Friday, May 27, 2016

Smile by Raina Telgemeier

Summary from Goodreads:
Raina Telgemeier's #1 New York Times bestselling, Eisner Award-winning graphic memoir based on her childhood!

Raina just wants to be a normal sixth grader. But one night after Girl Scouts she trips and falls, severely injuring her two front teeth. What follows is a long and frustrating journey with on-again, off-again braces, surgery, embarrassing headgear, and even a retainer with fake teeth attached. And on top of all that, there's still more to deal with: a major earthquake, boy confusion, and friends who turn out to be not so friendly.
This was a re-read for me. I read it for the first time in a bookstore. I read it so fast. I remember thinking, “Wow. Why aren’t there more graphic novels like this?” That was probably 5 or so years ago. Enough time has gone by that it felt almost like I was reading it for the first time. And, I have to say, I feel almost exactly the same way. Why aren’t there more books like this?
Telgemeier seriously captures all the awkward, terrible moments of middle school. But, she does it in a way that isn’t painful to read and reflect on. She does it in a way that makes you smile and think, “oh yeah.”
The illustrations are great. It’s easy to read for people who have not read comics or graphic novels before. Everything is rather linear. It’s bright, colorful, and full of emotion that I don’t always see come across in graphic novels.
I also loved the topics this story covered. It certainly covered plenty of image problems. But on top of that, Raina has crushes, mean friends, new friends, sibling arguments, school dances, Valentines, band rehearsals, failed sports tryouts, etc. It felt real. I could see a kid/teen really doing all the things Raina did –which makes sense because it is autobiographical. I can see this “realness” being a major appeal to young readers.
I love that its specifically aimed for middle school girls. There aren’t many graphic novels that are. I also love the teeth drama. Poor Raina suffers through so much pain, surgery, and orthodontics. I related to this as well. I had braces, retainers, and expanders at this age too. I can’t imagine also loosing my two front teeth. There’s only so much one can be expected to bare in middle school.
I like that Raina defends herself to her cruel friends. She eventually learns she’d rather be by herself or meet new friends then be around her old ones. This was powerful too. I’ve been in that situation in middle school and high school, and it’s so hard to actually leave friends. So hard to think of spending lunch by yourself. But, she does it and it’s such a great moment in the book for me. I also like that she doesn’t just have one crush. It’s okay to like more than one boy forever.
I loved the story. I loved the art. I loved the intended audience of this story. I loved how real it all felt. And I do still wish there were more graphic novels out there like this one. It was first published 6 years ago. I mean come on already. More girl graphic novels, please.  I give it a 9/10.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

First and Then by Emma Mills

Summary from Goodreads:
Devon Tennyson wouldn't change a thing. She's happy watching Friday night games from the bleachers, silently crushing on best friend Cas, and blissfully ignoring the future after high school. But the universe has other plans. It delivers Devon's cousin Foster, an unrepentant social outlier with a surprising talent for football, and the obnoxiously superior and maddeningly attractive star running back, Ezra, right where she doesn't want them: first into her P.E. class and then into every other aspect of her life.

Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights in this contemporary novel about falling in love with the unexpected boy, with a new brother, and with yourself.
I loved this book. It was the perfect, light, romantic contemporary to get me through a very busy week. It’s exactly what I needed. I had gotten the book for review not too long ago. Mostly, I’d been wanting to read it because I’ve seen it on a few YA Jane Austen lists. Though, I was told by a couple of bloggers to expect it not to be a retelling of anything Austen. This, I admit, did help in my enjoyment. If I thought it was a retelling, I’d be trying to make connections that weren’t necessarily there.
I loved all the Jane Austen connections though. The main character is re-reading Sense and Sensibility throughout the story. She’s constantly comparing her relationship drama (mostly a crush on a best friend) to that of the dramas of Austen. There’s a very Austen/Pride and Prejudice moment when the male lead (not actually the best friend) writes a letter to explain his side of the story. And I loved this. I loved how very Darcy he seemed (because I’m so in fiction-love with Darcy). I’m also in love with this guy. He reads Jane Austen to have something to talk about with the main character! My heart melted.
Mills did a fantastic job of transforming the Austen-style class system (based upon income) into a teen popularity hierarchy (based upon football). I wasn’t entirely sure I’d enjoy the football component because I’m not a football person at all. However, I loved all the drama it brought. Really, I found the whole lifestyle of the town to be so interesting. It was so based on high school football, and I actually found this fun to read about.
The relationship drama kept me interested. There were a couple of big Emma type realizations for the main character and I loved that she was able to see her own flaws and her own misjudgments. She wanted to be better, not to be the girl who pined for the guy who so clearly didn’t return the feelings. She didn’t want to only think of herself when her new brother/cousin was going to be adopted by her parents. And she wanted to care about things and get into a college. She wants to be a better person. This makes her so likeable to me.
I also love that she doesn’t know what she wants to do in college. There’s this whole scene where she’s talking to a college counselor and she pretty much admits to not being good at or particularly fond of anything. Her counselor of course told her she’d have to join something to get into a good school. That whole not knowing what you’re good at thing, seriously resonated with me. I remember feeling that exact same thing when I was teenager, surrounded by people who all seemed to know what they were supposed to be doing. Also, who can’t relate to a crush (that isn’t returned)?
I loved how critical Devon is too. Again, very Emma. She had just the right amount of sarcasm and wit to keep me fully entertained through out the whole thing. Devon was such an Austen type character. The romance was amazing, and very Austen too. As you can tell, I loved making Austen connections. I also, surprisingly got into the football part of the story. There was some serious family drama that meshed well with the relationship drama. And overall, I just ate this book up. I give it a 10/10. I want more.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday (189)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that allows bloggers to share which books we are most anticipating.

