Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Review: Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist

Jacque's Review:

Nick and Norah meet at a club under unusual circumstances.  Nick is the straight bass guitar player in a local NYC "all gay band".  He just finished his set and is more or less flipping out because his ex-girlfriend, Tris, was at the show with another guy and is now approaching.  He spontaneously asks the girl standing next to him to be his "five minute girlfriend."  Her response was to kiss him, which they were both surprisingly turned on by.  

It turns out that Norah, Nick's five minute girlfriend, is sort of friends with his ex.  They attend the same school and have known each other for years, but I wouldn't say that they are BFFs by any means.  Norah is in the midst of getting over a breakup of her own and decides to help Nick get over Tris by taking him out for the evening.  

The entire book is one really long date that goes well into the following morning.  They both make several mistakes in the process of getting to know each other, but their mutual love of music keeps pulling them back together.  

I decided to read this book because I loved Dash and Lily's Book of Dares, which was the second collaboration between Cohn and Levithan.  The narration alternates between the two main characters/authors each chapter, which was an essential part of the story.  This book simply would not have worked without hearing both characters' inner dialog.  As is often the case, men and women see things differently.  There was quite a bit of humor in hearing the two vastly different interpretations of the same conversation or event.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Image from
Book Summary
Before Liz Lemon, before "Weekend Update," before "Sarah Palin," Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV.
She has seen both these dreams come true.
At last, Tina Fey's story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon—from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence.
Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we've all suspected: you're no one until someone calls you bossy.
(Includes Special, Never-Before-Solicited Opinions on Breastfeeding, Princesses, Photoshop, the Electoral Process, and Italian Rum Cake!)

Flo's Review
Oh man...I gave Yes Please 5 stars and it was an amazing book, but if that one was 5 stars then this one is 5 stars plus? I really really enjoyed this book. Like with Yes Please, I listened to this on audio. I think I especially love doing that with autobiographies/memoirs because how you are receiving it is exactly how the author intended it. I think it especially helps with comedians because they have the perfect timing, pacing and voices for the different stories. This one didn't have guest appearances, but so many of the stories literally have me laughing out loud as I drove around.

I loved the chapters on photo shoots, Tina's responses to Internet comments, and the holidays. The chapter on Oprah, Sarah Palin, and Alice's birthday party was perfect. Like with Amy's book, I enjoyed the behind the scenes glimpses of life at Saturday Night Live.  The only thing I don't love about Bossypants is the cover. Which is why I didn't use it in this blog post.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Book Summary
A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs.

A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography.

Flo's Review
So I've met Ransom Riggs and we have a cute picture together, but I'm having computer problems and can't find it :( Boo! So this will have to suffice for now:

Anyway, the point is I met Ransom in 2013, so my reading Miss P was long overdue. A couple of things pushed me in the right direction. 1) Quirk Books kindly sent me a review copy and 2) I learned that the movie was filming in Florida

As you may know, this book was written around several old school pictures, which are featured throughout the book. Because of that, listening to it on audio doesn't seem to make much sense, but it ended up working out for me. The narrator of the audiobook was really fantastic, and I would flip through the book to see the photographs. 

I really enjoyed Jacob's voice, and that is what kept me going through the story. The layout (because I can't think of the proper word right now) for the story didn't really sit well with me, but there's no way I can explain why without giving away spoilers. If you've read the book already, and you're curious, you can click here for my spoilery review.

Hollow City, the next book in the series, seems like it is going to be a lot of fun. I'm eagerly awaiting the audiobook from the library so I can jump back into the action with the children. 

Jacque's Review:

Jacob is a sixteen year old high school boy that has never really fit in.  He is the only person in his family that has a strong relationship with his grandfather, but even he hasn't been able to believe his grandfather's outrageous stories for years.  After his grandfather dies, Jacob is determined to uncover what his final words truly meant.  

His grandfather grew up during World War 2 and fled to an orphanage off the coast of England for refuge as a boy.  He always described it as paradise with all sorts of peculiar children.  He showed Jacob pictures of the children, but nobody in their right mind would have believed the photos were real.  Bees flying out of a boy's mouth, a girl floating in thin air, another child that is invisible, etc.  This is the best part about the book in my opinion.  Ransom Riggs used dozens of unaltered old photographs from collectors and wove the story around the images.  It was very creative, imaginative, and unlike anything else I have ever read.

