Sunday, February 8, 2015

Review: My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh

#11 ... and still reeling

Back again, and I've gotta tell you, this book was fascinating. It has been a while since I read a book that itched at the back of my mind whenever I had to set it aside and re-join the real world. I was fortunate enough to pick it up at the ALA penguin books booth, and am so glad that it was available. This book can be purchased on February 10th! Without further ado:


My Sunshine Away
- Pages: 320
- Rating: 4.5/5
- Personal copy: ARC

Set in late 1980s/early 90s Louisiana, this is a story about a man remembering life in a quiet, affluent area of Baton Rouge. The story centers around this man as a teenage boy, slowly piecing together the mystery of who assaulted his first crush, a 15 year old girl named Lindy. He talks the reader through bits and pieces of the assault, the background of the various suspects, the lives of his neighbors, and what it was like growing up in this subdivision in Baton Rouge. We watch this young man experience the pains of first love, devastating family tragedy, and we receive hopeful glances at his future. It was a book that I hated to put down.

This is a novel about growing up and coming of age in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It is a story of how specific events, local or national, can shape you and direct your growth into the type of person you will someday be. It is a tale of memory, of regret, of guilt--a story of personal redemption. It may even be a warning for future generations.  

M.O. Walsh's prose is almost magical. The voice is memoir-esque, and the reader half wonders if this is a real story while simultaneously questioning exactly how much she can trust the narrator. I wanted to blow through this novel page-by-page until it was finished but to also somehow savor each page individually. Unfortunately a dreadful thing called sleep (or even work) interferes.

This book evokes nostalgia for days past and sobriety when considering the awful reality of what people are truly capable. A thrilling novel that I will savor again in the future.

I will be eagerly watching for M.O. Walsh's next novel, because sir--you have a new fan.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Review: The Boy Next Door by Katie Van Ark

#10 ... and stocked for a while!

I said I'd be back!

This past weekend I had the good fortune to attend the ALA Midwinter conference in Chicago, IL. My mom is a school librarian, and she has the most unfortunate book-buying budget that I've ever heard of. It was wonderful to see her so excited meeting with publishers and adding new books to her collection. She was able to contribute a significant number of books for a greatly reduced price (a majority ARCs, a few legit books that she bought, and even a few donated by understanding/awesome publishers!) to a library that has pretty much only grown over the past year out of her own pocket. It was exciting for me as well, seeing how happy she was and that made it worth lugging a few bags full of books around Chicago :)

On to this week's book:

The Boy Next Door is a novel by Katie Van Ark. This book was handed to me by a representative for Macmillan publishing, advertising for their new imprint, SwoonReads. I kind of regret not picking up a copy of each of the four books they had available! SwoonReads sounds right up my alley--sitting on the Young Adult / New Adult fence, SwoonReads was described to me as the American Idol for YA/NA writers. Authors upload their manuscript to the website, readers peruse whatever they please, and through good reader feedback/ratings, books get published! Such an awesome platform!

If this sounds like your cup of tea, check out their website!

Maybe you have a book you have been working one, or maybe you just like reading a little romance. Either way, books are getting created through a community effort. There is something beautiful in that.

Anyway, finally on to the review.


The Boy Next Door
- pages: 368
- rating: 3.5/5
- personal copy: ARC

I don't know if any of you have seen The Cutting Edge, but if you haven't, the basic premise is that an arrogant hockey player and a prissy pairs figure skater make an unconventional pairs skating team. Sparks fly on and off the ice, and you end up with a 90s movie that is so bad it is watch-every-time-it's-on good. It has a special place in my heart.

Being so, I could not resist this book when I read the back cover. Maddy and Gabe have been best friends their whole lives. Since a very young age, they have depended on each other, not only as friends, but also as a successful pairs figure skating team. Early on, we get that Maddy has the hots for Gabe, but Gabe is your stereotypical NA man-whore and hasn't really given Maddy much serious thought. His M.O. with dating girls is "two weeks and out." This set up sounds a little bit like every cliched YA/NA book out there--but then you add the ice skating!

