Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen

Summary from Goodreads:
Emma Saylor doesn’t remember a lot about her mother, who died when she was ten. But she does remember the stories her mom told her about the big lake that went on forever, with cold, clear water and mossy trees at the edges.

Now it’s just Emma and her dad, and life is good, if a little predictable…until Emma is unexpectedly sent to spend the summer with her mother’s family—her grandmother and cousins she hasn’t seen since she was a little girl.

When Emma arrives at North Lake, she realizes there are actually two very different communities there. Her mother grew up in working class North Lake, while her dad spent summers in the wealthier Lake North resort. The more time Emma spends there, the more it starts to feel like she is divided into two people as well. To her father, she is Emma. But to her new family, she is Saylor, the name her mother always called her.

Then there’s Roo, the boy who was her very best friend when she was little. Roo holds the key to her family’s history, and slowly, he helps her put the pieces together about her past. It’s hard not to get caught up in the magic of North Lake—and Saylor finds herself falling under Roo’s spell as well.

For Saylor, it’s like a whole new world is opening up to her. But when it’s time to go back home, which side of her will win out?
It takes Sarah Dessen way too long to write books. I wish she did one a year. Or two even…Reading her books feels like reconnecting with an old friend from high school. I have to spend a little time getting reacquainted with her style, and then I am lost in memories and stories. Just lost. Her books suck you up in a way that is both amazing and disorienting. I end up thinking about her characters more than I think about myself. And that’s why her books feel like old friends. Her characters are just real.
This book was no exception. I read it in about 2 days (and that’s only because I was working). It’s the perfect book to read on vacation, when you don’t have to put it down for work and normal life things. I’ve always been a sucker for summer books, and a Sarah Dessen summer book is like the golden ticket. This one is filled with family drama, friendship stories, first love, and growing up. What else do you need?
I was fascinated by the setting too. The economical divide of North Lake/Lake North felt so believable. It reminded me of the economical divide of Neptune (on Veronica Mars). And it reminded me of the moment I realized not everyone in the world was as lucky as I was. I learned what Emma learned (maybe a few years earlier), but in a similar way. And it’s such a life-changing, important thing to learn.
I love how good Emma is. She helps out cleaning motel rooms during her vacation! She puts up with a very snotty cousin who bosses her around. She takes on the sudden important role of role model to her younger cousin with no complaint. Instead of going on a fancy date, she prepped days for, she leaves her date behind to comfort her dumped cousin. She makes so many right decisions, that it was almost impossible for me understand her when she makes some wrong ones.
And then I have to remember, oh yeah, she’s still a kid. Sometimes you have to make these mistakes to learn how bad the consequences are. I love that this book was about Emma growing up as much as it was about her learning about her mother. She got to finish “the rest of the story” of her mother’s that her father wasn’t so forthcoming with. But, she also started to realize what she wanted and who she wanted to be.
And then there’s Roo, every girl’s dream come true. Who doesn’t have that childhood friend they used to dream about re-meeting as an adult and having some crazy romance with? I love that he never pushes Emma in any direction, but lets her come to it on her own time. I also love their easy friendship and how he tells her the stories behind the photo album. I shipped them from the moment they first reunited. He may be my favorite Sarah Dessen boy of all time.
And just when I thought I had this book entirely figured out, there’s a hurricane! The book goes from summery and fun to suspenseful and kind of scary in the turn of a page. And I loved every second of it. Dessen can write suspense too!
This book was great. It was hard to put down. There were classic Sarah Dessen story points covered, but also some new added suspenseful moments too. The characters were amazing. Emma was amazing. Roo was just the best. I give this one a 10/10. I really hope it doesn’t take Dessen too long for her next one.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Guts by Raina Telgemeier

Summary from Goodreads:
A true story from Raina Telgemeier, the #1 New York
bestselling, multiple Eisner Award-winning author of
Smile, Sisters, Drama, and Ghosts!

Raina wakes up one night with a terrible upset stomach. Her mom has one, too, so it's probably just a bug. Raina eventually returns to school, where she's dealing with the usual highs and lows: friends, not-friends, and classmates who think the school year is just one long gross-out session. It soon becomes clear that Raina's tummy trouble isn't going away... and it coincides with her worries about food, school, and changing friendships. What's going on?

