Tuesday, May 29, 2018

You Say It's Your Birthday! From You to Me by K.A. Holt

Happy book birthday to From You to Me by K.A. Holt! I am currently reading this book and thoroughly enjoying it. I like hearing about Amelia's town and the relationships she has. I am looking f forward to see how she goes about crossing things off Clara's list. Stay tuned for a full review!

Book Summary
Amelia Peabody lives in a small town where nothing changes. And that's just fine by her. After losing her big sister, Clara, a few years ago, Amelia can't handle any more change. But when she starts eighth grade, she accidentally receives a letter that Clara had written to herself. In it, there's a list of things she'd wanted to do before the end of middle school and never finished, like get on the softball team and throw an awesome birthday party on the lake.
Amelia wonders if it's a sign from Clara. Maybe if she completed the list, her heart would stop hurting so much, and she could go back to being her old self. But as she makes her way through, Amelia finds that there's no going back, only forward. And she realizes she'll have to put her own spin on Clara's list to grow and change in the ways she needs to.
K. A. Holt's beautiful new novel is about grieving and growing up, and the ripples loss creates for a girl, a family, and a community.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Book review: Still Me by Jojo Moyes

Book Summary
Louisa Clark arrives in New York ready to start a new life, confident that she can embrace this new adventure and keep her relationship with Ambulance Sam alive across several thousand miles. She steps into the world of the superrich, working for Leonard Gopnik and his much younger second wife, Agnes. Lou is determined to get the most out of the experience and throws herself into her new job and New York life. 

As she begins to mix in New York high society, Lou meets Joshua Ryan, a man who brings with him a whisper of her past. Before long, Lou finds herself torn between Fifth Avenue where she works and the treasure-filled vintage clothing store where she actually feels at home. And when matters come to a head, she has to ask herself: Who is Louisa Clark? And how do you reconcile a heart that lives in two places?

Funny, romantic, and poignant, Still Me follows Lou as she navigates how to stay true to herself, while pushing to live boldly in her brave new world.

Flo's Review
I adored Me Before You. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me question, and it made me cry some more. I would recommend that book to anyone! (In fact, I did -- right here.)

So I went into After You, the second book in the series, cautiously optimistic. I'd seen some of the mixed reviews it received, so I was hesitant, though hopeful. 

I'm sad to report that I did not end up enjoying it.

In fact, I did not finish it. I DNF around page 139. (Read more of my reaction here.)

So when I got the opportunity to read and review the third book, you might think that I would have passed. But I do enjoy Lou as a character. And I thought, "Why not? I'll give it one more try."

Again, I am sad to report that could not finish this one either. I DNF around page 200. It's interesting. It is. Part of me likes reading about Lou's life in New York and experiencing the city through her enthusiastic eyes. 

...but more of me is kind of bored. As with After You, there was nothing that attracted me to the new characters. There was no one I was really rooting for. I mean, Josh seems fun. But I'm not rooting for him for obvious reasons. Agnes and Mr. Gopnik? Ehhh. This book comes off like I'm reading Lou's New York diary. Which is fine. But it doesn't really seem like a story to me? Just like me reading about Lou's experiences. There is nothing in the plot right now that is compelling me to read on. 

And so, I must let it go. I will fondly remember Lou from Me Before You. Maybe I'll even watch the movie this weekend and cry anew. And I'm definitely open to reading more of Jojo Moyes books. (I enjoyed Paris for One -- see?)

Have you read the Louisa Clark books? What did you think of them?

Thank you very much to Viking for providing me with a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Book review: Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

Book Summary
Leah Burke—girl-band drummer, master of deadpan, and Simon Spier’s best friend from the award-winning Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—takes center stage in this novel of first love and senior-year angst.

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.

Flo's Review
I adored Simon so hard. And I adore Becky Albertalli so hard. But I struggled a bit with Leah, for two reasons: 1) Leah is such an angsty teenager. She has every right to be. I completely understand why she is. But I didn't really have a lot of fun reading 300+ pages of angsty, stuck-in-own-head teen girl. 2) Seriously, everyone at Creekwood has a crush on the one same person?! Like, between the books and movie, how many people have been romantically interested in this one character?! And, yeah, she's cool, but...  I found myself picking this book up every night and telling myself that I just needed to get through it. It felt really long and like I was reading it forever.

Okay, so now let's talk about the good stuff! Simon Spier is my favorite for life! This book had a LOT of Simon and his love interest in it and I was all here for it. That promposal though?! Everything. They are adorable. I love them. One of my friends wrote in her review that she loved all the pop culture references and would just love to hang out with this friend group and I agree! So much Harry Potter love and it was so great. I would have loved to do prom night with this crew.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda review here: http://www.booknerdsacrossamerica.com/2017/11/book-review-and-trailer-simon-vs-homo.html

Love, Simon movie review here:

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Book review: Marly's Ghost by David Levithan

Book Summary
Love and I once had a great relationship, but I fear we've broken up. It cheated on me.

