Tag Archives: ya fiction

Wicked Reads with River and Penguin Teen

WickedReads_Sticker_15_2p2

Guy guys guys HALLOWEEN IS LESS THAN WEEK AWAY. I GET TO DRESS UP ON FRIDAY AND SATURDAY AND I AM SO EXCITED.

~exhale~

I love Halloween. LOVE it. I used to always dress up. Then I moved to Japan. If you google enough you’ll find some really bizarre Halloween happenings over there. There’s a “Halloween Train” which is basically one car on the Yamanote (which is my fav train, it runs in a circle both ways, it’s awesome and takes one hour to do a full loop yes I’ve done it before… more than once…) where a bunch of crazy foreigners and their friends get drunk and ride around in Halloween costumes. I’m not sure if it still happens because I know that a lot of Japanese people hated it, but if you google you will find. I also just read an interesting article about a prominent Yakuza family who was giving out bags of candy! So that’s a thing. And at the last English school I worked at (in Hitachi) the local community government (like a community watch group) came around and gave all the shops in the area snacks to hand out and then they brought a bunch of kids around and they said something like “Candy please” and we gave them the pre-provided snacks. It was… odd.

SO I am so happy that being back in the USA means properly celebrating Halloween! While I did try to keep it alive in Japan (I once threw a Halloween party for my husband when we were first dating so he could “experience American culture”) it’s so fun to be able to dress up for work and go to Halloween parties.

And of course, READ REALLY CREEPY SCARY BOOKS. Because if there’s something that I love doing in October, it’s scaring myself. And I am the biggest wuss when it comes to horror. Especially movies and TV. But with books I’m okay. Maybe because I can’t actually SEE anything worse than what my own head can create. I love the creepy crawly FEELING that comes with reading freaky book. And read freaky books I have!

Penguin Teen contacted me asking if I’d like to partake in their #WickedReads event and I said OF COURSE I LOVE WICKED THINGS. And they sent me:
surviveSurvive the Night by Danielle Vega

When I first read the synopsis of this book I knew that I HAD to read it! A group of friends gets trapped in an abandoned NYC subway when a rave they’re attending gets busted? And people start dying?! CREEPY! Sadly what was a decent book slowly became a B-class horror show with some weird monster stuff but meh, it was creepy and fun and a quick read. I haven’t read her other book, but I want to give it a try now that I know her stuff can be so freaky!

Along with this I’ve read a TON of other freaky books that I saved just for October. Let me know if you’ve read any of them and if they freaked you out as much as they did me!

mad

A Madness so Discreet by Mindy McGinnis

Ever since Mindy tweeted that this book took place in a insane asylum I knew that I HAD to get my hands on it! I LOVED Mindy’s other books and I love how dark her writing is and how she just isn’t afraid to GO THERE. This book was everything I had wanted and more. I really liked that there wasn’t any romance in it, and the relationship between Grace and the Dr. was perfection! There were loads of dark, creepy moments too!

17Project 17 by Laurie Faria Stolarz

This book was given to me by my #OTSPSecretSister. I found it very fitting that it ALSO took place in an insane asylum, and I decided to read it right after I’d finished MADNESS. Not sure if that was the best idea or the BEST idea… but there was a point where I was home alone in the dark and had to put it down because… yeah… ghost children. This book was really fun because it takes place in Danvers, MA, which isn’t too far from where I live! And it was based on a real place. FREAKY!

curiousThe Curiosities by Stiefvater, Gratton & Yovanoff

This is a book that I’ve been slowly reading and finally just sat down and tore through one afternoon. It’s not really a scary book, but there are tons of freaky stories in this! I mean come on… just look at the authors… hahahaha! There was one that took place on Halloween, but there were so many other dark stories with ghosts and vampires and zombies… I loved this book so much and I’m really glad that I decided to finish it this month.