Raina Telgemeier once again brings us a thoughtful, charming, and funny true story about growing up and gathering the courage to face -- and conquer -- her fears.
So technically, this comes out in September. I snagged an ARC from a very friendly bookstore. I’m a huge fan of Raina Telgemeier. As a Youth Services Librarian, she’s one of those authors/artists I wish I could shake hands with and personally thank for inspiring so many young people to read. She made comic books cool, accessible, and fun for young girls. I feel like most graphic novels and comics were and still are aimed for boys. Smile was the first one I read, specifically speaking to girls. And I loved it. And so does every girl who reads it.
That all being said, this is probably my least favorite of all her books. This doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. I just didn’t’ enjoy it as much as her other graphic novels.  I still read it in one sitting. I still was transfixed by the art. I still can see many young girls loving and connecting with the story. I just didn’t connect to it as much.
Maybe a tiny bit of my issue with it is that I suffer from 2 GI disorders, and I was kind of hoping that’s what would be covered here. Instead, this is a story about anxiety. To be fair, more people probably suffer from anxiety than GI disorders, and the author herself has anxiety, so it makes sense. I was wrongly hoping it would be about what I had…And then one of the disorders I have was even mentioned as what Raina had…but it wasn’t taken seriously, and the author kind of made it sound like the disorder was part of anxiety…and it’s not. I guess some people can have both the disorder and anxiety, but not everyone. And it’s definitely not something that only exists in my head. I wish the GI disorder wasn’t mentioned at all, so this wouldn’t be an issue. And I get this is all personal for me in ways most young readers won’t comprehend. But, it bothered me.
I like that Raina is still going through all the normal friendship dramas and family dramas in the background. I feel like some of her friendship problems are ones I’ve definitely had. I also love watching Raina learn about who she is, accept the help of therapy, and learn that sharing things about herself can actually help her relate better to her friends. I also think it’s great that there is a book out there for young people that tackles the complications of anxiety in an easy-to-understand way. All in all I give this one a 7/10.

Monday, June 17, 2019

A Good Week in Books (205)

I had another great book week. I received 2 more ARCs, and 1 finished book for review (thanks to Roaring Brook Press and a favorite book store of mine). I also realized a Cassandra Clare book came out that I did not preorder! So, I bought one more. I’m drowning in amazing books right now. I finished one graphic novel, one highly anticipated YA novel, and started another highly anticipated middle grade novel this week.
The new pretties:

Now Entering Adamsville
by Francesca Zappia (ARC)
Dangerous Alliance by Jennieke Cohen (ARC)
Ghosts of the Shadow Market by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson, Kelly Link, and Robin Wasserman
Last Bus to Ever Land by Sophie Cameron

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Her Royal Highness by Rachel Hawkins

Summary from Goodreads:
Millie Quint is devastated when she discovers that her sort-of-best friend/sort-of-girlfriend has been kissing someone else. And because Millie cannot stand the thought of confronting her ex every day, she decides to apply for scholarships to boarding schools . . . the farther from Houston the better.

Millie can't believe her luck when she's accepted into one of the world's most exclusive schools, located in the rolling highlands of Scotland. Everything about Scotland is different: the country is misty and green; the school is gorgeous, and the students think Americans are cute.

The only problem: Mille's roommate Flora is a total princess.

She's also an actual princess. Of Scotland.

