Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Review: The Husband's Secret

To start off with, the reason I read this book. It's due 100% completely to my intense love for What Alice Forgot and wanting to read every single Liane Moriarty book I can get my hands on. (Fun fact! Liane Moriarty is YA author Jaclyn Morarty's sister.)

So anyway. This book. I liked it. I was seriously invested in it. The epilogue was amazing. But as a whole the story wasn't as great as I was hoping for it to be. I don't quite know how to explain it -- partly I think that some of the characters who were really important to the story (most notably Cecilia's husband, John-Paul) didn't feel real to me. I just didn't care about them all that much; I wanted to know how the story itself ended, but I wasn't hugely invested in the characters. Which, after What Alice Forgot, was disappointing.

But let's get to the actual STORY, shall we? Cecilia Fitzpatrick, ultra-organized mother of three and wife to the golden John-Paul Fitzpatrick, finds a letter from her husband -- to be opened in the event of his death. Overcome with curiosity, Cecilia reads the letter (If she didn't, there would be no story, right?) and finds out the secret her husband is hiding. 

Meanwhile, Tess O'Leary has moved back in with her mother while dealing with the fallout from discovering that her husband and cousin/best friend have fallen in love with each other. And then there's Rachel, whose anger and grief over her daughter's death decades ago impacts every aspect of her life. Somehow, of course, you know that all three of these stories are going to come together in the end. I'm not a hundred percent on board with the way these three women's stories finally came together, but it was definitely interesting. 

Alright so. I don't know how to not be spoilery with this review. But I'm going to try! I'm going to succeed! 

The story itself is really something. I was impatient to find out what was going to happen, but I don't know how earned or true various events in the last third of the book felt. Weirdly, I wanted a lot more from Tess' weird love triangle with her husband and cousin, which was probably the least important part of the book. But I liked Tess; I wanted more from her. I also liked Cecilia. And I have to say this... I hate to say it, but I have to be honest... I did not like Rachel. She felt petty and angry and... I mean, her daughter was MURDERED and that murder was NEVER SOLVED. And I can't imagine that, I have no idea how to even begin to feel what that would feel like. So I hate that I didn't like her, but I didn't. Even pushing her decision at the end of the book aside, she was so oblivious to the feelings of those around her (her completely ignoring her son's grief, for instance) and so mean to her daughter-in-law. She just completely rubbed me the wrong way.

I know this is a crap review. It's hard to talk about this book without talking about the contents of John-Paul's letter, and the ending, and so many more really really interesting-but-spoilery things. I did love the idea that our lives can spiral out in so many different directions that we will never know, as was really brought home in the incredible epilogue, which I think I mentioned earlier.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Find Me A Trilogy!

One of the items on my 2015 reading challenge is to read a trilogy. Now, I could say that since I'm going to be finishing my Amish romance trilogy this year that technically counts, but I feel like that's half-cheating. I really want to read a complete trilogy this year and I need your help. 

Maze Runner is sort of on my radar, but I'd really like to find an awesome contemporary/realistic trilogy. IF YOU HAVE ANY SUGGESTIONS???

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Popsugar's Reading Challenge

Okay so when I did my 2014 reading survey I think I mentioned that I have a reading challenge for this year...? Maybe? Anyway.

I have a reading challenge for this year. It's Popsugar's reading challenge, and I'm going to create a page for it so I can cross off each item as I accomplish it. I never do the GR reading challenge because that feels like a lot of reading pressure, and I'm not into that. But this challenge, whether I totally 100% complete it or not, feels like a good way to add a bit of genre diversity to my reading life.

So yes. Join me?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Upcoming YA Books

I read this post today, by Kara Thomas, author of the Prep School Confidential series. To summarize, in case you don't feel like clicking over and reading the link, Kara says that, essentially, the books populating all the "most anticipated" lists at the start of the year aren't going to be the debut novels. They're going to be the big books, ones publishers are pushing and trying to create buzz for.

This is true. The two books at the top of my 2015 MUST LIST are both by very established authors. (Honestly, I want to say they're both bestselling, but I'm not sure.) The truth is, unless a reader at least knee-deep in the publishing world and YA buzz, readers often don't know about the smaller books coming out. The ones by debut authors, the ones that aren't lead titles. In the year or so that I've been "blogging" over on tumblr, I've lost touch so much with what's happening in YA. Granted, I'm still better informed than nearly everyone else I know, but compared to how knowledgeable and "in the know" I was a couple years ago? Um, nope. And though I'm trying to get back into it, at least somewhat, the truth is that I might never be as crazy-informed as I used to be about what's happening in YA, what new books are coming out, who has a book deal and for how many books.

And you know what? I'm kind of more than okay with that. I'm excited for 2015, and excited to discover new books and authors that I haven't known about a year before their books debuted. There's a certain thrill in finding a flat-out amazing read that you just pull off a shelf, that you haven't read twenty thousand reviews of. That hasn't been on your TBR list for months. This is the way we find new favorite books and new favorite authors, ones whose future books we'll always be on the lookout for.