bsBlood and Salt by Kim Liggett

I went to Boston Teen Author Fest last month and only allowed myself to buy one book… and this was it! I have been so excited to read this and wow was it good! Cults and blood and sacrifices and immortals and ancient rituals… I love all of that and this book had ALL of that! I couldn’t put this down and I am so glad that I grabbed it and had a chance to meet the author as well!

pieceAnother Little Piece by Kate Karyus Quinn

I didn’t read this one this month, but it is one of my most favorite freaky books and I read this for Halloween a few years ago and I will never stop recommending it as a Halloween read. It is twisted and bloody and freaky and mind-fucking and I just love it so much. If you need to read one book to freak yourself out this season… read this!

So tell me what are some of your favorite #WickedReads??? And what are you going to be for Halloween? (I’m going to be Wednesday Addams… there WILL be photos!) Leave me your answers in the comments!

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This Monstrous Weekend!

Hey guys! Sorry long time no post. As you know my life consists of hanging out with my husband in his AI lab and reading ALLL the books. This month I’ve done quite a bit of reading, but not a ton of reviewing… saving up for next month because I have a HUGE pile of books to review!

This past weekend was super bookish and super fun and basically ALL THE THINGS THAT I HAD HOPED FOR UPON RETURNING TO THE USA!!! I went to two book events and they were both AH-MAY-ZING.

First on Friday I took the day off from work and it was wondrous and I was lazy (okay so totally not) and ate lunch at my favorite cafe and cleaned my house and then went to pick up Melissa Giorgio from the train station!!! Melissa has been a friend of mine since high school but due to being out of the country we hadn’t seen each other since 2008, when she came to visit me in Tokyo. So yeah. Major reunion. She took the train up from NYC and got here around 3:00pm. We went back to Kendall Square, got her situated in her hotel room and then I took her on a tour of the MIT campus before we ate dinner and then went back to my place. She FINALLY met my husband and they chatted while I got ready for THIS MONSTROUS LAUNCH PARTY at Porter Square Books.

I’m sure you’ve all seen me tweeting about This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee. Mackenzi is a local friend and I was so excited that I could help support her new book. I’ve read the book (and reviewed it here) and I LOVE OLIVER SO MUCH OKAY. All last week I worked on what I dubbed THIS MONSTROUS SURPRISE which was…

TMT2This Monstrous Sign! (Omg I cannot stop with the puns! Not even sorry!) I drew it (first thing I’ve drawn IN YEARS) and I am SO pleased with how it turned out! I sat in the very front at her launch (it was PACKED!) and held it up when she first got up front and the expression on her face was priceless! I gave it to her as a present later on and I was so happy that she loved it! (as well as other people on social media! Woohoo!)

The launch was pretty awesome. Melissa Lee saved me a seat and me and my Melissas (Who will be Melissa Lee and Melissa G from here on) listened to Mackenzi wax poetically about Mary Shelly, Frankenstein and her awesome adventures in Europe. After Mackenzi was done reading and speaking everyone got in line to get their book signed. Thinking we’d wait out the rush Melissa Lee, Melissa G, and I went to do other things… which sadly was a shitty choice (another pun! if you’ve read the book.. read the book!) because we missed out on cookies and ended up waiting an hour in line!

But we did take some fun photos!

TMT3Melissa G, myself and Melissa Lee

IMG_1948Melissa Lee, Frankie & IIMG_1935This Monstrous Thing!!!!

It was not a late night because we had to all wake up early the next day for… BOSTON TEEN AUTHOR FEST!!!

No Typo

Saturday morning I woke up early to get ready. Melissa Lee was picking us up around 9, and I wanted to actually dress up since it seems like I NEVER get to dress fun anymore with work being a Professional Setting and weekends being super relaxed.

