phil and Heart are). It was a refreshing mix to see sibling involved in each other’s lives, and that there were different type of relationships throughout the book.

Both Ryan and Troy were such great prom dates! I was completely on Heart’s side when she couldn’t decide who to say yes to, but that she knew she would say yes to both; how could you not with the stories of them both?! It was creative and funny and real and a great premise to Prom.

The No Prom-A Drama crew were probably my favourite parts to this entire story. I not only wish they were all my friends, but it definitely reminded me of my own prom experience. I made a point to go with all friends and made sure to go with a guy who was only a friend—we made it clearly established that he and I were going only as friends, to have a good time and not have the stress or obligation of friends-to-more and weird date-like jitters. And this Prom-A Crew? Totally something I would have been down for. They were all so much fun and personable and loud, and I liked that they were all still friends with Heart and supported her in both scenarios.

I have to say that some of this is predictable in that the more you read, you can figure out who is going to become important and what will happen and that Heart will finally learn to listen to her heart (see what I did there!?)…but it’s so much fun getting there that I didn’t even care I’d guessed it from 15 pages in.

Possibly related to that: I love Schroeder. The nickname and everything.

I was also so in love with all the crazy situations Heart found herself in, how many things spilled on her or went wrong or she got hurt…this entire book was filled with hilariously awesome faux pas and predicaments, and it was seriously so much fun. There was never a moment (or page) I wasn’t laughing or hoping or enjoying the scenario.

Ask Again Later really is contemporary bliss, filled with fun moments and fantastically interesting characters. There’s heart and emotion and love, and you really get to know these characters and love them. If Ask Again Later asked me to the prom, I’d definitely say yes because it was such a good time.

4.5 stars

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Review: Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson (ARC)

Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
Simon & Schuster BYR, 449 Pages
US Release Date: May 6, 2014
Format/Souce: ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!

The Pre-Sloane Emily didn't go to parties, she barely talked to guys, she didn't do anything crazy. Enter Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—the one who yanks you out of your shell.But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just... disappears. No note. No calls. No texts. No Sloane. There’s just a random to-do list. On it, thirteen Sloane-selected-definitely-bizarre-tasks that Emily would never try... unless they could lead back to her best friend. Apple Picking at Night? Ok, easy enough.Dance until Dawn? Sure. Why not? Kiss a Stranger? Wait... what?

Getting through Sloane’s list would mean a lot of firsts. But Emily has this whole unexpected summer ahead of her, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected) to check things off. Who knows what she’ll find?

Go Skinny Dipping? Um…
--------------------Goodreads Summary
Notable Quote
I don't think you have to do something so big to be brave. And it's the little things that are harder anyway.
Is there anything Morgan Matson can do wrong? I swear she has it all when it comes to writing. Amazing characters? Check. Growth and development that is both exciting and unpredictable and natural? Check. Friendships that are real and organic? Check. Brilliant boys who function as friends and like-like friends? Check. A wonderful writing style that invites you in and never lets you go? Check, check, and more check.

I have to say, while I love pretty much all and everything Morgan Matson does, probably the best parts of Since You've Been Gone to me were the small, nuanced details. Like that Frank was called "Frank Porter" through a lot of his introduction into the story. Because we all have or know those people who are just first+last name people, right? It's such a small detail, but it says so much about him. I was immediately given an idea about who he is and how he is viewed by that small thing.

Or the parallel between Collins and Frank's friendship to Sloane and Emily's, regarding an "extra" feeling to the relationship. I can't quite discuss it since it gives away some of the book if I were to go into details, but it was a subtle draw from the story, and it made it so much more whole, so much more like real life to me.

Of course I loved the big things, too. I thought Sloane was a bit strange and had a whole ethereal, hippie vibe to her--which was great. I felt very close to Emily and her character, who was a bit lost and looking. I really loved Frank Porter and Collins, they had such fun personalities and had great Best Dudes vibes and chemistry with each other. I was surprised how much I loved Dawn, too, and how she fit into the story. She came crashing in with tears and a teenage tragedy, and what she turned into was utterly fantastic.

