Monday, January 30, 2017

Everyday Magic by Emily Albright

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Publication date: 2017
Publisher: Merit Books
Pages: 334
My rating: 3 stars
Ages: 15+

Maggie's father expects her to go to UCLA and become an entertainment lawyer. What Maggie wants is to get far away from her famous and abusive father and become a designer. Things seem to be coming up Maggie when she gets into the school of her dreams and meets Preston. But she just can't seem to get out of her father's control, no matter what she tries, and that starts to get in the way of her relationship with Preston.

When I picked up this book I had just finished reading a series of books that involved a lot of crying over deaths of beloved characters, so I needed something light and quick to read. This book fit the bill perfectly. Despite what could be construed as some dark themes (abuse, blackmail, etc.), the book didn't really dwell on the really dark parts.

There were some inconsistencies throughout concerning chronology (one date was called the second, the fourth, and the fifth date between two minor characters). Some of the dialogue was a bit awkward and unnatural sounding. There was some jumping over long periods of time, which sometimes seemed to cut things short or require retroactive telling instead of showing it while it happened.

As it was, the book was a fun read, just because it happened to be what I needed at the time. There was romance, dreams coming true, just some fun escapist fiction for a few minutes.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Besties by Leah Reena Goran

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Publication date: 2016
Publisher: Clarkson Potter
Pages: 96
My rating: 3 stars
Ages: 15+

There are friends and then there are besties. A bestie is someone who knows you inside and out, who you have inside jokes with, and who you can trust to be honest.

This is a celebration of besties everywhere. Through colorful illustrations and simple explanations, the book talks about that girl in your life who is basically family.

I don't really feel that this book was groundbreaking in anyway. It's more something that I would expect to see at a Hallmark store or similar places. Mostly, this would be a cute book to buy for your bestie for her birthday. That being said, there were several times when I thought of my own bestie--who I have known for 20 years. There are just certain things in this life that are universal, and the experience of best friends is one of those.

I put the age up where I did because there are some adult themes.

*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Monday, January 23, 2017

This is Our Story by Ashley Elston

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Publication date: 2016
Publisher: Hyperion
Pages: 312
My rating: 3.5 stars
Ages: 15+

The River Point Boys are all anyone will talk about, everyone wondering which was the one that shot the gun that killed their friend. Kate is an intern at the DA's office and the attorney she works for just got the case. Kate has her own reasons for finding justice for the boy who was killed and is determined to dig into the case to find out who shot the gun. But things aren't always as they seem, which Kate is about to discover.

I read this book in a day. It was interesting and gripping, with some twists and turns I wasn't expecting (of course, I never expect them). Each character had hidden depths, and interactions between characters were natural and interesting. There were times when Kate didn't do what she should have done, but I remember being a teenager and teenagers don't tend to think things through in the most logical way.

There was something that bothered me; Elston frequently used the phrasing "hands framing her face" (or something similar). It got to the point where I rolled my eyes every time it showed up. Not that the action it was describing was annoying, but that it was only described that way. I wish that she had thought of other ways to portray it (i.e. "he cupped my face in his hands"). It was used often enough (especially near the end of the book) that it became repetitive.

In all, though, it was a good read and a good mystery.

There was some hard language and some sexual talk.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Monday, January 16, 2017

My Unscripted Life by Lauren Morrill

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Publication date: 2016
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Pages: 276
My rating: 3 stars
Ages: 13+

Dee thought she knew exactly how her summer was going to go, but instead, she's looking forward to a hot Georgia summer with no art school and no best friend. So when a movie starts filming her in her small town, she jumps at the chance to work as a PA on set--though knowing the film would star Milo Ritter was a big incentive too. However, her first meeting with Milo was memorable for all the wrong reasons.

This is the kind of book that you can just curl up with and enjoy. It's decidedly aware of its genre, which is kind of what makes it work.

I like "behind the scenes" things, so I enjoyed the stuff on the movie set, though I'm not exactly sure how accurate it was--my knowledge of film sets being based on cobbled together information that I have gathered from various places. I was a little unsure about a full-length movie being made in three weeks . . . but it has happened, and since it was an indie film . . .