Maddy and Gabe, as a figure skating team, are good--exceptional, even. We follow them back and forth: practice, school, competitions, family get-togethers, and all the while they are fighting every instinct they have to be together. There is typical high school drama, but then there is also the magic of figure skating. Let's face it, if figure skating is on TV, no one in my house is changing the channel. Van Ark does a great job capturing the emotions of a competing team, as well as describing figure skating performances with beautiful detail. 

Like any YA/NA novel, there is drama, there is angst, there are misunderstandings that lead to more angst. But for some reason the added element of figure skating was fresh enough that I actually enjoyed it. Maddy and Gabe's relationship was also well-defined. It didn't feel like an insta-love, no-one-out-there-but-you trope because it seemed almost like the two should be together--they've been inseparable since elementary school.

One thing of note--this book is written in alternating point of view. I typically am very leery of books with alternating PoV because so few authors make their characters' thought process unique enough (imho) that they are believable. I feel like some times it is difficult to determine who is speaking because the male character sounds just like the female lead. Not necessarily so with The Boy Next Door. Van Ark did a nice job developing her characters' voices so that the reader understands each of them and actually cares about how he or she is seeing an interpreting things.

For her debut novel, Katie Van Ark gives us a fluffy tale that is entertaining and is also a fairly quick read. If this is a good example of the kind of product that will be released by SwoonReads on a consistent basis, then I will have to give that website a much closer look in the coming months!!

Thank you, Macmillan and SwoonReads, for giving me the chance to read this ARC! I enjoyed it!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Review: Veronica Mars: Mr. Kiss and Tell, by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

#9 ... three-and-a-half years later

Okay, I am back. Yesterday was the National Readathon day, and I spent most of it finishing up the newest mystery in the Veronica Mars book series.

I'm just going to tell you now, I absolutely love me some Veronica Mars. Of course, I was late to the party, binge-watching all three seasons of the TV show while living in Missouri for a 3-month internship just over a year ago. I consider myself to be fortunate, not having to wait the almost 10 agonizing years for the return of Veronica and the citizens of Neptune to the screen. For me, it seemed like the movie was Kickstarted, and suddenly there it was! I was living in Kentucky when the movie came out, and wouldn't you know, not one single theater in the whole state was showing that movie. I figured logistics out though, and saw it. And bought it. And it was glorious.

When I finally figured out that BOOKS were going to be involved, I got pretty darn excited. There were some loose ends that still needed tying up from the movie, and the books have certainly helped. The first book was The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line, which I won't be reviewing here. Instead:


Mr. Kiss and Tell
- pages: 330
- rating: 4/5

The beauty of the Veronica Mars books is found in how true they are to the voice of the original TV show. I love my imagination, but it didn't really have to work too hard to envision each of the characters or the old Neptune haunts that were often utilized in the TV show.  

In Mr. Kiss and Tell, Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham have picked up where the movie and the first book left off and have now given us our second major plot line set in the Veronica Mars world. Neptune, California, the seedy beach town where VMars and her father Keith work as private investigators, has been shaken yet again by a heinous crime. A young woman who was found battered, assaulted, and unconscious in a field of junk claims that an illegal immigrant--who has already been deported--working at the Neptune Grand hotel assaulted her when she was leaving the hotel's rooftop bar. What starts out as an investigation into the validity of her insurance claim against the Neptune Grand turns into a major effort to track down the lowlife who committed the crime. Veronica's sleuthing efforts are realized amid the trials and tribulations of a town besmirched by a heavily corrupt sheriff's department, who not only plant evidence but also focus the majority of their efforts on harassing/arresting members of Neptune's minorities and working-class members.

I liked this book. It was, of course, not as thrilling as watching Veronica in action, but the writers (and creator of the show) really have done such an excellent job at capturing Veronica's voice. Heck, Keith, Wallace, Mac, Leo, Cliff, Weevil--they are all captured perfectly. I practically stupid-grinned my way through most of their interactions. Unfortunately, Dick Casablancas was only mentioned in passing. But beyond that, it was fun to have memories invoked of past episodes. I haven't read a great many mysteries in my day, but I find the investigative process behind Veronica solving a case fascinating. Veronica's ingenuity is a product of the authors' innovation. She and Mac make an intriguing team and honestly, there might not be anything that those two together are unable to do.