This week I am waiting on The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon (11/1/16):

Description on Goodreads:
Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?
Why I’m Waiting:
This cover is so pretty. I can’t stop looking at those colors. Also, I seriously loved this author’s debut. And I know this book will be well written, with some fantastic characters. It also just sounds super sweet. I need more sweet contemporaries in my life.
What are you waiting on this week?

Monday, May 23, 2016

A Good Week in Books (136)

I had a nice book week. I had an eventful week. It started with my friend, Casey, coming to stay with me. We went to the annual MA library conference together. She actually presented. I left the conference with 2 new books. But, I also won a free raffle prize that was a Cape Cod themed basket (filled with goodies like Cape Cod wine, Cape Cod potato chips, and gift cards for places on Cape like whale watching tours). My picture with the basket is on the library association webpage and Facebook page right now (
Then I went with my friend and boyfriend to visit another friend who just graduated law school (Go, Chris!) in Albany. And I leave to visit with my mom in the middle of this week. I’ve been a busy bee lately and I’m not sure if I’ll have any posts next week because I don’t think I’ll be blogging on my vacation. However, I’m hoping to get some serious reading time in.
The Books:

We Were Liars
by E. Lockhart (I’ve already read and loved this one)
Steampunk! Edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant

And here’s the awesome Cape Cod basket:

How was your week in books?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday (188)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that allows bloggers to share which books we are most anticipating.
This week I am waiting on Bound by Blood and Sand by Becky Allen (10/11/16):

Description on Goodreads:
Jae is a slave in a dying desert world.

Once verdant with water from a magical Well, the land is drying up, and no one remembers the magic needed to keep the water flowing. If a new source isn’t found soon, the people will perish. Jae doesn’t mind, in a way. By law, she is bound by a curse to obey every order given her, no matter how vile. At least in death, she’ll be free.

Lord Elan’s family rules the fading realm. He comes to the estate where Jae works, searching for the hidden magic needed to replenish the Well, but it’s Jae who finds it, and she who must wield it. Desperate to save his realm, Elan begs her to use it to locate the Well.

But why would a slave—abused, beaten, and treated as less than human—want to save the system that shackles her? Jae would rather see the world burn.

Though revenge clouds her vision, she agrees to help if the kingdom’s slaves are freed. Then Elan’s father arrives. The ruler’s cruelty knows no limits. He is determined that the class system will not change—and that Jae will remain a slave forever.
Why I’m Waiting:
Well, this sounds totally awesome. I’m not sure I’ve read a story like this one before. I’ve also been seriously loving desert settings lately. I already need to know what will happen to Jae, and that is only after reading the description.
What are you waiting on this week?

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

Summary from Goodreads:
Nothing living is safe. Nothing dead is to be trusted.

For years, Gansey has been on a quest to find a lost king. One by one, he’s drawn others into this quest: Ronan, who steals from dreams; Adam, whose life is no longer his own; Noah, whose life is no longer a lie; and Blue, who loves Gansey…and is certain she is destined to kill him.

