Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Review: Stay by Deb Caletti

Stay by Deb Caletti
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: April 5th, 2011
Page Count: 313
Source/Format: Library book!
Keywords: abusive relationship, escape, ghosts
Clara has learned that it's fairly easy to get away. She assesses a problem with her famous crime novelist father. He rents a house on the coast of a sleepy seaside town. They go. She integrates. Makes friends even. But what Clara isn't so sure of, is how easy it is to keep someone away. Her ex-boyfriend, Christian, is back in her hometown, and like all of her friends, he has no idea where she ran off to. Clara has a tingling, nagging suspicion that he will find out, and soon ruin this seaside haven that she has found. She can't help but feel she's being watched everywhere she goes. And as Clara struggles with the living ghost that haunts her every move, she realized that she's not the only one in her family that had reason to escape. 
Holy moly, I was not expecting this book to do what it did. Clara tells us her story with alternating chapters, switching back and forth between her life with her father in this new home they have carved out for themselves, and her relationship with Christian. She tells us straight up that shit has gotten real, and it was too dangerous for her to stay at their house. The shifts of story with each chapter kept me hooked. It is a slow build, I will say that. Just because once I knew things were dangerous for Clara, I wanted to know right then and there what the hell was going on. I was shaking my fists at Deb Caletti like "yoooo why are you going to tell me this and then make me wait?!" The slow build paid off in the end, because each storyline starts escalating at about the same time. As Clara is telling us about the sweet start to her relationship with Christian, things in the seaside town seem refreshing and like a new start. As shit starts to get real in her relationship, she starts uncovering some family secrets, and it all starts to come to a head at the same damn time making it unputdownable at the end. I was up so late reading just to finish this book. 
First off, I've never told this story to anyone. Not the entire thing anyway, and not entirely truthfully. I'm only telling it now for one reason, and that's because an untold story has a weight that can submerge you, sure as a sunken ship at the bottom of the ocean. I learned that. This kind of story, those kind of things kept secret--they have the power to keep you hidden forever, and most of all from yourself. The ghosts from that drowned ship, they keep haunting. 
Reading Christian's character transformation was eerie. He and Clara meet at a basketball game, share an intense few seconds of locked eyes, connect outside, and the rest is history. At first he seems perfect. He's handsome, in that pale European kind of way. His mother is from Europe and his step-father is from the South so he has a unique accent. He's smart. It doesn't take long, though, for Clara to see that he's incredibly jealous, and she starts having to watch what she says or who she hangs out with. She finds herself lying to keep him from saying harsh things or reacting too strongly. I appreciated that Deb Caletti treated the relationship as an abusive one, and we don't lose sight of that. (Is it anyone else's pet peeve when a relationship is abuse and no one calls it out?!) Clara has her father's eyes on Christian, her friend's eyes on him, and she herself knows that this isn't typical boyfriend behavior. But we also get to see why she struggles with just ditching him and leaving. The Christian we get to know at the beginning of the book is not the same Christian we get to know at the end of the book and it was downright scary, and the suspense of his character and what would happen next pushed me to read into the wee hours of the morning. 
"Possession Point, Dad? Jesus."
"I didn't know," he said. "How was I supposed to know?"
"Obsession? Possession? Deception Point? You're telling me it's all an accident? How many places could we have gone?"
"Swear to God, Pea," he held up his hand. "I'd have to be a sick bastard to knowingly put us in a house on Possession Point." 
 I also really appreciated the other stories that were packed into Stay. Each one was rich with characterization and there for a purpose. There are a lot of ghosts in this town. From alleged shipwrecks and the suicidal wives of captains, to the backstories of each of these characters and why they chose to run away to this town as well. One thing that did bother me just a tad was Clara's fast attachment to a boy in this town. Here she is, running away from this psycho, everything reminds her of him, and then she dives in headfirst with the first handsome boy he sees and she makes a very quick and strong attachment to him. I did like that he was a prime example of how a boyfriend should be, especially since she has had not one but two abusive relationships. I just didn't like that they meet and right away she's trying to see him when she goes out and build a romantic relationship with him. 
But what I knew even more than that was that he was the jealous type. That's how I thought of it. As if the words were small print, equal to other qualities a person might have--the athletic type. The creative type. The type to get easily lost or be late, or didn't like food that was too different. It meant that you made accommodations, you got directions beforehand or told him the concert was earlier or picked a place to eat that had hamburgers or didn't say things that would hurt him. You didn't even tell him the truth about who you were or what you had done. You protected him, kept things from  him he couldn't handle. Or else protected yourself from what he couldn't handle. You managed it all, like someone who works in an office and who types and answers the phone at the same time.
Stay by Deb Caletti is a gripping read that perfectly illustrates the dangerous line between an attentive and protective boyfriend, and a hawk-eyed possessive boyfriend. She also shows us why it might not be so easy to leave someone that is clearly not good for you. Not only does the book give an accurate portrayal of this kind of relationship, but there is the drama of broken family histories, what happens when secrets stay secrets for too long, and whether or not it's possible to get rid of the ghosts that haunt us every day. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Review: I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella

I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella
Publisher: The Dial Press
Publication Date: February 14, 2012
Page Count: 433
Source/Format: Library book!
Keywords: rom-com worthy, bad luck, digital communication, weddings
Poppy Wyatt has found herself suffering from a heavy handed stroke of bad luck. At an early afternoon hotel party, her engagement ring goes missing. Not just any engagement ring that can be replaced at the nearest jeweler, but an engagement ring that has been in her fiancé Magnus' family for three-generations. Oh, and his parents are coming into town that day, and most surely they will want to see the ring. But then, the fire alarm goes off and the ring search must be put on hold. And then, when the chaos of the alarm has settled down and she has given her cell number to everyone in the hotel in case they find it, her phone gets plucked out of her hands on the sidewalk. It almost seems like the universe is paying her back when she finds an abandoned cell phone in a trash bin. But the phone belongs to Sam Roxton, a well-known businessman, and he wants his phone back. Not willing to give the phone up that easy (she has already given the number out to everyone all over again), she cuts a deal with him: she will be the best temporary PA he has had if she can hold on to the phone. Poppy finds herself tangled up in Sam's communication wires, and her own life is getting just as tangled without her hardly even realizing. 
I hate to enjoy books like this. I don't know why, I just do. Books like this are usually very fluffy, very cliche, and very predictable. Sometimes on a hot summer day, a girl just needs that kind of read, and this delivered while also proving me wrong! I've Got Your Number is predictable but not. There are some obvious things that you can guess is going to happen straight away. Instead of just making it happen, Kinsella takes an alternate route, making the path a lot more complicated and unexpected, which creates a bigger pay off for the characters. A lot of things happen in this novel that I couldn't see coming from a mile away. I don't know if that surprise was a good thing, or if it was abrupt planning on the author's end, but I appreciated the small twists and turns that kept me from trusting any of the characters too much. I was also not expecting the sort of political-esque drama that bubbles up in the middle. I'm not a businesswoman, so I can't say whether or not everything was handled appropriately, but it seemed naturally pulled off and was just as engaging as the rest of the story. 
Perspective. I need to get perspective. It's not an earthquake or a crazed gunman or a nuclear meltdown, is it? On the scale of disasters, this is not huge. Not huge. One day I expect I'll look back at this moment and laugh and think, Ha-ha, how silly I was to worry--Stop, Poppy. Don't even try. I'm not laughing--in fact, I feel sick. I'm walking blindly around the hotel ballroom, my heart thudding, looking fruitlessly on the patterned blue carpet, behind gilt chairs, under discarded paper napkins, in places where it couldn't possibly be.
I've lost it. The only thing in the world I wasn't supposed to lose. My engagement ring.
Even though I enjoyed how the story played out, I didn't much like the character's that made the story happen. I think the only way that I could describe Poppy as was flimsy. She doesn't think things through properly before she acts. She's in her mid-twenties, works as a physiotherapist, and does not have a professional bone in her body. Part of Sam's problem with her is when she starts sending e-mails on his behalf. Sam is usually a very abrupt communicator, which drives Poppy nuts so she must change it. In one instance, an email comes in that a bouquet of flowers for a female coworker has been left in Sam's office for her. Poppy writes to this female coworker (as Sam of course) something along the lines of "there's a surprise in my office for you tomorrow. I think you'll like it. xxxxxxxx Sam.' Poppy is then GOBSMACKED at the idea that this could have been taken suggestively by his coworker. Uh? She is also very easily manipulated, and it isn't until just about the very end that we see her start to develop a spine. There is one moment in particular, with her fiancé, where she was so easily swayed I was actually disappointed. 
I also did not like Poppy's fiancé Magnus whatsoever. Right away I got this kind of slimy impression of him and I knew I didn't like him. He's just as abrupt as Sam is in the way he talks to her, and he's always slinking off to research or help a student. However, for Poppy to be as easily manipulated by him as she was, I would've liked to see at least something that would have made him appealing to her. Y'know, raise the stakes a little to show what she has to lose. 
And now that I've started, I can't stop. As the bus chugs along, I email the guy wanting to assess Sam's workstation for health and safety, set up a time, then email Jane to tell her to put it in the schedule. I email Sarah, who has been off with shingles, and ask her if she's better.
All those unanswered emails that have been nagging away at me. All those poor ignored people trying to get in touch with Sam. Why shouldn't I answer them? I'm doing him such a service! I feel like I'm repaying him for his favor with the ring. At least, when I hand this phone back, his in-box will have been dealt with.
In fact, what about a round-robin email telling everyone they're fab? Why not? Who can it hurt?
This book was very funny, but a lot of it sadly at Poppy's expense and how quickly she makes her decisions which often play out in the worst way possible. Actually part of the reason I rated this book so high was because I could not put it down. I had to keep reading to see what kinds of things Poppy was going to stir up next, and sometimes it got downright uncomfortable. At the end, when Poppy finally starts to develop a spine and stand up for herself, I felt rewarded and proud of her. I also enjoyed the way Sam's character grew. At first he seems cold and distant, strictly business. Eventually he starts to warm up, and some of Poppy's stupid decisions actually have a positive effect on him. In spite of her breezy thought processes, she was actually a fun narrator to read. Her quick banter with herself and the way her mind spirals out of control when things start to go awry made this book go by very quickly.