When Ben’s girlfriend, Marly, dies, he feels his life is over and the prospect of Valentine’s day without her fills him with bitterness. But then Marly arrives – or at least, her ghost does – along with three other spirits. Now Ben must take a journey through Valentines past, present and future – and what he learns will change him forever.

A remix of Charles Dicksons's A Christmas Carol with a Valentine's twist and the Levithan magic.

Flo's Review
I thought I knew of pretty much all books David Levithan, but I had never heard of this when I saw it in a London bookstore Resistance was futile. But it was the perfect little book to read on the flight back. It's a Valentine's Day retelling of A Christmas Carol -- what a good idea! Especially because Love is the meaning of life (in my opinion) so putting this tale on a holiday that celebrates love is completely apropos. 

I enjoyed the illustrations, which I found out from the Author's Note at the end of the book were based on the illustrations in the original story. Also, it was really interesting to hear David Levithan's process for writing this book, which he also discusses in the Author's Note. 

Tiny and Tim. I love them. All the heart eyes.

Overall, a quick and easy read. It's fun to see the translation of this quintessential Christmas story into a Valentine's Day tale, and see all the characters turned into regular high school teenagers. 

Book review: Listen to Your Heart by Kasie West

Book Summary
Talking to other people isn't Kate Bailey's favorite activity. She'd much rather be out on the lake, soaking up the solitude and sunshine. So when her best friend, Alana, convinces Kate to join their high school's podcast, Kate is not expecting to be chosen as the host. Now she'll have to answer calls and give advice on the air? Impossible.

But to Kate's surprise, she turns out to be pretty good at the hosting gig. Then the podcast gets in a call from an anonymous guy, asking for advice about his unnamed crush. Kate is pretty sure that the caller is gorgeous Diego Martinez, and even surer that the girl in question is Alana. Kate is excited for her friend ... until Kate herself starts to develop feelings for Diego. Suddenly, Kate finds that while doling out wisdom to others may be easy, asking for help is tougher than it looks, and following your own advice is even harder.

Kasie West's adorable story of secrets, love, and friendship is sure to win over hearts everywhere.

Flo's Review
"Adorable" is right, Book Summary. Literally everything about this book is adorable. I mean, look at this cover! The book is about a girl who loves going out on the lake, the couple on the cover are in heart floaties! I cannot even with this adorableness.

I kept wanting to read this book. I was on a trip through England and Wales, you guys, and I was there wanting to know what happens with these characters. I like Kate because she's so real. She sees herself as an introvert, but she's not the over-the-top "I never talk to anyone" type introvert. She is close with her bestie and had a boyfriend. She just prefers being out on the lake to anything else. 

So the title has the word "Listen" in it, and this book is about a podcast. And the blurb is "Call Me Maybe..." So perfect! Also, I would have loved having the option of podcasting for a high school elective. Just saying. This is one those stories where you, the reader, figure out what's going on and you're just waiting to see how it will all go down and the characters will catch up to you. But it's oh so fun to get there! 

The only thing that threw me off was the whole thing with Frank...I don't know. I felt like that could have been an entire separate book on its own. It was discussed in this book with pretty good depth, but not quite enough? It felt like an almost fully formed piece, but not quite whole yet. I think his relationship with Kate and the story could have been established with a simpler back story. 

But that's all I've got, y'all. This book was adorable. It publishes on May 29th and just go get it. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Audiobook review: Foreskin's Lament by Shalom Auslander

Book Summary
Shalom Auslander was raised with a terrified respect for God. Even as he grew up and was estranged from his community, his religion and its traditions, he could not find his way to a life where he didn't struggle against God daily. 

Foreskin's Lament reveals Auslander's youth in a strict, socially isolated Orthodox community, and recounts his rebellion and efforts to make a new life apart from it. Auslander remembers his youthful attempt to win the "blessing bee" (the Orthodox version of a spelling bee), his exile to an Orthodox-style reform school in Israel after he's caught shoplifting Union Bay jeans from the mall, and his fourteen mile hike to watch the New York Rangers play in Madison Square Garden without violating the Sabbath. Throughout, Auslander struggles to understand God and His complicated, often contradictory laws. He tries to negotiate with God and His representatives-a day of sin-free living for a day of indulgence, a blessing for each profanity. But ultimately, Shalom settles for a peaceful cease-fire, a standoff with God, and accepts the very slim remaining hope that his newborn son might live free of guilt, doubt, and struggle. 

Auslander's combination of unrelenting humor and anger--one that draws comparisons to memoirists David Sedaris and Dave Eggers--renders a rich and fascinating portrait of a man grappling with his faith, family, and community.

Flo's Review
My good friend Jose and I did that thing where we read one of each other's favorite books. I'm having him read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. He gave me Foreskin's Lament. 