At first, the girls can barely stand each other--Flora is both high-class and high-key--but before Millie knows it, she has another sort-of-best-friend/sort-of-girlfriend. Even though Princess Flora could be a new chapter in her love life, Millie knows the chances of happily ever afters are slim . . . after all, real life isn't a fairy tale . . . or is it?
I love Rachel Hawkins. I’ve been reading and loving her books since she first came out with Hex Hall. Her books are always fun, romantic, fluffy, and quick. They are perfect beach/summer reads. And this one did not disappoint.
As I said on Goodreads, I love this book. It’s so fluffy and Meg Cabot-y. And swoony. It’s the LGBT royal fairy tale my life was missing. It’s a perfect read for Pride Month. It’s perfect for all the saps out there (like me) who still crave fairytales well into adulthood. It’s for fans of corny romcoms, and The Princess Diaries, and this author. It’s one fluffy love story.
I was surprised to learn that this book was going to be about Flora, who was not the easiest to like character from Royals. However, I was excited for a royal gay love story. I’ve never read a book like this one. And that alone, is reason to read this. I can’t imagine how nice it will feel for LGBT ladies to finally see themselves in a royal story. Fairytales are definitely not just for straight people. And I have to say, I may have liked this fairytale a lot more than a lot of the straight ones I’ve read.
I also loved Millie right away. I love how disassociated she was with royals and tabloids. I love that she’s a wannabe geologist, who loves science and school. And it was nice having an easy-to-love character along with Flora, who’s little rougher around the edges. Though, I love that she brings out a more rebellious side to Millie. And Millie brings out a more down to earth side to Flora.
The boarding school and the Scottish setting were just magical. I loved that Millie wanted to be there to study rocks. The setting really made for the best fairytale background a girl could hope for. I loved returning to some places and people from the previous book. But, I also loved that this clearly stood on its own. You don’t need to read Royals for this one to make sense. Though, if you liked this one, by all means read that one too. It’s equally fluffy and romantic.
There are parties, crazy camping trips, international friend chats, classes in a Hogwarts like setting, weekend visits with royalty, castles, rocks, and plenty of good old fashioned teen drama. I also loved the friends Millie at her new school. They kind of reminded me of characters I love from the show, The Good Place. All in all, this book was fun, swoony and romantic, dramatic, funny, and just an overall good read. I give it a 9/10.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Sherwood by Meagan Spooner

Summary from Goodreads:
Robin of Locksley is dead.

Maid Marian doesn’t know how she’ll go on, but the people of Locksley town, persecuted by the Sheriff of Nottingham, need a protector. And the dreadful Guy of Gisborne, the Sheriff’s right hand, wishes to step into Robin’s shoes as Lord of Locksley and Marian’s fiancĂ©.

Who is there to stop them?

Marian never meant to tread in Robin’s footsteps—never intended to stand as a beacon of hope to those awaiting his triumphant return. But with a sweep of his green cloak and the flash of her sword, Marian makes the choice to become her own hero: Robin Hood.
This was not what I was expecting. I was thinking I’d jump right into a political, high suspense action story…And this actually really just started right off as a depressing tragedy. The beginning was really sad and slow, and honestly, a little hard to get through. I almost gave up on this book entirely. But, I’m glad I didn’t. It seriously picked up in the second half. If this was a first time published author, I feel like the editor would have told them to start the story much later. Start at the high stakes moment, and rewind a little if you need to. There were a few rewound moments on top of this slow start. Though, the moments of Marian and her first love did help me understand how she was feeling better.
Once Marian is at court, the story really picks up with prison rescues, guard deceptions, spy missions, and plots to save the poor and hungry. I love the idea of a girl Robin Hood. And I guess, that idea is what kept me reading through the slow beginning. I loved watching the myth get started. And I love the idea that a woman could have inspired such a legend.
I love that Marian is always rescuing men. I love that no one ever believes it to be her under the hood. How could a woman do all those things? I love her relationship with her father and her maid. I love the rivalry that develops between her and Guy of Gisborne. There’s something so classic about their relationship. It makes me want to go and re-watch old versions of this story.
I did not love the romance. It really caught me off guard. I tend to love the trope that involves hate turned to love, but this one felt off. All of a sudden, there was a mutual respect and an attraction. I just didn’t feel it. I liked the twist of it all. And I liked being surprised by a few things (particularly at the end), but even thinking about the relationship now, creeps me out.
All in all, I’m glad I kept reading. The plot picked up a lot in the second half. I love the adventures and suspense of everything. I loved the side characters. I loved having a lady Robin Hood. I did not love the romance element. And I did not love the very sad beginning. I give this a 7.5/10.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

There's Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon

Summary from Goodreads:
Ashish Patel didn’t know love could be so…sucky. After he’s dumped by his ex-girlfriend, his mojo goes AWOL. Even worse, his parents are annoyingly, smugly confident they could find him a better match. So, in a moment of weakness, Ash challenges them to set him up.