Even though I didn't like our narrator Poppy very much, I could not put I've Got Your Number down because I had to see what happened next. She was also a very witty narrator and very lively, which made this read go by very quickly. I was also pleasantly surprised by the little unexpected twists and turns that this story made to keep it from being too predictable. 
Have you read this? What did you think?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Reading Habits Tag!

If there's one thing that keeps me from reading and writing the most, it is watching Booktube videos. I could watch videos of people showing off their shelves, TBR piles, and hauls for hours. Our book blogging bubble has it's fair share of meme's, but I love watching book-related tags on Youtube. Why let them have all of the fun? I love this tag about reading habits, so I'm bringing it to my blog. This tag was created by TheBookJazz.

1. Do you have a certain place at home for reading?  
My bed! Check out my lil Ikea clip on reading light! And I have a super comfy pillow chair that I got from my grandma. The only downside is that usually it's too comfortable, and if the mood is right, I will fall right asleep. 

2. Bookmark or random piece of paper?
For a while I was using a playing card with a nude dude on it. Then for Christmas this past year I asked for cute bookmarks with tassels. I use those a lot. My sister also got me a pretty woven bookmark from when she traveled to Belize so I've started using that. And I've been going to the library a lot lately, so sometimes I just use my library receipt!

3. Can you just stop reading or do you have to stop after a chapter/ a certain amount of pages?
Since I do a lot of reading while commuting on trains/buses, I'm not too picky about stopping in the middle of a page or between chapters. If I'm at home with nothing going on, though, I prefer to wait until a page break or end of a chapter before putting my book down!

4. Do you eat or drink while reading?
Yep! It's weird but I can't read while eating a meal. I used to take my books to the cafe by my apartment and loved eating a slice of carrot cake with some coffee while I read. Usually if I'm at home though, I'm eating chocolate or gummy candy. I'm either drinking Arnold Palmer's, coffee, or beer :) 

5. Multitasking: Music or TV while reading?
TV. Usually any music that is played in my apartment is music I am familiar with so the lyrics can get distracting. I live with my boyfriend and he's a big TV watcher, so it has become easier for me to tune it out... as long as it's not a show that I love ;) 

6. One book at a time or several at once?
One book at a time! When I was in college, I had to read several books at once and it got hard for me to keep each one straight, and it took longer for me to finish one. Now I'm a one book kinda gal. Even though right now I do have a non-fiction book about the first class passengers of the Titanic that I'm reading on the side between books! 

7. Reading at home or everywhere?
Both? I'm more comfortable reading at home, but I enjoy reading on my lunch break at work, or on the bus coming home. Reading makes my commute go by waaaaay faster. 

8. Reading out lout or silently in your head?
Silently in my head. I cannot read out loud. 

9. Do you read ahead or even skip pages?
Sometimes, yes! I'm trying to stop. If a book is really mysterious, I am always tempted to read to the last page to see if that person is present (for instance: if someone goes missing, I need to know if they stay missing or are found!) I'm worse about reading reviews and spoiling myself.

10. Breaking the spine or keeping it like new?
Breaking the spines! I think I've written about it before, but hot dog I love a well-loved looking book. When I get paperbacks, I love making their spines look all crinkly and worn. It's also why I used to love buying my books used. 

11. Do you write in your books?
Yes! Sometimes I can't fully commit to writing in the margins, even though I used to a lot in college and I was oddly inspired by these two guys writing in the margins of Inferno by Dan Brown. Usually my 'writing in the margins' is simply underlining passages. 

I tag: everyone who wants to do this! If you do this tag, leave me a link in the comments :) I am so nosy when it comes to other people's reading habits. How do you read?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Review: The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson

The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
Publisher: Ecco
Publication Date: August 2011
Page Count: 309
Source/Format: Library Book! 
Keywords: dysfunctional family, performance art, mystery
Annie and Buster Fang have always been known as Child A and Child B. Their parents, Camille and Caleb Fang, are known in the art world for their wacky public performance art stunts in which they cause chaos in the hopes of extreme reaction which they then catch on tape. Annie and Buster have always been slightly unwilling accomplices in these performances, the presence of children always making the reaction from Caleb and Camille's audience much more intense. But then, they grow up. They don't want to be puppets for their parents anymore, so they branch into their own thing. Annie gains fame as an actress, seasoned by years of "performing" with her parents, and Buster retreats into the solitary life of a struggling writer. But when a media scandal shakes Annie's reputation, and Buster gets injured on a writing assignment, they both find themselves back at their childhood home for a hopefully normal break of family time. But Child A and Child B should know that there's no such thing as normal in the Fang household, and they should've known that Caleb and Camille would have a performance of epic proportions up their sleeves.