The majority of the story is spent on the island as Jacob tries to discover the truth behind his Grandfather's past.  I really enjoyed the story, but I would have been disappointed if I read this book when it was first released.  I didn't realize until the end of last year (three years after the release of this book) that there was going to be a sequel.  The ending is left wide open and there are a million loose ends, which would have been extremely frustrating to the reader that believed this was a stand-alone novel.  As it stands today, I am anxious to pick up where this story left off and already requested a copy of Hollow City from the library.  

The movie version of this book is currently in production and scheduled to be released in March 2016.  I'm not sure how they will incorporate the pictures into the film, but I am excited to see how this story will be depicted on the big screen.  The setting will be very unique with the old school and the island with its ever changing weather.  There is a lot of action and several "monsters" at the end of the book, which should appeal to a wider audience than just the YA reading population.  With the hit or miss success of YA books to movies in recent years, I really hope this movie will get the support it deserves.       

Friday, April 24, 2015

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Book Summary
In Amy Poehler’s highly anticipated first book, Yes Please, she offers up a big juicy stew of personal stories, funny bits on sex and love and friendship and parenthood and real life advice (some useful, some not so much), like when to be funny and when to be serious. Powered by Amy’s charming and hilarious, biting yet wise voice, Yes Please is a book is full of words to live by.

Flo's Review
I've been itching to read Yes Please for a little bit now, and I'm not completely sure why. I like Amy when I see her, but I don't think I'd describe myself as an Amy fangirl or anything. Maybe it's the cover. It's bright and fun. I was able to snag the audiobook from my library and decided to go that route. I really, really, really enjoyed this book.

The audiobook was so so fun. There was music and guest appearances, and the last chapter was a taped reading that Amy did for an audience. I was wanting to drive around so I could listen to more of it. Yes Please is divided into sections and doesn't go in chronological order of Amy's life. I liked that. One chapter we were listening to her talk about being pregnant and the next we were hearing about her early days learning improv in Chicago. We went from hearing about SNL to hearing about her divorce. I really enjoyed how it wasn't all, "Here is my famous life." A lot of the chapters were dedicated to discussing at length the everyday joys and heartaches that anybody experiences -- first jobs, not getting enough sleep, mission trip. But then, because of the non-chronological order, we would get to hear about really cool celebrity stuff like stories from when she was working on SNL and Parks and Recreation. 

Yes Please made me laugh a bit, but mostly it made me smile. I think Amy would be a fun person to go have a beer with and just shoot the breeze. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geeks by Sam Maggs

Book Summary
Fanfic, cosplay, cons, books, memes, podcasts, vlogs, OTPs and RPGs and MMOs and more—it’s never been a better time to be a girl geek. The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy is the ultimate handbook for ladies living the nerdy life, a fun and feminist take on the often male-dominated world of geekdom. With delightful illustrations and an unabashed love for all the in(ternet)s and outs of geek culture, this book is packed with tips, playthroughs, and cheat codes for everything from starting an online fan community to planning a convention visit to supporting fellow female geeks in the wild. 

Flo's Review
I wanted to own this book as soon as I learned of its existence. Proud fangirl right here! The amazing folks at Quirk Books were kind enough to send me a copy for review and it came with me on a trip I took this past weekend. I immediately fell in (back) cover love:

Unfortunately, that was where the love ended. I didn't dislike this book -- not at all. I just don't understand the audience. The reason I wanted to read it is because I am a fangirl; and I think that other women who identify themselves as fangirls will want to read it for the same reason. But that means that I already knew a large majority of the information in the first half of the book. The first bit reads a bit like, "How to be a fangirl"...but I'm not sure who needs that? I guess I just don't see a wannabe fangirl happening. If you want to be a fangirl, you are a fangirl. You're not like, "Oh, I like a bunch of stuff but I don't really know how to fangirl...I need a guide." There is a great quote and unfortunately I can't think of who said it first, but basically it goes: "You're a writer, if you write." The idea is that just because you're not famous or you're not published, doesn't mean you're not a writer. If you want to be a writer, and you write, then you're a writer. I feel like the concept of a fangirl is similar.

Then the second half of the book turned from "How to be a fangirl" into "How to be a feminist." There's certainly nothing wrong with just wasn't what I was expecting. Reading the "Book Summary" up top, I didn't think I would be delving into a feminism 101 book. Again, please let me reiterate -- there's nothing wrong with that at all. I support feminism. The book has some good information and tips on how to be a feminist. I just didn't think that was what I'd be reading.