 Like anything VMars related, the LoVe crazy in me was screaming NEEDS MOAR LOGAN. That was my major complaint with the first book, and while it was remedied a little bit in book 2, I have a feeling that future books will be just as lackluster in the LoVe department. Another mini-complaint is that Logan Echolls as we all know and love him is gone. The snarky, sarcastic bad boy has been replaced by an astonishingly well-grounded and responsible adult. Which, yeah, this is set nine years in the future from season 3 of the TV show, and the grown-up Logan is still swoonworthy in his own way, but a part of me misses that butterfly-inducing witty banter and non-stop sassy back-talk that Logan and Veronica had down perfectly. Skype conversations just don't do it for me, I guess. May book 3 (PLEASE let there be a book three) remedy this issue.

Those of you who don't have an intimate knowledge of the Veronica Mars TV show will miss a lot of the little nuances and allusions that make fans smirk, chuckle, or reminisce. But maybe that can be a sufficient excuse for you to marathon the TV show. ;)

To wrap up this rambling review, if you have ever seen and liked the Veronica Mars show or movie, give these books a try! The reader who comes up with the most character and case references from the orginal series wins!!!!! (Not really, but consider it a challenge)

Thanks for reading!

Think carefully about this one, guys: Team Logan, Team Leo, or Team Piz? (and don't even try to insert Duncan in there) ;)

Friday, January 23, 2015

This could be the beginning of a beautiful thing

I did it. I graduated! I finished a residency! I am a contributing member of society!

...I also gave up on reading things for fun. Passing exams and learning suddenly became a little too important. For good reason.

But I. Am. Back.

This poor blog. My poor Nook.

I hope I can make up for it!

Next up on the review list:
      Pooooossibly the Walking Dead compendium--I'm not positive if I can tackle the 48-issue behemoth of a book in a review even though it was mesmerizing. But definitely the following:
      Veronica Mars: Mr. Kiss and Tell by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham.
Followed by:
      FIREFIGHT BY BRANDON SANDERSON! (I am so excited I love him so much!)

As I am related to librarians who listen to my advice at times, I will be accompanying them to ALA Midwinter in Chicago! What better way to kick off this blog again than to immerse myself in an exhibit hall full of librarians, authors, publishers, and fellow bloggers! I look forward to next weekend, and who knows, maybe I will see you there!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Review: The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater

#8 and a little bashful.

Hey! I know it has been entirely too long since my last blog post. Just want to throw out there that successfully completing grad school has been a top priority of mine recently.

But I wanted to stop by to give a quick review to The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater. Now ya'll (yes, I just said that.)--this is my finals week. I'm taking exams for yet another quarter (I know it was finals week last time I posted, but school is hard!) and I still find myself idiotically wasting time by treating my Nook like it is my only possession.

I'm not sorry that I did it though.

The Scorpio Races:
-pages: 416
-rating: 4.5/5

This book is dark. It is about courage, loyalty, and how much you are willing to do for what you love.
Stiefvater has created an altogether terrifying new type of paranormal monster: the capall uisce. They are essentially Kelpies, but the folklore surrounding those creatures don't quite match. For example, the capall uisce don't lie in wait of passersby to lure into being drowned. These horse-creatures are of the sea, yet manifest on the island of Thisby only during certain situations. They might go to land when they're hungry (a predator no one wants to meet), or during a storm--but the first week of November, the time of The Scorpio Races, is when they're more commonly found. Islanders of Thisby capture these creatures in the (usually vain) hopes of taming them enough to win the tradition-laden race. While I would never want to meet one on a bad day, the capall uisce are fascinating.

Besides the wonderful paranormal aspects, the characters in this book, their situations, radiate overwhelming sense of loss and hopelessness--yet all I did while reading was hope for them. That they would all get what they wanted--what they needed.
While in dire situations, however, the characters themselves aren't depressing. The book alternates points-of-view between 19-year-old Sean Kendrick and the younger (17? maybe? can't remember) Puck [Kate] Connolly. Both characters have a strong voice and are extremely likable. They remain steadfast and true no matter what island life and ill-fortune throws at them.
The review I'm posting is what I wrote in those first moments after finishing this book.
"Amazing. Absolutely wonderful. It's like Misty of Chincoteague met Hidalgo and the two came up with at YA fantasy/paranormal hybrid between them.
While reading The Scorpio Races, I was hit with at nostalgic pang of wonder, the likes of which the Misty books brought out in me as a child. Yet the dark mystery of the horses--the capall uisce--and the tale of Sean Kendrick and the Connolly clan had me flipping through the pages for entirely different reasons."