I liked Milo. I thought that his struggle with being famous and having to deal with all that brings was very well put together. Dee was sometimes annoying, sometimes fun, sometimes a little dense; so, a teenager.

Very little language and some mild sexual references, appropriate for teens.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

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Publication date: 2016
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Pages: 388
My rating: 3.5
Ages: 16+

Both Libby and Jack have things they'd rather not have people know. Libby is returning to school after five years of being housebound and would rather that no one remember that she was once "the fattest teen in America." No one knows that popular guy Jack can't remember the faces of anyone around him, and he's been very careful that no one finds out. When the two of them end up having to spend a lot of time together, they find that they have more in common than they would have ever thought possible.

This book is an amazing example of great writing. Niven seems to really understand teenagers and the things that happen during those completely awkward and uncertain teen years. The teasing, the bullying, the worry about what your peers will think of you. Then there are the relationships between siblings and parents, of all types, and the examples of both good and bad teachers. Then there are the deeper themes of looking past the surface and seeing people for who they really are.

I liked Libby a lot. She was still a bit self conscious about her weight (like everyone), but she was passionate and knew what she wanted. There wasn't anything she was going to let stand in her way to getting the things she wanted. She was also close to her father, which is unique in YA novels, but as someone who had a good relationship with her parents throughout her teen years (and now), I thought it was nice to see.

Jack was kind of . . . rude, but that was mostly because of how he compensated for his face blindness and the people he surrounded himself with. Jack doesn't have anyone in his life that inspires him to be his true self.

There was quite a bit of language and some sexual talk.

*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Spare and Found Parts by Sarah Maria Griffin

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Publication date: 2016
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Pages: 306
My rating: 2.5 stars
Ages: 15+

Feeling as if she's always in the shadow of her mother's and father's contributions, Nell isn't sure if she can contribute anything of worth. Then she finds the mannequin hand at the river, she starts imagining making a man who would be exactly what she would need.

My first disappoint was when I realized that it wasn't a Victorian/steampunk novel based on the Tin Man like I thought, but instead a dystopian novel based on Frankenstein. The reasoning behind their society was never really explained, other than that it had something to do with computers. Then there was revelation that it was only their city and the rest of the world had continued on. It was hard to follow and didn't seem to make sense.

The writing was good and descriptive, but there were changes in point of view and verb tense, which seemed to have no real reason behind them. It was especially evident when it changed from third to second person. This was a little jarring.

Nell also seemed moody and anti-social for no reason at all. She shied away from her friends, though she seemed to be popular, and found being touched annoying. There was nothing in her history that seemed to show why she would be that way, making her annoying to read about. It's difficult to read something when you don't like the main character.

There was no language and no sex.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Where Am I Now? True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame by Mara Wilson

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Publication date: 2016
Publisher: Penguin Books
Pages: 255
My rating: 5 stars
Ages: 16+

Most people know Mara Wilson from when she played the title role in Matilda. In this book of essays, Wilson talks about her childhood as a star, her family, and what it's like to be an adult who is still seen as her most famous character--who happens to be an eight-year-old.

I don't know if I can even describe how I felt reading this book. It only took me a day to read, and had me in tears several times. Wilson is only a year older than me, and I could see myself in her, so I understood the world she was talking about. I may never have become a child star, but that is such a small part of who she is.

I remember going to see Matilda in theaters for a friend's birthday party (I had to leave during the cake eating part because it made me feel sick). And then, I have to be honest, I hadn't really thought about Wilson after that. Until I started listening to Welcome to Night Vale, a strange podcast where she has a small recurring role. Then I started following her on Twitter, and she's funny and smart and down to earth. So all of that kind of sparked my interest, and the book was definitely something I felt like I needed to read.

I'm glad I did. I like knowing about people, what makes them tick, why they are the way they are. Wilson opened up pieces of her life in this book, including her struggle with mental health, the openness of which is something that I appreciate. Each essay is like glimpsing through a window of Wilson's life-house, going from childhood, teenage years, and adult at different times, focusing on different things. It was a refreshing way to read a person's memoirs, instead of strictly chronologically. Wilson's openness and honesty were sincere and endearing.

There is some strong language and sexual references.

*I do not receive compensations from Amazon.