Finally, there are short interviews with famous fangirls. The same questions were asked, and regrettably this resulted in what seemed like the same answers being given. But I will admit that I was unfamiliar with the majority of the famous fangirls interviewed. Had I known who they were, I probably would have found this part cooler.

I finished reading this book on the plane and put it in the seat pocket in front of me. When I got home, I discovered that I didn't have it, and it is probably still there. I like to think that I was subconsciously taking part in Rock the Drop, albeit a few days late.

The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy will definitely be a good piece of literature for cultural historians in the future. It has some good tips for conventions, along with some good websites and ideas for the reader to feed her inner fangirl. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

I celebrate all things Jen E. Smith!

Me and Jen E. Smith at YALLFEST last November
So lots of Jen E. Smith has been happening in my life simultaneously! It started when I downloaded her new novella Happy Again to my Kindle, because I was heading on a trip and knew I'd need it for plane reading. I loved this novella so much! I wrote my super short, super sweet review on Goodreads, which I'll link to at the end of this post. Happy Again is a companion to the book This Is What Happy Looks Like, which I'll be talking about again in a minute.

I get home from my trip and what was waiting for me, but this pretty!
I'm really looking forward to reading this one! (Which is an obvious statement, seeing as how I'm currently writing an entire blog post dedicated to how much I love Jen E. Smith and her books.)

The next day I'm looking at my Timehop and what did I post exactly two years ago?! My review of This Is What Happy Looks Like! It will shock no one that I loved it:
I thought it was kinda neat that all of these things happened within 2 days of each other and thought I'd share. But seriously though. If you haven't read any of Jen E. Smith's books, get on that! While you're doing that, I'll read Hello, Goodbye, and Everything In Between and will be reporting back soon with my thoughts!

My Jen E. Smith reviews

Six Earlier Days by David Levithan

Book Summary
In Every Day, New York Times bestselling author David Levithan presented readers with his most ambitious novel to date: Every morning, A wakes up in a different body and leads a different life. A must never get too attached, must never be noticed, must never interfere. 
The novel Every Day starts on Day 5994 of A’s life. In this digital-only collection Six Earlier Days, Levithan gives readers a glimpse at a handful of the other 5993 stories yet to be told that inform how A navigates the complexities of a life lived anew each day. 
In Every Day, readers discover if you can truly love someone who is destined to change every day. In Six Earlier Days, readers will discover a little bit more about how A became that someone.
Fans of Levithan’s books such as Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, co-written with Rachel Cohn, and Will Grayson, Will Grayson, co-written with John Green, will not want to miss A’s adventures in Every Day and Six Earlier Days

Flo's Review
I read Every Day as an ARC and I loved it. I'm not sure how I discovered the existence of this little novella, but likely it was while playing around on Goodreads. With a trip coming up, I downloaded it to my Kindle for an easy airplane read. It was okay. It consisted of about 4 of A's days in different bodies and the types of situations he finds himself in.  Like the blurb says, I guess these 4 particular days were chosen because they illustrate how A handles his life and the emotional effect everyone else's lives have on him. 

But to me it just felt like 4 chapters that were cut out of Every Day. I guess I was hoping for it to be the type of novella that has a story to it, and it isn't really. There's no beginning, or end, or middle. Just four random days in the life of A.

A companion book to Every Day entitled Another Day is coming out later this year. I'm looking forward to that book giving me more to feed my craving for A.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story by David Levithan

Book Summary
It’s Tiny Cooper’s turn in the spotlight in this companion novel to New York Times bestseller Will Grayson, Will Grayson.
Jazz hands at the ready! Tiny Cooper (“the world’s largest person who is also really, really gay”) stole readers’ hearts when he was introduced to the world in the New York Times bestselling book Will Grayson, Will Grayson,co-authored by John Green and David Levithan. Now Tiny finally gets to tell his story—from his fabulous birth and childhood to his quest for true love and his infamous parade of ex-boyfriends—the way he always intended: as a musical! Filled with honesty, humor, and “big, lively, belty” musical numbers, the novel is told through the full script of the musical first introduced in Will Grayson, Will Grayson.