I was really in love with the list, even though I didn't like how Sloane up and left Emily. It was such a fun, creative list, and I liked the ways that Emily fulfilled the items she could. Some were at face value, and others were a little more and a little deeper than I thought they would be--and it was better that way. It takes a lot to surprise someone when we're given a list from the beginning, but again, Morgan doesn't disappoint.

Sloane up-and-leaving Emily was something I didn't like, as mentioned--but I have to say, I understand it. I move around a lot, and I get why it feels easier to do that when you live a transient lifestyle…but I felt like Emily is the kind of girl you realize you can't do that to, and I was a little sad Sloane did. Of course, it fits with the characters and creates the whole story so it's not really a complaint…just a comment.

Since You've Been Gone is a brilliant story about friendship and finding yourself, about defining who you are and digging into what you once were with the people you knew and want to always know. Written with warmth, love, subtlety, and fun, it's a book that climbs quickly to one of my favourites of the year. And you should read it and discover why, too.

5 stars
and lists upon lists more

Monday, May 19, 2014

Review: Fan Art by Sarah Tregay (ARC)

Fan Art by Sarah Tregay
Katherine Tegan Books (an imprint of Harper), 368 pages
Expected US Release Date: June 17, 2014
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!

When the picture tells the story…

Senior year is almost over, and Jamie Peterson has a big problem. Not college—that’s all set. Not prom—he’ll find a date somehow. No, it’s the worst problem of all: he’s fallen for his best friend.

As much as Jamie tries to keep it under wraps, everyone seems to know where his affections lie, and the giggling girls in art class are determined to help Jamie get together with Mason. But Jamie isn’t sure if that’s what he wants—because as much as Jamie would like to come clean to Mason, what if the truth ruins everything? What if there are no more road trips, taco dinners, or movie nights? Does he dare risk a childhood friendship for romance?

This book is about what happens when a picture reveals what we can’t say, when art is truer than life, and how falling in love is easy, except when it’s not. Fan Art explores the joys and pains of friendship, of pressing boundaries, and how facing our worst fears can sometimes lead us to what we want most.
----------------------------Goodreads Summary
Notable Quote
“Does someone not liking you back break your heart?”
I’ve tried to write the beginning of this review so many times, but I can’t decide which element to talk about first since I loved them all so much. I want to tell you all at once how much I adore Jamie and how much I adore Mason and how adorable this book is, filled with the lovely tension of crushes and loves and best friends-but-wanting-more and the complexities of being Out but not really out. I want to say all at once because I simply can’t make the decision what to say first.

I’ll start at the very beginning, because it is, indeed, a very good place to start. Jamie is just the best main character ever. He is sweet and friendly and open and confused, and I felt like he was immediately my best friend. I loved all his interactions with people, all his thoughts and considerations and doubt. I’m nowhere near Jamie or whatever he finds himself in, but I related to him on almost every level, and it was lovely.

I would never be his best friend though, but that’s because that spot belongs wholeheartedly to Mason. And I support and love them, all the jokes and touches and “I love you, man”s that are and are not said. In fact, I love most of the friendships in this book—even the ones between all the popular jocks, even if I’m not a real fan of those jocks themselves. I really liked Eden and Jamie, since it’s a friendship built on secrets and outsider understanding. I’m not quite a fan of Eden, actually—she’s a little too much for me—but I like what she and Jamie had and become.

Perhaps one of the reasons I loved this book as well is the incorporation of the Gumshoe—I am a journalism girl at heart (and by diploma!) and ran the school newspaper in high school and was Creative director of a non-profit magazine in college (I did the layouts, basically). It was wonderful reliving the memories of planning meetings, going to the printers, finding content, putting everything together…and even the hardships of debating back and forth on when you want a piece in or not. It’s a very hard thing to debate the merit of something for print, especially when it’s something that speaks to you—so I got Jamie. I definitely got him.