Now the endgame has begun. Dreams and nightmares are converging. Love and loss are inseparable. And the quest refuses to be pinned to a path.
This is definitely one of my most anticipated books of the year. And it did not disappoint. Stiefvater is the queen of YA character development. This book (along with the rest in the series) is a book that makes me feel like I’m reconnecting with old friends. Seriously, I feel like I know these characters. They can make me laugh, tear up, and roll my eyes. And I love them no matter what. So few books do this for me any more. It’s so wonderfully charming that I can’t help but smile just thinking about it.
Also, Stiefvater knows how to write well. Her metaphors, her magical realism, and her creepy setting all kind weave together in this style that both reads like a mixture of Margaret Atwood, Alice Hoffman, and Libba Bray and like something completely, uniquely its own. This is no linear story. It’s a story that starts in a lot of different places and centers around a lot of different characters. It’s a story that means something different to each of the players. This makes it read like a classic piece of literature to me.
Also, its plot has a little bit of everything in it. There’s horror (crazy, bloody demons taking over the world horror), suspense (one of the major characters is a hit man), magic (there’s a house full of psychics, but also there’s this much realer/almost nature like magic as well), romance (that is doomed from book 1), so many ships, a quest for a fantastical king, private school parties, political functions, family dinners, senioritis, the stealing of things from dreams, and plenty of surprises and twists. The question should be what does this book not have?
Also, there were some seriously interesting things learned about Blue! This book gave me a lot to think about. And it had a few little twists that genuinely surprised me. I love being surprised.
I love how things got wrapped up in this one. I loved getting to know Ronan’s family a bit more. Also, it was awesome getting to know Gansey’s family a bit more too. I already knew Blue’s family, but they were much appreciated as well. Adam had his moment with his family too. The new friends and side characters were ever amazing too. Really, this is a book (and a series) for those who love character development and character driven stories. But, it’s also a book (and a series) for anyone who just really loves a good book, period.
I was on edge in this book for a lot of reasons. Stiefvater couldn’t say it better herself, “He was a book, and he was holding his final pages, and he wanted to get to the end to find out how it went, and he didn't want it to be over.” I could have read this book much faster than I did. Part of me was afraid of the ending. And a bigger part of me just wasn’t read to part ways yet. I savored this book for as long as I could. It was hard not to read at my normal speed because so much went down in this last installment.
The ending was powerful and beautiful like all endings should aspire to be. I give it a 10/10.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick and read by Amy Rubinate

Summary from Goodreads:
"One thing my mother never knew, and would disapprove of most of all, was that I watched the Garretts. All the time."

The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, messy, affectionate. And every day from her rooftop perch, Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs up next to her and changes everything.

As the two fall fiercely for each other, stumbling through the awkwardness and awesomeness of first love, Jase's family embraces Samantha - even as she keeps him a secret from her own. Then something unthinkable happens, and the bottom drops out of Samantha's world. She's suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?

A transporting debut about family, friendship, first romance, and how to be true to one person you love without betraying another.
This book has been on my radar for years. I have to admit though that I have not been able to get into this author like other YA bloggers have. I did notice my library had an audio book copy of this one, the one everyone seemed to love, and I thought I’d give it another try. I still just don’t think this author is quite for me.
I love a good YA contemporary and I was hoping for something light and romantic. While this book certainly delivered on the romance, it wasn’t exactly light. It was very much a family drama. And don’t get me wrong, I tend to love romances that are more than just romance. For some reason, though, this book just read super slow for me. And the plot was too familiar/expected. Also, I never really grew to like Samantha all that much.
The one thing the main character has going for her is that she does grow and learn as the book goes on. That being said, she comes off as very ignorant, spoiled, and rather un-intelligent. I kept having to back up and remind myself she was being a teenager and teenagers tend to make stupid mistakes. That being said, I never got into a car with a drunk/drug addicted driver as a teenager. And I certainly would not have done this twice…
Also, I wouldn’t be able to “pretend” an accident didn’t happen and go to sleep while the drunk adults figured out the situation without me…
Also, so much of the last quarter of the book/plot felt too much like a Lifetime Original movie I’ve seen done a few different times before. I did like watching Samantha learn how to handle the conflict and eventually even come to the right decision. But, I still just never really connected with her. She was too ignorant for me to immediately bond with. And after getting to know her better, I still just never really liked her.
I did really enjoy the romance. And I really loved the character next door. I loved the kids and the big family dynamic. I even loved Samantha’s fascination with them.
I wish the book wasn’t so long. Not much happens in the first 75% of the book and then a lot goes down in the last 25%. It took me about 2 weeks to finish, which for me, is a long time. I never really liked the main character. I loved the romance and the side characters. However, the plot was a little too cliché for my liking. I give it a 6.5/10.