But, that all said -- I do like knowing what's coming up. So I have to ask: what lesser-known YA titles should I be on the lookout for this year?

Sunday, January 4, 2015

review: popular

I hate to start reviews off with this sentence, but I just have to. Cue valley-girl squealing here: This book is so cute! At the start of her eighth grade year, social outcast Maya Van Wagenen decides to use a 1950s guide to style and popularity. Yes, it's a quirky social experiment (Maya is unabashedly a nerd), but it's also an honest attempt to rise in the ranks of popularity. Each month Maya puts into practice a new chapter of Betty Cornell's old-school popularity guide. She starts with "Figure Problems" (read: weight) and "Hair" and works her way to "It's a Date" and "Be a Hostess," making daily notes on her successes, failures, and the reactions of those around her. (Pilgrim-style shoes: might make people think you're homeless. Pearls: actually kind of cool.)

Maya is now fifteen years old, which means she wrote this book as a 13/14 year old. I don't like to talk about authors' ages typically, because whether you're a teenager or a fifty-year old, all I want is a good story. Good writing. That said (and trust me, Popular is a good story full of good writing), Popular reminds me so much of my own eighth-grade journals -- quirky social experiment aside -- if my journals were well-written, with dialogue and scenes. That is to say that Van Wagenen's unique view of the world and her place in it rings true; as with any teenager's diary there's the trivial mixed with the big-picture. Dieting and makeup mixed with neighborhood drug dealers and school lockdowns. And amid all of this are the kind of smart teenage insights that many of us sadly tend to forget about as we grow up and disavow our younger days. This book is a reminder that teenagers can be just as stupid, and just as insightful, as grown-ups. 

I loved this book. Yes, there are cheesy parts -- one scene in particular made me think of High School Musical's level of all-in-this-together cheese. But, you know, cliches are cliche for a reason. Maya's gung-ho, fighting attitude is something to aspire to, and her growing confidence over the course of her experiment is a good reminder that yes, we can change our situation. Yes, we can change ourselves. Yes, it is possible.

I know, I know. I'm getting sentimental just talking about this book. But it's good! So good! So wonderful! Maya Van Wagenen, you are incredible and your book is awesome.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

review: 17 & gone

Note: It's really hard to talk about this book sans spoilers. I've written a more spoilery review that you can read on Goodreads, but have tried to keep this spoiler-free.

It started with one girl -- Abigail Sinclair. First, Lauren saw the MISSING poster tacked up on a light pole, and then she saw her. Abby, whispering in her ear, riding beside her in her van, asking for help. After Abby there was Fiona, then Natalie, then other girls, so many of them Lauren stopped counting. All of them gone (missing or runaway), all of them 17, all of them -- except Abby -- dead. Abby's the one still out there, still alive, the one Lauren has to save. If she saves Abby maybe she can save all of them, maybe she can save herself. Because Lauren is 17 also, and she knows it's only a matter of time before she, too, disappears. 

I have conflicting feelings about this book and it's hard to talk about without spoiling the "twist," but I'll try to talk first about the things I CAN talk about. 

For starters, this book sort of dragged on. It was, dare I say... boring. Girl after girl appears to Lauren and we hear their stories -- what their lives were like, when they disappeared, what they were wearing when it happened. On and on. It quickly gets repetitive and slows the book down as I waited for something to happen. I had heard this book was creepy, which it was. I'd also heard it had a twist, which... I'll just say it: to me, that wasn't a twist. That was obvious. That was inevitable. And it was unsettling.

Summer's descriptions of the girls, of their interactions with Lauren, are so good. For some readers, probably too good. Because right from the start there's a distance between Lauren (the narrator) and the reader. There's a thick fog, an inscrutableness. Lauren is not a protagonist you fall into step beside; she's one you can't quite figure out, one you might be a little scared of. Lauren's world is peopled by ghosts and half-truths and it's hard to grab onto anything solid. Her personality is buried somewhere deep, deep under her experiences and throughout the whole book we never quite reach that far to really see who she is. I've read reviews from readers who didn't like this, but for me it hit as incredibly, startlingly truthful. I didn't always love it, but I'm still glad I read it.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

end-of-year book survey for 2014

1. Best book read in 2014?
It's always so hard to choose one book above all others, but choose I must. I think I have to go with Kiera Cass' The One, the ending of the Selection trilogy (who else is crazy excited for The Heir, though?). It was all-in-all such a perfect ending for that series, and for America and Maxon's love story. I adored pretty much every page of it.

2. Book you were excited about and thought you'd love more, but didn't?
Isla and the Happily Ever After fits the bill for me. Despite being lukewarm about Lola, I absolutely adored Anna (along with every other blogger in the known universe) and was hyped up to get back Paris, and St. Clair's friend Josh. But the book fell totally flat for me and I'm impressed that I finished it, honestly.