Flo's Review
Let the gushing begin! I have so much love for this book. So. Much. Love. It doesn't come as a surprise, because I absolutely loved Will Grayson, Will Grayson. Tiny was one of my favorite characters. So I was over-the-moon excited to find out the was getting his own book. (Note: I'm allowed to be almost overly dramatic in this review, because not only is it about a musical, it's about Tiny Cooper.) I started this knowing that it would make me chuckle and smile. It did both of those things. Mainly, I just wanted to be Tiny Cooper's BFF. I mean, Will Grayson is Tiny Cooper's BFF, but I want to be his BFF, too.

But then the more I read, the more other emotions surfaced. Everything hurt when I read the scenes about his relationship with (the other) Will Grayson. Tiny is an open book, so I knew everything he was feeling from reading Will Grayson, Will Grayson, but I forgot just how poignant it all was. This musical is full of fun, but it's also kind of deep. There are some great lessons from Lynda and the Ghost of Oscar Wilde. And Tiny, too, has some great, great insight that he includes in his stage directions. 

If you read and loved Will Grayson, Will Grayson, pick this book up immediately. It will remind you of everything you loved. If you haven't read Will Grayson, Will Grayson then I -- as stage director of this blog post -- instruct you to go get a hold of this book stat.

5 very enthusiastic sparkly stars!!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Alienated by Melissa Landers

Flo's Review
This was definitely an interesting read! It's been on my TBR since Jacque met the author and sent me this nifty signed mini poster. (Pictured at the end.) I hung this up on the side of the bookshelf, yet I hadn't read the book. #Fail. Thank goodness for the BookNerds who gave me the shove I needed.

Cara Sweeney is the valedictorian of her high school class and has dreams of going to a great college. She is chosen to take part in an interplanetary exchange program with students from the planet L'eihr. She will host one of their best students and then will spend time with the student on L'eihr. At the end, she will receive great scholarship for college. This should all be good, except there is not a lot of L'eihr love in Cara's town. Once her student, Aelyx, arrives, Cara finds herself shunned by schoolmates, fellow townspeople, and even her best friends. Her family is as well. Meanwhile, Aelyx and the other two L'eihr students don't believe in the exchange and plan to sabotage it.

I immediately liked Cara. She had some great lines that I was highlighting while reading. (One was something about someone going "banana sandwich" on her -- lol! What?!) Aelyx was a harder character to like because I knew his plans throughout the story. There were some intensely passionate scenes between him and Cara. *fans self* (PG passionate. Well, PG-13.) The pacing of this book was interesting. It was kind of interesting to start with, then around 57% I was not wanting to put it down. A little after that, I was still invested but only in a "Hmm, I'm curious to see how this ends up," kind of way. I was at 75% for a little bit before I made it to the finish.

Some of the secondary characters threw surprises in that kept it interesting: Eric, Tori, Ashley. I also really loved Cara's parents. I'm sure if I was a teenager I would think they were gross, too, like Cara does. But it's just really sweet for her dad to realize that he almost lost her mom and so to now really cherish her and show love all the time. 

Luckily, I snagged the next book, Invaded, at ALA Midwinter so I'm all set to continue the Cara-Aelyx/human-L'eihr saga.
Jacque's Review:
Cara Sweeney is smart, popular, has a boyfriend....everything a typical teenager would hope for.  She is approached by her principal to host an exchange student from L'eihr.  Where is that you ask?  It is on another planet!  Three Aliens from an advanced society are scheduled to arrive on Earth to foster a relationship with the humans.  Both species have something to gain from the arrangement, but everyone is skeptical and leery.  Cara's Mom was cured of cancer thanks to the L'eihrs and her family could use the money to pay for college, so she agrees to host one of the exchange students.
Aelyx is exceptionally good looking, strong, and intelligent, but lacks emotion and tact.  He comes off as arrogant at first and puts off a lot of the student body.  As tensions build, so does the violence.  Cara and Aelyx develop a more personal relationship and you can slowly see them changing.  They begin to realize they aren't that different after all and an alliance may be in their best interest, but is it too late?
This book is a fast read with plenty of action and romance to keep the pages turning.  I couldn't relate to the way Aelyx handled certain situations, but I understand he was doing what he thought was best.  Cara has a very loving and supportive family, but her "friends" left much to be desired.  When things began to heat up, they fled faster than anyone.  They did redeem themselves slightly in the end, but I don't think I would ever truly be able to trust them again. 
The ending left me hopeful and anxious to read the next book.  Fortunately, I already have a copy of Invaded (Thanks to Flo) and should be able to get to in within the next couple of months.    
I had a chance to meet Melissa at a signing in Columbus and thought she was extremely sweet.  There are some great quotes in this book as Flo mentioned, but it was actually Aelyx who made me laugh out loud.  He spent a considerable amount of time preparing for his visit, but he gets some figures of speech mixed up and makes some very blunt remarks in key situations that I found to be hilarious. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