It's hard to not get Wes Anderson vibes from this book right. away. The disinterested and detached children. The questionable parenting skills of adults. The quirky dysfunction that binds them all together, whether they want to be bound together or not. That's just the one way to describe this book. Quirky as fuck. I LOVED that, though. When Caleb is a budding artist, the motto bestowed to him by his one true mentor is "kids kill art." And when Camille (formerly Caleb's student), becomes pregnant by accident, they are thrust into the life of parenthood with their art hanging in the balance. What Caleb's mentor obviously never realized though, was that kids make great accomplices, and it suddenly becomes Caleb's life mission to prove that statement wrong. 
Mr. and Mrs. Fang called it art. Their children called it mischief. "You make a mess and then you walk away from it," their daughter, Annie, told them. "It's a lot more complicated than that, honey," Mrs. Fang said as she handed detailed breakdowns of the event to each member of the family. "But there's a simplicity in what we do as well," Mr. Fang said. "Yes, there's that, too," his wife replied. Annie and her younger brother, Buster, said nothing. They were driving to Huntsville, two hours away, because they did not want to be recognized. Anonymity was a key element of the performance; it allowed them to set up the scenes without interruption from people who would be expecting mayhem.
Honestly, one of the hardest forms of art for me to wrap my head around is performance art. Art in general can go a million different ways for a million different people. I'm sure the girl who pulled spaghettios out of her vag (NSFW) had an ultimate purpose and artistic goal, but I didn't get that shit. So I was not surprised that there was an extreme air of pretension that hung around Caleb and Camille Fang, but I also didn't hate on them for it. The Family Fang alternates between chapters of what happens in the present, and events that they have done together throughout their years of being together. Each event offers mixed responses. We see Caleb and Camille high off the elation of a positive response (sheer horror of their audience = positive response), and we see Caleb in a funk for days over negative reviews. I got a full picture of how much their art has become their life. I saw how important it was to them, and how much having Annie and Buster threatened to throw that off for them. Each event was wild and fun to read about, and there was definitely an evolution throughout the years as they integrated their children into their art, and their children became more of props than their actual kids. 
"They did all this to us," Annie said, "for art."
"For art," Mr. Delano shouted, raising his empty glass over his head.
"They used us," Buster said.
"No, Buster, that's unfair. Your parents withheld certain information in order to get the best performance possible from you. Think of your parents as directors; they control the circumstances and make all the independent pieces come together to create something beautiful that would otherwise not exist. They directed you so skillfully that you didn't even know they were doing it."
"Fuck you, Mr. Delano," Annie said.
With each event that Annie and Buster were present for, we get to see how they reacted to them. Sometimes they were caught up in the high of doing a good job at what they were supposed to, and sometimes they were left feeling ashamed and embarrassed. We also see the effect that years of these stunts has had on them as grown ups. Buster is self conscious and frequently embarrassed of his few accomplishments, while Annie has achieved blockbuster success that is skittering away from her. Each one struggles with relationships, and struggles with how they feel about their parents. Annie is also unsure of how to process the scandal that is taking her reputation, because while her publicist sees it as an epic disaster that is threatening to ruin her, her parents are giddy over the idea of morphing it into a twisted art exhibit. As lost as Annie and Buster become within themselves, their sibling relationship is top notch. They both rely on each other to pull them out of whatever funk they have found themselves in, and their bond is super strong. When they joke around together, I was laughing out loud. They could be one of my most favorite sibling relationships that I've ever read.
"I used to tell all my students, not just Caleb and Camille, but any artist that showed some sliver of promise, that they had to devote themselves to their work. They had to remove all obstructions to making the fantastic thing that needed to exist. I would tell them that kids kill art."
Annie and Buster both winced at the phrase, one they had heard their father recite any time the two of them had complicated one of the Fang projects.
"...Your parents realized that they would have to find some way to overcome this theory of mine, some construction that would disprove it. So they intertwined their family and their art so tightly that it was impossible to untangle it. They made you two into their art. It was amazing, really. And then time passed...perhaps I was just jealous of them, but I found it was impossible for me to see any Fang art without feeling this horrible sense of dread, that something irreparable was being done to the two of you."
The final event. I was not expecting the mysterious edge that this book took hold of and I was super obsessed. It was one of those things where I wanted to flip to the back of the book and spoil myself. Somehow I resisted. I am not going to go into what it is or what it entails, but I will say that this event of Caleb and Camille's further shows the conflicted feelings that Annie and Buster have about their parents. They are forced to evaluate everything. Their positions as pawns in their parents exhibits, the unique way they were raised. When they were praised for pulling off their roles perfectly, or when they were harshly criticized for doing a terrible job. We get an even deeper sense of their family dynamic as Annie and Buster delve into this mystery. And the twist! What is a mystery without a good twist? I swear my jaw became unhinged as the story got more and more absurd. Oh my God. It was so wild and almost on the edge of unbelievable, but it completely fit the characterization of Caleb and Camille Fang. Let me say that there are some hella strong feelings to be felt by the end of this book, and the mystery aspect was pretty perfectly built.

The Family Fang is a quirky and absurd story that I became obsessed with. The kids are fucked up, the parenting techniques are not to be tried at home, but we get to know each character so well and we have a level of understanding and sympathy for each one. It's actually being turned into a film right now (sadly not directed by Wes Anderson) and is starring Jason Bateman as Buster and Nicole Kidman as Annie. Um. Not sure how I feel about that (as much as I adore Jason Bateman) so we shall see.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Reasons to ADORE Landline by Rainbow Rowell

It's officially official : Rainbow Rowell is one of my favorite authors. I would read her crossword puzzles and grocery lists. I read Eleanor & Park, and even though I was sobbing at the end, I became easily obsessed with her real characters and her ability to write about tough shit without overburdening you. Then I read Fangirl. I bought it a couple of days after it came out because I needed more Rainbow Rowell in my life immediately, and loved how much I was able to relate to it and again, create swoon-worthy characters. Then I got Attachments for Christmas, and AGAIN loved how lifelike her characters were. So when Landline was announced, it soared to the the top of my MUST BUY list, and became a new release I could not wait for. Naturally on July 8th, the day of it's release, I trotted to Barnes & Noble after work. Over the next two days, I was entirely engrossed and yup, I love this one, too. 