3. Most pleasantly surprising book of the year?
Princess Academy, by Shannon Hale. One of my friends loaned it to me after I liked The Goose Girl, and I wasn't expecting much from it, honestly. But it was such a feel-good read, so wonderful and warm. I really thoroughly enjoyed it.

4. Book you recommended the most in 2014?
Definitely We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart. I'm not sure how many people I actually got to read it, but I mention it quite enough I think.

5. Best series you discovered in 2014?
Ahahaha. *manic laughter* My amish romance trilogy, for sure. The Temptation series by Karen Ann Hopkins. I only have the last book left to read and it's so addictive and entertaining. The characters are all a bit of a mess, as is the central (entirely problematic, but whatever) relationship, but I just. Love. It. I don't believe in "guilty pleasure" reads, but if I did this would totally fit.

6. Favorite new authors discovered in 2014?
I'm gonna be real honest, guys. Jon Klassen, author of those horrible/wonderful picture books where the animal murders the other animal for stealing his hat (sorry, spoilers!) rocked my world this year. I absolutely LOVE his stories. Another wonderful writer I discovered is Lang Leav, whose love poetry collections speak to my heart. Oh, and Katie Cotugno, of course!

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?
I actually read a lot of various genres this year, but one book that was definitely out of my comfort zone was Jane Austen's Emma. Now, I like the classics. I like Jane Austen. But it's always a bit of trial to make it through one of her books and reading Emma this past December felt especially difficult for me.

8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2014?
Confessions of a Sociopath, by M.E. Thomas. And that's really saying something considering I read Gone Girl this year. But that book was just flat-out fascinating.

9. Book you read in 2014 that you are most likely to reread next year?
How to Love, by Katie Cotugno. Honestly I wanted to reread that book the second I finished it; it's just so good.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2014?
There are so many amazing covers to choose from! But I'm going to go with We Were Liars because not only is it beautiful and haunting, but it also fits the story really well (which is unlike the equally pretty cover for Don't Call Me Baby). (The cover for How to Love is also wonderful. Choosing is hard.) Hey, how about I include all three and you can decide FOR YOUR OWN SELVES?
11. Most memorable character from 2014?
Josie from Love and Other Foreign Words immediately came to mind for me. Smart, caring, and a bit off-kilter and awkward. I loved her.

12. Most beautifully written book you read in 2014?
Choices, choices! But really I think I have to go with Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro. With honorable mention to We Were Liars, The Goats, The Infinite Sea, Panic, and Love & Misadventure.

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2014?
Erm. Ah. Usually there are quite a selection of books that just felt personal to me, but 2014 was a bit of a barren year for that. I think probably Flora & Ulysses though, just because of when I read it and how warm-hearted it was and all of the really great quotes that pulled me out of the sucky mood I was in. The line, "So many miracles have not yet happened," has really stuck with me this past year.

14. Book you can't believe you waited until 2014 to finally read?
Princess Academy. I passed by that book so many times, in so many libraries, and I don't understand how I didn't read it until now.

15. Favorite passage or quote from a book you read in 2014?
Well, I already mentioned the line from Flora & Ulysses, and to be honest I did a crap job of keeping up with quotes this year, but I will share one from We Were Liars.
The four of us Liars, we have always been.
We will always be.
No matter what happens as we go to college, grow old, build lives for ourselves; no matter if Gat and I are together or not. No matter where we go, we will always be able to line up on the roof of Cuddletown and gaze at the sea. This island is ours. Here, in some way, we are young forever.
16. Shortest and longest books you read in 2014?
Alright, I'm going to not include picture books here if I can help it.
Longest - Gone Girl, at 560 pages.
Shortest - Love & Misadventure, at 176 pages.

17. Book that had a scene in it that had you reeling, dying to talk to somebody about it? (This can be an epic revelation, a shocking twist, whatever...)
Ugh, so many! I mentioned reading Gone Girl this year, right? Okay okay I'm going to go with that book. I'm going to go with the end of that book. Because !!!!!! I mean, right? !!!!!

18. Favorite relationship from a book you read in 2014?
There are always so many good book relationships. But I really fell for Kathy and Tommy's relationship in Never Let Me Go; it's beautiful and heartbreaking and awkward all at once, and it's never as easy as you think it should be.

19. Favorite book you read in 2014 from an author you'd read previously?
I'll go with Summerland, by Elin Hilderbrand. This was the first book of hers I flat-out ADORED. (And, okay, We Were Liars. But, like, obviously.)

20. Best book that you read based solely on a recommendation from someone else?
Princess Academy, by Shannon Hale.

21. Book you didn't get to in 2014 but is a high priority for serious now in 2015?
Landline, by Rainbow Rowell. Definitely.

22. Book you are most anticipating for 2015?
The Heir, by Kiera Cass. Ahhhhh!!!! I mean, you know it's serious when SARAH DESSEN has a novel coming out and I'm still looking more forward to another book.

23. One thing you want to do/accomplish in your reading/blogging life in 2015?
Well, I want to blog regularly again. And I have a reading challenge (that I'll blog about later, probably) that I'm excited for.