Book Summary
The magic and suspense of Graceling meet the political intrigue and unrest of Game of Thrones in this riveting fantasy debut.
Your greatest enemy isn't what you fight, but what you fear.
Elizabeth Grey is one of the king's best witch hunters, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and doling out justice. But when she's accused of being a witch herself, Elizabeth is arrested and sentenced to burn at the stake.
Salvation comes from a man she thought was her enemy. Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful and dangerous wizard in the kingdom, offers her a deal: he will save her from execution if she can break the deadly curse that's been laid upon him.
But Nicholas and his followers know nothing of Elizabeth's witch hunting past--if they find out, the stake will be the least of her worries. And as she's thrust into the magical world of witches, ghosts, pirates, and one all-too-handsome healer, Elizabeth is forced to redefine her ideas of right and wrong, of friends and enemies, and of love and hate.
Virginia Boecker weaves a riveting tale of magic, betrayal, and sacrifice in this unforgettable fantasy debut.

Flo's Review
I was lucky enough to win an ARC of this one from The Novl -- whoo hoo!
I'd been hearing about it for awhile, so I was really excited for the chance to finally dig in. Happily, I was not disappointed! I really enjoyed this book. The non-stop action had me turning the pages rapidly, along with the anticipation of how the final inevitable showdown was going to happen. Boecker did a fantastic job creating and depicting this world -- I was fully immersed and found myself lost in it as I was reading. Elizabeth had to make some hard choices in the story, and I liked that though she was understandably resistant to believing so many new ideas at first, she was able to think look at them and think rationally about them. Her beliefs came to be founded on what she experienced as true, not just what she was told. 

And John can heal me any day!

The Witch Hunter comes out June 2nd, so be sure to scoop it up when you can.

Heat of the Moment by Lauren Barnholdt

Book Summary
Before graduation, I promise to...learn to trust. In the first book in the Moment of Truth series, Lyla discovers that trusting her head might be easy but trusting her heart is a whole other matter.
Each book in this paperback original series is told from the perspective of a different girl—Lyla, Aven, and Quinn—former best friends who wrote emails to their future selves back in freshman year about one thing they hope to accomplish before they graduate. When the emails get delivered on the first morning of their senior trip all three girls will spend the next three days trying to keep the promises they made to themselves four years ago. While each book follow’s one girl’s life-changing adventure, you have to read them all to get the whole story, including why they’re no longer friends and whether they can get their friendship back on track.
Lyla McAfee had all but forgotten the email that she wrote to herself freshman year and scheduled to be delivered right before graduation—the one promising that she’d learn to trust by the end of senior year. But when she receives it the first morning of her senior trip to Florida her life is sent into a tailspin. Soon she’s questioning her seemingly perfect relationship with her boyfriend, Derrick; her attraction to the school player, Beckett; and whether ending her friendship with Aven and Quinn, her former BFFs, was one of the biggest mistakes of her life.
The first book in a captivating summer trilogy, Heat of the Moment flawlessly balances romance and humor as Lyla embarks on her totally reluctant but completely irresistible journey of self-discovery. And readers will have a chance to discover whole truth about the fight that ended Lyla, Quinn, and Aven’s friendship in the next two installments of the series, coming out later the same summer!

Flo's Review
I loved Lauren's book One Night That Changes Everything, so I was happy to get a surprise copy of this book from HarperTeen. Like One Night, I went into this book intrigued with the concept. Basically, over the course of the trilogy we will be hearing about the same senior trip from the POVs of three former best friends. Book 1 is Lyla's story. 

Unfortunately, I didn't like Lyla. She came off to me as childish and selfish and her character made me want to cringe. I was hoping that this would be a situation similar to Sam in Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall, where the character would go through significant revelations about herself and changes by the end -- thus, becoming more likable. And she did, a little. But still not my favorite person. I'm glad that the other two stories will not be through her eyes.

But I loved the tension between Lyla and Beckett. It was sweet and hot and so delicious! The scenes between the two of them were fantastic, every time. I also appreciated that this was a light and fast read. I blissfully read through it in one evening.

We got a few hints about what was going on with Aven and Quinn so I'm looking forward to hearing their takes on the events in the next two books.