Have you ever tried to bargain with God? I absolutely have. Like, "Hey, God, please let me get X, and I promise I'll do Y." Well, this is Shalom Auslander. Shalom was raised in a strict Orthodox Jewish household and has been bargaining with God all his life. It's interesting to hear Shalom's view on God, because it is relatable. He lets the reader inside his head as he is rationalizing his actions and you can see where he's coming from. As I was listening to this audiobook I found myself thinking at several points, "Oh my gosh, that's horrible!" ....but then also...

I love autobiographies and my favorite audiobooks are ones where the author is reading them, so I hit the jackpot here on both these accounts. Shalom's voice is perfect for his humor, which is wry and can be subtle. Shalom is also an excellent writer. He is a circular writer -- he reuses the same phrases in different parts of the same chapters and it works really well. It was fun to listen to. 

An interesting note about this audiobook is that it's the only one I've listened to where the pictures are described for the reader. I think because this is an older one, from 2007. But you hear at the end that it's actually his wife Orli who reads the picture descriptions. And then at the very end his son has a little cameo and it's absolutely adorable.

Foreskin's Lament is the kind of book that will make you laugh while shaking your head, will make you feel sad while also feeling mad. It takes a generally accepted idea -- God is good -- and says, "Well..." If you are easily offended, this might not be the book for you. But if you grew up as a part of any religion, you will find something to relate to here. 

Audiobook review: The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

Book Summary
When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something frightening enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that got her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that had killed most of America’s children, but she and the others emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they could not control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones. When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. She is on the run, desperate to find the only safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who have escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents. When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at having a life worth living.

Flo's Review
I wanted to love this. I'm late to the party, I have a signed & personalized copy, and I love dystopian YA. So when I heard that the movie release date got bumped up to August, I made it a goal to get this read before then. I found the audiobook version and it accompanied me along on my work commute for a few weeks.

I didn't love it. I mean, I didn't dislike it. I liked it okay. 

Here were my stumbling blocks:

1. I didn't connect with Ruby: I don't know why. I never felt sorry for her, I never felt like, 'Wow, this girl is a badass,' I don't know...I was kind of indifferent toward her. 
2. I didn't connect with the romance: Liam was adorable. I loved his fun disposition, his positivity, and his dedication. I was definitely into Liam. Liam and Ruby, though...I guess they had some moments, but they didn't feel charged enough for me. 
3. The running:  They were always running from someone. They didn't have a chance to catch their breath ever. It felt a little...unrealistic? For awhile it just read like, "There's after us! They're here! Oh good we got away!" And repeat.
4. Extended flashback: This is minor, but there was one really long flashback scene that happened right at a pivotal point in the present day action. I was listening to it, which made it worse, because in that moment I didn't care about what happened in the flashback. And it was an important one. But I just wanted to get back and know what happened in the present-day action.

Okay, let's talk about what I liked now:

1. The action will translate very well to the big screen: From the preview, it looks like not a lot of the book is changed -- there is enough that is visually interesting in the text as is that doesn't need additions or modifications:

2. Zu: She's the best! If I do read on in the series, it will largely be to see what happens with her.
3. Liam: He's worth mentioning again. #hottie #bookboyfriend
4. The Slip Kid: There were a few twists about him, and true to Flo form, I didn't see either one coming. He's an interesting character to read.

So it looks like I liked the characters most of all then. Hmm. Interesting.

Have you read this book? What'd you think? What do you think about the upcoming movie?

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Book Review: Reached by Ally Condie

Reached (Matched, #3)

Goodreads Overview:
Cassia’s journey began with an error, a momentary glitch in the otherwise perfect fa├žade of the Society. After crossing canyons to break free, she waits, silk and paper smuggled against her skin, ready for the final chapter.

The wait is over.

One young woman has raged against those who threaten to keep away what matters most—family, love, choice. Her quiet revolution is about to explode into full-scale rebellion. With exquisite prose, the emotionally gripping conclusion to the international–bestselling Matched trilogy returns Cassia, Ky, and Xander to the Society to save the one thing they have been denied for so long, the power to choose.

Jacque's Review:
Reached is the third and final book in the Matched trilogy.  In this installment Cassia, Ky, and Xander are reunited and must work together to find a cure for the plaque that has taken over the Society.  They once thought the Rising and the Pilot would save them from the controlling Society, but they are beginning to see that even the rebellion has its flaws. 
While I really enjoyed Matched, I struggled a bit with the pace and length of this book.  It seemed to go on FOREVER.  I never really got into the poetry aspect and the fixation on "paper" was lost on me.  In this day and age when everything is digital, I can see where they are coming from with the lack of writing on actual paper, but I don't see the lack of paper itself as being detrimental. I would have connected more if the focus was on free thinking, creativity, and the fine arts that were all but eliminated from life in the Society vs. the lack of paper.
Overall, I think this story could have been told in half as many pages and would have been considerably more enjoyable. As it was, I rally had to force myself to keep reading.  Ally did bring everything to a nice conclusion, but if I were to go into this series knowing what I do now, I would have stopped after reading Matched.  I don't feel like I really gained much over the course of the final two books.