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!