The Patels insist that Ashish date an Indian-American girl—under contract. Per subclause 1(a), he’ll be taking his date on “fun” excursions like visiting the Hindu temple and his eccentric Gita Auntie. Kill him now. How is this ever going to work?

Sweetie Nair is many things: a formidable track athlete who can outrun most people in California, a loyal friend, a shower-singing champion. Oh, and she’s also fat. To Sweetie’s traditional parents, this last detail is the kiss of death.

Sweetie loves her parents, but she’s so tired of being told she’s lacking because she’s fat. She decides it’s time to kick off the Sassy Sweetie Project, where she’ll show the world (and herself) what she’s really made of.

Ashish and Sweetie both have something to prove. But with each date they realize there’s an unexpected magic growing between them. Can they find their true selves without losing each other?
I loved this one. I’ve really grown to love and respect this author. I needed something light that would be easy to read on a plane and take with on a vacation. This was literally the perfect book for that. I loved Sweetie. I am Sweetie. You know, except for the whole loving to run thing. I related to her on so many levels, particularly on the level involving her relationship with her mother.
This book is a fluffy rom com that I needed at the moment. But, it was also more than that. It was body positivity book. It was a book about a fat girl learning to love herself and learning to be independent (and sassy too). I love that Sweetie owns her whole self in this book and stands up for herself and stands against people’s initial perceptions of her. I love that she’s a fat athlete, that wins races. And I love that she doesn’t feel like she has to change so other people are more comfortable with her.
I love all the dates these two go on (even though they were all sanctioned by Ashish’s parents). I loved the party, the restaurant scene, the open mic night, and all the typical teen book moments. I loved the family drama. And I feel like Sweetie’s relationship with her mother mirrors so closely to mine. There’s equal parts love and friction. But, I’m so happy for the way things sort of resolved.
I guess my one qualm here is that stuff seems almost too resolved. I’m an adult and I’m only sort of coming to terms with things about body positivity that Sweetie has come to terms with super fast. My mom and I still have some conflict (though we are exceptionally close now). I guess realistically, I think some of this is just too good to be plausible. Though, most romcoms are like that in other areas…Still, though, I loved this book. I loved the characters, the drama, the quintessential teen scenes, the romance, and the positivity. I need more books like this one. I read it basically on one plane ride. I give it a 9/10.

Monday, June 10, 2019

A Good Week in Books (204)

I have had an exceptionally good few weeks in books. I’ve been on vacation and picked some up at my favorite Chicago bookstores. One of said bookstores was kind enough to give me some ARCs also.  A friend of mine brought me an ARC from a library conference (thank you, Chris!). I received some new books for review (thank you, Hachette and Macmillan!). And I just picked up another little pile of ARCs from a different amazing bookstore that is also giving me ARCs to give away to kids and teens during Summer Reading. My little pile from them has me freaking out in excitement. This has been a great couple of weeks.
I’m currently at my kitchen table typing this among piles of books…It’s a dream come true. I’ve also read 3 YA books and 2 adult books in the past couple of weeks. And it’s safe to say I am out of my reading slump. Hello, summer! I have so many good books to read, and I cannot wait to get started.
The pretty new books (big pile 1):
Ordinary Girls
by Blair Thornburgh (ARC)
Angel Mage
by Garth Nix (ARC)
Butterfly Yellow by Thanhha Lai (ARC)
Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen
Serafina and the Seven Stars by Robert Beatty
This Was our Pact by Ryan Andrews
The Pursuit of Miss Heartbreak Hotel by Moe Bonneau
Going off Script by Jen Wilde
Unpregnant by Jenni Hendriks and Ted Caplan (ARC)
Fake it Till You Break it by Jenn P. Nguyen
The pretty new books (big pile 2):
Call Down the Hawk
by Maggie Stiefvater (first 8 chapters only)
by Raina Telgemeier (ARC)
Bookish Boyfriends: The Boy Next Story by Tiffany Schmidt (ARC)
Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim (ARC)
The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe by Ally Codie (ARC)
Dear Ally, How do you write a book? By Ally Carter (ARC)
Hello Girls by Brittany Cavallaro and Emily Henry (ARC)
I Love you so Mochi by Sarah Kuhn (ARC)
Maybe this Time  by Kasie West (ARC)
Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian (ARC)