Because I usually mix my reviews with upsides and downsides, I had to do something different with this because I can't think of any noteworthy downsides. 

Georgie McCool is just one meeting away from potentially making her dreams a reality. Her and her writing partner Seth have been writing a TV series for years and they finally have the chance to pitch it to a huge network. The only problem is that they need to make four new episodes happen the week of Christmas, and Georgie has a plane ticket to Omaha so she can visit her husband Neal's family with their two daughters. Long story short: Georgie CANNOT go to Omaha. When she pitches this to Neal, she thinks they can just go to Omaha another time, but he shocks her by leaving with their kids and going anyway. His departure dusts off a long known fact: their marriage is not in a good place. Thrown off by her husband's cool departure, she crashes at her mother's house and unearths a retro yellow landline. When she plugs it in and attempts to call Neal, she is shocked to hear that he sounds much younger. She can talk to the Neal of the Past, and he has no idea about the state of their marriage in the Present. Georgie has to decide if she can fix her marriage before it even began, or if they both would be better off if their paths split. 
1. It made me think a lot about my own relationship. A major theme in Landline is relationships and how much work needs to go into them to keep them afloat. It's easy to take your significant other or loved ones for granted and forget how much you need them there. Neal has made huge sacrifices so Georgie can continue chasing her dream, and in turn she works a lot of late nights and misses a lot of time with her children. When she starts talking to Neal on the magic fucking phone, she is shocked at how easy it is to talk to him while she's tethered to the landline with no distractions. It made me think a lot about my relationship with my boyfriend and how sometimes it doesn't feel like we are actually communicating, even though it feels like it because we live with each other and see each other all the time. It becomes so easy to get wrapped up in our online worlds and can go hours without talking about anything substantial. Landline made me want to change that. 

2. Cliche-free characters and the little things. I will go more into character relationships later, but right now I want to give a standing ovation to Rainbow Rowell for letting her characters notice the little things, and for not being cookie-cutter characters. As Georgie reflects on the past of her relationship with Neal, she thinks about what made her fall for him. He's not conventionally attractive, but she's able to notice the perfect symmetry of his lips. He's not social at all, but with her, he's warm and talkative. Even with Georgie. She is chasing her dream of being a comedy television writer. I feel like the cliche for that would be Saturday Night Live, but I don't think the show is mentioned once. Georgie pulls a lot of her inspiration from 1970's sitcoms, which I thought was unique. 

3. Character chemistry. 
Rainbow Rowell has proven herself once again as being a wizard at writing characters who work so well together. I wanted every single character in my life. A lot of reviews I've read so far point out Neal as being unlikeable. He's an anti-social curmudgeon, but dammit if he isn't charming to Georgie.  Then there's Seth, the man who Georgie probably spends more time with than her husband. I laughed out loud at the sassy, well-dressed Seth multiple times. We see how well he and Georgie work together, and their chemistry is electric enough to make us wonder whether or not some boundaries would be crossed. I was even obsessed with Georgie's family. Her mother is a pug obsessed woman with a penchant for bedazzled clothing. She is slightly off her rocker, but dammit if she didn't have me rolling every time she called her pug 'little mama.' I also adored Georgie's way-younger sister Heather, who so perfectly depicts a sarcastic teen. All of these characters were wonderful and round and I wanted all of them. 

4. Witty dialogue. This is probably so effective because of #3, but there is a lot of dialogue in this book that makes reading Landline lightning fast. It's so easy to get pulled into the conversations between their characters. Whether it's Georgie's pleas with Past Neal, work talk with Seth, or Heather lamenting that sometimes she feels like the pug with the least amount of ribbons, each conversation was incredibly real and hilarious and awesome.

5. A CAMEO. I didn't even realize that there was a cameo from two of Rowell's other characters until after I had finished the book and I was stalking her Twitter. That's how subtle it was. Then I had to go back and read the ending again and there they were. AHHHH! 

Basically, Landline is just as wonderful as all of her other books. It's the perfect blend of tough subjects and hilarious conversations. Each character is real and amazing and WHEN IS HER NEXT BOOK COMING OUT?

PS: Then awesome folks from Macmillan Audio shared a clip of the Landline audiobook to share with me so I could share it with you! Take a peek at Chapter 2 and have a listen HERE!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Review: The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu

The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publication Date: June 1, 2014
Page Count: 208
Source/Format: E-galley provided by publisher
Keywords: rumors, mystery, scandal

Alice Franklin is a slut. Or at least that's what everyone says. In most towns, rumors come and go as quickly as they start. But not in Healy, where everyone knows everyone, and there is nothing as exciting or juicy happening as the unattainably cool looking Alice sleeping with both the high school football team's star player, and a college guy. In the same night. At almost the same time. Fuel is added to the rumor fire when the star football player, Brandon, dies in a car accident and it was supposedly all Alice's fault. Suddenly Alice, who before floated through high school and was almost even popular, becomes the topic of every conversation and the target of every insult and slur. Everyone has something to say and add to the rumor mill. But at the heart of the millions of rumors swirling around about Alice Franklin, the only person who knows the real truth is Alice.