Some of those reasons being this:
1) The book isn't predictable. You think you know what might happen, but you want so many different things to happen all at once that you don't see how any of it could be possible. I was utterly resigned to being heartbroken in one way or another and I won't say whether or not I am because I don't want to give anything away to you should you decide to read it.
2) The romance. Yes, in typical YA fashion, there is a touch of romance--but the romance doesn't consume the story. It's heartwarming, understandable. I loved it.
3) This novel is stand-alone. STAND-ALONE! You get a resolution. [This excites me because I find it oh-so-devastating when sequels ruin a good thing]

I'm done listing reasons why I devoured this book, but that doesn't mean that there aren't more. I need to get back to studying for my next exam. Have a great day everyone!

What is the last book you just absolutely couldn't put down?

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Review: Supernaturally, by Kiersten White

#7 And just plain tired.

Finals week is here, and after my first finals all-nighter I completely crashed! But I am back, sending out one more review before I hit the books again!

Anyway, a few months ago I read Paranormalcy by Kiersten White.

I loved it. It was fun, had a quick, interesting plot line, and Evie (the main character) was one of the best heroines that I had read in a while. Aside from a strong penchant for anything pink, she is funny, tough, a force to be reckoned with. Simply put, she is easily one of my favorite leading ladies in literature right now. [Goodreads info]

*Sigh.* Such a beautiful cover. Long story short, it was excellent and I give it a solid 4/5 stars.

I was so excited that I had such a short amount of time to wait for the sequel (think: Divergent, or Enclave--sequels coming out in 2012....devastating). So as soon as I could, I got my hands on a copy of Supernaturally, the equally-stunning subsequent novel in this trilogy. Let's just take a look at that cover.
-pages: 336
-rating: 3.5/5

To me, reviewing sequels seems particularly tricky, because I don't want to give anything away to anyone who hasn't yet read it. So let me just try to navigate those waters.

Supernaturally picks up some time after Paranormalcy has ended. We find Evie--now known as Evie Green for legal purposes--living a normal life. Well, it's as normal as life could be for someone with...talents...such as hers. She's finally doing the thing she most desired--attending high school! However compared to the sensationalized view of high school she has eaten up from her favorite tv show, Easton Heights, real life isn't quite living up to her expectations.

Lend is away at college, and she only sees him on weekends. Her PE teacher seems to have it out for her. Someone she shouldn't ever see again has taken to visiting her in her dreams. And then on top of all that, applying to Georgetown, working in the diner, and trying to enjoy life among "normal" people, one of the last people she ever expects to see suddenly pops back into her life. And she brings company.

Suddenly, Evie is back on missions for the IPCA. Strange things keep happening to her on said missions, paranormals are acting strange whenever they see her, and Lend hasn't seen his mom for months. Then there's the ever-present reminder of what, exactly, Evie is hiding from Lend.
Evie learns a lot about herself in this book. But besides the back story, relationship drama (needs moar Lend), and questioning her own mortality, not much else happens. White introduced a lot of potentially interesting plot twists here and there, but since none of them are resolved, those are obviously meant for Endlessly, the last book in this trilogy, to be released God-knows-when (really, 2012...).

For me, anyway, the main plot line seems like space filler--something introduced to get the readers through the second book and waiting for the third. I couldn't relate to the characters as well as I could in the first book. Perhaps it was the decidedly absent Lend, the lack of kookiness we got to see through Evie's former life with the IPCA, or even the introduction of a new character who just didn't quite evoke feelings from me. I don't know.

Maybe I'm being a little harsh, but I think Supernaturally just lacked that certain...sparkle... that just emanated from Parnormalcy. Perhaps you'll think otherwise. I hope you'll think otherwise.