Though I do have to say I wasn’t really impressed by most of the poems printed in here. I did like At Night I Dream—but the others weren’t really anything special to me. I did, however, LOVE the comic that started it all, and I can’t wait to see the final version.

I found quite a bit of this story predictable as well, though not in an infuriatingly so way or anything. It was more like…once you read something, you could tell the direction it would go. And while I was more than happy with the way a lot of this works out, sometimes it would have been nice to be thrown off the trail a little bit.

Fan Art was such a fantastic story. I loved the plot and how much fun it was—I feel like it perfectly captured the end of Senior Year so well. The nostalgia of the known and loved for the last 4 years with the terrifying anticipation of what’s to come.  I loved the small road trip, the Senior Ditch Day, the prank, prom, absolutely everything. Everyone should read it, because I promise you’ll find a little bit of yourself in it as well.
4.5 stars

Monday, May 5, 2014

Review: Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern (ARC)

Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern
Harper Teen, 352 pages
Expected US Release Date: June 3, 2014
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!

John Green's The Fault in Our Stars meets Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor & Park in this beautifully written, incredibly honest, and emotionally poignant novel. Cammie McGovern's insightful young adult debut is a heartfelt and heartbreaking story about how we can all feel lost until we find someone who loves us because of our faults, not in spite of them.

Born with cerebral palsy, Amy can't walk without a walker, talk without a voice box, or even fully control her facial expressions. Plagued by obsessive-compulsive disorder, Matthew is consumed with repeated thoughts, neurotic rituals, and crippling fear. Both in desperate need of someone to help them reach out to the world, Amy and Matthew are more alike than either ever realized.

When Amy decides to hire student aides to help her in her senior year at Coral Hills High School, these two teens are thrust into each other's lives. As they begin to spend time with each other, what started as a blossoming friendship eventually grows into something neither expected.
---------------------------------Goodreads summary
Notable Quote
I have learned that many people have disabilities they must make their peace with.
There are so many things I can’t say about this book, simply because I feel like there are no words that can accurately describe it. If ever a standout in the YA genre, it is Say What You Will, in almost every aspect.

The obvious way is that it deals with two characters who have their own handicaps: Amy, with her disability, and Matthew, who seems fine but you learn has his own disabilities that cripple him—perhaps not in the same visual way as Amy, but he has them, certainly. And it is astounding to see how they are handled in a young adult book, amongst all the usual drama and stress and emotions of a Senior year.

These characters are also incredibly unique to any book I’ve read. They’re both quite strong, as people and as they are written. Their downfalls and their own handicaps are integrated really well into their personality, and I love that both are much more than their issues. Just as we always hope “cancer books” aren’t just about the cancer, this book is most certainly not just about Amy’s disability.

I want to talk so much about Amy and Matthew, about how they are together and separate, how they really are better with the other…but I really can’t without saying what exactly ails Matthew and how, without saying what exactly they endure. So I’ll have to leave it at this: I’ve never met anyone quite like the two of them, with their quiet, strong demeanors. Who are somehow both closed off and entirely open to new people and things. Who confront being uncomfortable with a resolve I wish I had.

But I can say that this story is beautiful, that this is a friendship built on so much more than days spent together. That it’s written so well, with their words and emails and texts and her Text. That I was caught by surprise in so many instances, both big and small, in big moments and small ones. There is so  much heart and tenderness in these pages, I honestly thought I wouldn’t be able to control all the out-of-control beating of my own heart. And I can also mention that I was not impressed with all the parents in this book—not in terms of the writing, that was still great. But the parents themselves and what they do (and didn’t do) in the book make me very crabby when I think of it haha.

Say What You Will is a stunning addition to the YA contemporary world, introducing new characteristics while retaining all the emotions and feelings we crave and love. It is a beautiful story of friendship and love, and friendly love and loving friends. It’s also about confronting and accepting faults and flaws, and learning to not necessarily overcome them, but absorb them into who you are. And that is a fantastic lesson for us all to learn.

5 stars