**I received an Advanced Reader Copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for review. This in no way swayed or influenced my opinion on the book. Promise! Quotes in this review may also be reflected differently in the final copy of the book.**
If I'd grown up in Manhattan and I wanted to stay in Manhattan and never leave because I felt safe there and liked it, nobody would think twice. People would think I was sophisticated, probably. And why? Because they have a subway system? Because there's more than one movie theater? Because of the lions in front of the New York Public Library? (Yeah, I know about those, too.) I honestly don't get the difference. If I'd been born in Manhattan, I probably would have wanted to stay there just like I want to stay in Healy. And honestly, even in Manhattan I think I still would have been considered popular. And I'm not so small town that I don't realize that even in Manhattan, a girl like Alice Franklin would still have been considered a slut. 
 When a scandal has taken over a small town high school, everyone always has a story to add or something to contribute. Jennifer Mathieu, the author of The Truth About Alice, perfectly toys with this idea by offering five different narrators, each with a different perspective on the night that Alice Franklin had sex with two guys, and the aftermath. There is Elaine, the top-tier popular girl who was the hostess of the party that the double sex happened at. There is Kelsie, who used to be Alice's best friend, but ditched her as soon as the rumors came to fruition and her chances of being popular became jeopardized. There is Kurt, the most outcast of outcast who sees through all of the rumors and bullshit and still wants to pursue a friendship with Alice, who he has been crushing on for years. And there is Josh, the best friend of the star football player and who was in the car crash that took his life. Each perspective was narrated in first person and carried out very successfully. Without necessarily seeing the chapter header with who was telling their piece of the story, I knew who it was. Their narration was also super true to how teenagers would tell a story, complete with 'like' and 'you know,' but not too many! This well executed use of multiple narrators helped to create a 360 view of the situation at hand, and we see how each person becomes instrumental in Alice's role as the bully target. The narratives don't match moment by moment, but in the instances where they synced up, I did get a little bored reading the same situation through four different pairs of eyes.
There is one thing I've learned about people: they don't get that mean and nasty overnight. It's not human nature. But if you give people enough time, eventually they'll do the most heartbreaking stuff in the world.
Spoilers ahead: One thing I took issue with in this story, is that it took a romance to show Alice the light after being bullied. Throughout the book, we see Alice participate in problematic sexual relationships with boys, and the target on her back stemmed from a rumor about sex. At the end of the book, when she ends up with Kurt and he basically becomes responsible for finding happiness again, I groaned out loud.

I liked Kurt at first. He was a smart outcast that remained witty when dealing with the popular kids. Then we start to learn that he has more or less stalked Alice for a majority of their time in high school. He pays acute attention to her, reads her tossed assignments and essays, has her on a metaphor-riddled pedestal, and then uses this secretly gained information to get in on her good side when she ends up in the outcast pool with him. This is called being a predator, y'all. Kurt doesn't seem like a predator in the traditional sense (see: To Catch a Predator), but he found Alice's moment of weakness, and saw his opportunity to get in with her. And of course they end up together and he is her savior. I would've found it much more powerful if Kelsie was the one who turned her back on popularity FOR ONCE, to stick up for her old best friend. Not just another dude looking to take advantage of Alice Franklin. END OF SPOILERS!
How much did it hurt? It was like a million paper cuts on my heart. Because it was slow, and not all at once.
The Truth About Alice is a really eye-opening account of bullying and the people that participate in it. We don't get to see much of Alice's perspective on the matter, but it was riveting to read why these characters believed the rumor's that they heard, and why they kept perpetuating them. What I also really loved about these bullying characters, was that if people knew their secrets, they would be just as bullied as Alice was. Even though we should hate these characters for making Alice's life a living hell, we also sympathize with them because they are fighting their own demons. I especially loved Kelsie's perspective. Her backstory was heartbreaking, and she had an inside scoop on Alice up until the night of the party that shattered her reputation

Even though I disliked the outcome of this book, I thought Mathieu pulled off the multiple storytellers very well. I knew exactly who each character was, and each one had intriguing backstories and different perspectives to add to Alice's downfall.

Thank you to the publisher for allowing me to experience this book early!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sunday Flicks

Sunday Flicks is another new feature here where I round up the films I've watched this week with mini reviews. Huzzah!