All that being said, I will still definitely read Endlessly whenever it is released next year, because as previously mentioned--I'm sure we'll see resolutions for a few of the story lines introduced in this sequel.

Anyway, this study break is finished! I'm going back to hit the books, and then post-final-exam on Tuesday I'll post a review for the book that I just COULDN'T PUT DOWN while trying to study for my first test :)

What sequels are you most anxiously waiting for?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Follow Friday!

This is my first time joining in on the Follow Friday fun! You might be able to tell that I'm pretty new to this, but I look forward to getting to know people--and this is a great way to start!
Follow Friday is hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read. Check out their blogs!

Q. Let's step away from books for a second and get personal. What T-Shirt slogan best describes you?

This is actually kind of difficult--creativity is lacking at the moment.

1) All stressed out and no one to CHOKE (I'm getting ready to start finals...explanation enough)
2) Most of the Socially Awkward Penguin memes or Paranoid Parrots would work as well.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Review: Anna and the French Kiss

#6 exhausted, yet excited

Okay, so maaaaaybe it wasn't the best idea to try starting a book blog the week before my final exams begin. But I have loved every minute of it so far!

The last couple of days have been crazy, as I had a huge exam in my worst subject on Tuesday. The thing is, with so much riding on this exam, I pulled an all-nighter. Gross, right? Well, then I crashed. Hard. So it is now two-ish days later, but I am BACK!

So let's get to it.

Now, yes, I had an exam on Tuesday. But while I was sitting through the most insufferable of classes on Monday, I turned to my dear ol' iPod to help me stay awake. My iPod led me to Stanza, the BEST ebook-reading app out there, in my humble opinion. Stanza let me to Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins.

Since I got my nook (the reason why I link all of these books back to Barnes & Noble), my iPod book library is much smaller to save room. But Anna and the French Kiss is one of those books that I will always NEED to have with me.

So I started re-reading AatFK at 1:30pm, and then by 3:30 in the morning, I had completely finished it. It didn't matter that I knew what was going to happen. It didn't matter that I had an exam in 4.5 hours. I was once again completely sucked into this story. If you haven't read it yet, I hope that this review is enough to convince you to finally give it a chance!
Anna and the French Kiss:
-pages: 375
-rating: 5/5
For this review, I'm just going to give you the Goodreads lowdown, aka summary. I just want to react.

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris - until she meets Etienne St. Clair: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near - misses end with the French kiss Anna - and readers - have long awaited?
Okay. Almost everything about this book gives me one of those silly grins from ear-to-ear. Stephanie Perkins gives us characters who are not only funny, who are very well-developed, who have great chemistry, but who are most importantly real.

By the time I'm finished with this book (both times, haha), I feel like I am Anna's best friend. I want to share her experiences and chat with her all about them. I want to pick the book up all over again and read it for a third time. I want the book to pick up where it left off and just KEEP GOING.

Anna Oliphant is hysterical, a 17-year-old girl whose rapier wit is utterly enviable. I idolize her, and I'm at least 5 years her senior.

True, some of the decisions Anna makes / the actions Anna takes are questionable--because some of the consequences are cringeworthy--but she exhibits great intelligence when it counts and somehow always knows the right things to say to someone when they need to hear it the most.

Etienne St. Clair is one of the most swoon-worthy boys in YA literature. He might not be the tallest bloke around, but ladies and gentlemen--I'm short and that is the least of my issues. Almost immediately I began to fall in love with St. Clair. He and Anna just click and quickly develop one of the best rapports that I have ever read.

I honestly can't say enough about this book. Everything about it is perfect. Give it a try if you haven't already. Trust me.

And, if you HAVE read this book, and LOVE IT like I do,
are you ready for Stephanie Perkins' next novel?
Lola and the Boy Next Door, by Stephanie Perkins
Lola and the Boy Next Door:
-pages: 338
-rating: TBA
Here's the summary:
Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit -- more sparkly, more fun, more wild -- the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.

When Cricket -- a gifted inventor -- steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.
I honestly CAN'T. WAIT. for this book to be released. I know a few people who were lucky enough to get an ARC of Lola, and I am insanely jealous of them. I have such high expectations, haha.

So who out there is as eager for Lola as I am? What other books are you desperately waiting for?

Have a good night!