For some reason, I've watched a load of movies this week. I used to watch a lot of movies in high school, decided I missed them, and I've been watching one every other day. Also, in my desire to review or talk about some things other than books, I figured this feature would help me get it out of my system once a week :)

Drinking Buddies
Released: 2013
Starring: Jake Johnson, Olivia Wilde, Anna Kendrick
My Thoughts: Drinking Buddies has been popping up on my Netflix recommended list for ages now, so I finally decided to give it a go. Plus: Jake Johnson! Luke and Kate work together at Revolution Brewery (in Chicago!) and there is constant romantic tension between them. They seem perfect together. The hitch? They're both in pretty darn good relationships. This movie is one where it seems like there isn't a whole lot happening until you get to the end and then it hits you kind of all at once. It's also worth noting that all of the actor's improvised their lines. AKA there was no script, just a loose outline. Which made me appreciate it even more because I never would've guessed. The actors really embodied their characters.
Rating: 4/5

The Punk Singer
Released: 2013
About: Kathleen Hanna
My Thoughts: Wow wow wow wow wow. After watching this movie I had to sit by myself for several minutes and reflect. Kathleen Hanna was the front woman of Bikini Kill and has become one of the women to spearhead the Riot Grrrl movement. There was a lot of information about Bikini Kill, the movement, and other bands that they came up with. Even if you didn't like Bikini Kill/Le Tigre/Julie Ruin, Kathleen Hanna's views on feminism and living with chronic illness were eye opening and heart breaking and motivating.
Rating: 8/5
Little Birds
Released: 2011
Starring: Juno Temple, Kay Panabaker, Leslie Mann
My Thoughts: I really missed the 'dark' label of this movie on Netflix, because it got real dark real quick and I was very unsuspecting. Lily and Alison are best friends living quite literally in the middle of nowhere. Lily is edgy and dying to leave, Alison is quieter and usually stands in the shadow. One day during a bike ride, they come across an empty pool taken over by skater boys and Lily falls in love with one of the boys. She shoulda taken some advice from Avril and said 'see ya later boy' to the skater boy because she follows them to Los Angeles with Alison and that's when shit gets real.
Rating: 4/5
Frances Ha
Released: 2012
Starring: Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner, Adam Driver
My Thoughts: So many mixed feelings! I related to the 'struggle'. Frances Halladay is trying to make it as a dancer, but has more ambition than talent and can't quite figure out how to make the big time. She is frequently broke, and bounces around from apartment to apartment, staying with different friends along the way. She thought she had it made with her best friend and roommate Sophie, but Sophie moves out to live with her rich boyfriend, sending Frances into a tailspin. I loved watching the relationship between Frances and Sophie, their friendship is often described by themselves as 'being the lesbian couple that doesn't sleep together,' and they brought the spirit of New York (or what I imagine the spirit of New York to be like) to life. But where Drinking Buddies seemed scripted but wasn't, Frances Ha was scripted but seemed unscripted. Frances is super awkward in a way that was slightly annoying to watch, she never seems like she knows what to say and after a while I was kinda over it.
Rating: 3/5
Girl Most Likely
Released: 2012
Starring: Kristen Wiig, Darren Criss, Annette Benning
My Thoughts: Imogene was supposed to be successful. She was supposed to be an up and coming playwright and then blew it all. Instead of writing a play with a large grant, she climbs up the social ladder with her friends who are all upper class something or others. Then her live in boyfriend dumps her. Naturally, she stages a suicide, which forces doctor's to put her in care of her slightly crazy mother, and her hermit crab obsessed brother. I saw this in theaters last summer with my sister and enjoyed it then, too, and wanted to watch it again. It's not as funny as you would expect a Kristen Wiig movie to be (especially after Bridesmaids), but Imogene was a character I really rooted for, and it definitely had it's shining moments.
Rating: 4/5

What movies have you watched this week? Any good ones on Netflix right now?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

In My Library Bag

In My Library Bag is something I've been doing for a while but is now an official feature where I show you what I hauled home from the library recently! 

I've written before about how the neighborhood library branch by my apartment is quite small and with a not-so-wide selection. It gets the job done when I'm in a pinch for a new book, but sometimes I actually crave trips to the Harold Washington Library which is one of the largest in the country. It's easy to get lost and turned around in, and the amount of books can be overwhelming. But they literally have everything, which is why I usually take a taxi home after a trip there because my bag is a million pounds. Here's what I got on my last trip!

1. The Arrivals by Meg Mitchell Moore : I just finished reading The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta and I was looking for another family-type drama. It sounds like this will deliver! Two parents have another chance at parenthood when their adult children all flock home, their lives in different states of disaster.

2. The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson : I'm currently reading this book about two performance artist parents and their two children. When the children were little, they were used as stars in their parent's elaborate public performance art pieces. Now that they are grown up, they are trying to step out of their parents shadow's, but really have no idea where to start. It's very quirk, and reminds me a little of The Royal Tenenbaums.

3. Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage by Hugh Brewster : Fun fact - I used to be obsessed with the Titanic. I probably know more than the average person about it. Fun fact- this obsession was born when I watched the movie in 2nd grade (eep!) and the encyclopedia told me it sank on my birthday. This book is about the first class passengers on board will surely keep my flame burning.

4. Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life (#1) and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (#2) by Bryan Lee O'Malley : I breezed through these and loved them! They had me laughing out loud, and I was sad I only got the first two!

5. Jemima J by Jane Green : I ended up in a summer reads/chick lit mood half way through my visit to the library, and this book is on all the Goodreads lists! Jemima Jones is very much overweight, and is constantly stepped on by her friends. She meets a hot guy from California online, and of course she tweaks her body measurements. Then he wants to meet, and she has to find a way to become the woman she's portrayed online.

6. Perfect Escape by Jennifer Brown : I read Thousand Words by Jennifer Brown and I've been wanting to read more of her books. Kendra feels like the only way she can stand out next to her brother who struggles with OCD is to be perfect. Then a cheating scandal threatens to shatter her reputation, and she takes off with her brother to run away from it all. Sounds delightfully dramatic, and like it will tackle some tough issues like Thousand Words did.

7. Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill : A trip to London? A secret romance? Personal enemies working together? Adventure? Yes, please! This was another result of my chick-lit impulses.

8. One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper : Did anyone else see the flawless trailer for the adaptation of This Is Where I Leave You? I thoroughly enjoyed that book, and the movie trailer was a reminder to read more of his work. A man's ex-wife is about to get married to a guy that he can't even hate because he's so nice, and his daughter just admitted she is pregnant. Another dysfunctional family drama that will surely be AWESOME.

9. I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella : Another beach read/chick-lit impulse pick up.

10. 52 Reasons to Hate My Father by Jessica Brody : This seems to play into my love of celebrity culture and the summer reads. Lexington is an heiress who is following the same destructive path as many heiresses before her. So when she crashes her Mercedes into a store on Sunset Boulevard, her tycoon father decides that enough is enough. On her 18th birthday, he says that in order to receive her trust fund, she must work a different low-paying job every week for a year. Sounds like this will be hilarious!

11. Stay by Deb Caletti : I've only read one other Caletti book and really enjoyed it. This one about a relationship that turns abusive and unhealthy and the girl's attempts to get away sounds dark and gripping.

I would say that I have a library problem, but you guys already know that :) After I read The Family Fang, which book should I go with?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Top Ten Blogging Confessions

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted over at The Broke and the Bookish where we share our top ten bookish-related things!

1. I'm a lazy ass blogger.
Sigh, I actually feel a lil bad for my subscribers and readers because I'm not the most on-top-of-things blogger. I'm definitely one of those people who has to be ~in the mood to sit down and write a blog post, and usually YouTube (at least it's usually in the BookTube category!) mutes my blogging desires.

2. My Netgalley ratio is em-bar-ass-ing.
Netgalley, for those who may not know, is a website where me & other book bloggers get advanced e-reader copies of books. Publishers usually judge you by your ratio of books accepted/books reviewed. At first, I was on a roll getting e-galleys left and right. Now, I've slowed down and my ratio is suffering. Ouch. 

3. I'm jealous of people who schedule/write posts ahead. 
The concept of planning and writing posts ahead of time and like, having an actual schedule, was introduced to me by reading Kaelah's blog over at The Clueless Girl's Guide. She always seems so organized with her posts! Lately I don't read fast enough to have a surplus of reviews to write or post. It's happened once or twice where I have posts written ahead of time and I feel so ON TOP OF THINGS! I would like to do that more. 

4. I struggle with relevancy vs. desire. 
I kind of touched on this in my last post about my relationship with YA. I feel like the most popular book review blogs (that I know of and read) are centered around young adult new releases. Naturally I want to keep up with that so I usually feel like I need to be reading and reviewing YA. Lately I've been reading literary fiction, and I wonder if people would actually want to read reviews in this genre or nah. 

5. I'm not so great @ coming up with unique features. 
I think the queen of creating features is Jen over Pop! Goes the Reader. She is always doing awesome things like creating wallpapers inspired by her favorite books and finding the prettiest book covers by genre. I'm jealous! I've thought of a couple ideas here and there, but that goes back to the laziness thing I mentioned in #1. This is why 96% of my posts are reviews or memes (such as this!). 

6. I sometimes consider blogging 'bout other stuff. 
Once upon a time I blogged about all kindsa things. On my blog I reviewed movies, albums, concerts, AND books. I also interviewed artists, small business owners, models, authors, photographers, and musicians. Literally all kinds of stuff. Sometimes I miss blogging diversely like that. Like when I find an album I'm obsessed with or try a new beauty product I can't get enough of. Maybe it can be a weekly feature. Hmm...

7. Rating things is hard, y'all. 
I made a post about how I rate, but that doesn't make it any harder for me to decide how to rate things. I don't want to be super negative and give a low rating, but I also don't want to run around singing high praise to books I might not have loved THAT much. 

8. Design is hard, too. 
Despite minoring in marketing in college, I am not-so-fab at visual branding. My ideas are usually a hot mess, and I don't have the $$ to pay someone for a top notch design. I think I've done pretty well so far, but a lot of time's I visit a blog and want to drool over how pretty it is. 

9. So many books, so little time.
My Goodreads goal this year was to read 100 books. So far I have read 33. Eeeeeeeek. Sometimes I feel super overwhelmed by how many books there are in the world. Shit, I'm overwhelmed by the amount of books on my own shelves and in my own Kindle. Therefore, I'm jealous of all you bloggers who always have fun things to review and post about!

10. I'm grateful! 
Even though I'm a lazy ass blogger with an identity crisis every other day, I'm grateful to be a part of this corner of the Internet and I don't think that's said enough. I'm grateful for every person that comes to my blog and reads and comments and subscribes, and even for the ones who don't. I'm grateful to talk about books with people who love books, and I'm grateful for the connections I have built with publishers who give me review copies. It's all just great. So thank you.