IMG_1958I was SO excited to wear my favorite black Murua shirt dress and this new pair of tights that I bought basically for the event. The text on them is very… interesting to say the least. I’m suspecting that they were made in Japan…

Melissa Lee came and got us and we arrived at the Cambridge Public Library a little bit before 10:00 AM, so we went to Starbucks where we ran into a horde of authors. We chatted with some of them in line and made friends with Adam Silvera (More Happy than Not) and Becky Albertalli (Simon Vs. the Homo-sapiens) who we then later kept running into (and Melissa Lee already knew them and had met a few times before).

btaf6All the authors!!!

btaf1Selfie with Adam and Becky!

btaf3Selfie with Kendall Kulper (Salt & Storm and Drift and Dagger), Adam, Mackenzi and some girls we don’t know!

btaf2Kissy kissy!

btaf4They gave out free copies of The August 5 and I got my copies of Blood and Salt and Salt & Storm signed.

I also ran into a few other authors I knew (one of them being Lori Goldstein; author of Becoming Jinn) and some other blogger/book friends. It was really nice to see everyone! And after hours of standing in line for Leigh Bardugo to sign ALL the books…

btaf5(Leigh Bardugo, Melissa G, Nicole Moy, half my head and Melissa Lee not pictured because DRIVING)

We gave her a ride to Porter Square Books. MOST EPIC CAR RIDE EVER!

So yeah. Pretty much Best. Day. Ever.

Villain Squad — Penguin Teen — The Young Elites

Penguin Teen contacted me recently asking if I would like to join them by celebrating, uh, villains? YES VILLAINS. Embrace your inner demons.

vil·lain
ˈvilən/
noun
noun: villain; plural noun: villains
  1. 1.
    (in a film, novel, or play) a character whose evil actions or motives are important to the plot.


Please press play and enjoy the hell out of this song while reading the rest of this post…

First I would like to thank Penguin Teen for sending me a paperback copy of The Young Elites. I’ve been wanting to read this book for some time but just never found the chance. So this seemed like the perfect one!

tye
I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.

I am SO glad that I finally got around to reading this book! It is DARK and sexy and I LOVE IT! The song that I posted above actually fits Adelina SO well and when I was reading the book and this song came on… I got goosebumps. If you’ve read the book, listen to the lyrics and you’ll understand.

Soooooooooooooooooooo……………..

What is a villain to you? The bad guy? The so good he’s bad guy? The beautiful woman who seduces and then kills? The man who kills to save his city? The woman who kills to save herself? What is a villain anymore? In media villains are everywhere. Bad guys doing good things, good guys doing bad things. I know that I am DYING to see Marvel’s new <b>Suicide Squad</b> film (JARED. FREAKING. LETO. YES PLEASE). Villains and their bad selves and their squads are all over. So to celebrate Marie Lu’s upcoming novel The Rose Society I am joining Penguin Teen and creating my own Villain Squad. I’ve assembled a team and we are…

The Bad Book Be-ARC-hes.

First we have Sammy er I mean Jibber-JABBER (My lovely coblogger).

While I’m far too kind in nature, I’m also the last likely person you’d look at to commit criminal acts. Think of me as a female Hank Scorpio from The Simpsons — I’m cheeky, friendly, but I am also the one with my fingers on the doomsday device, demanding that every employee deserves a a hammock, and that millions of dollars be sent to my evil undisclosed location. If I wee to have a villainous power, it’d be “Fast-Talking” — I chat so fast that you’ll barely have a chance to comprehend the information I’ve given you, and zoom! — I’ve stolen out of your pockets, or stated a secret code word to get my cronies ready for action. I’ll chat you up, and while your blindsided by my gift for gab — that my friends is when I’ll strike.

Next we have Librario (author of Nobody’s Goddess)
One day I fell asleep with my head on open book and discovered that every time I open a book from then on, I can absorb it all, as if I had read it from front to cover. The only drawback is, a big fan of the book forgets she ever read it in exchange! So I’ve been “reading” books with my powers so I can get more reading done, knowing that I steal the memories of the book away from many fans as I do… But not realizing they sometimes actually like that because then they can re-read it and feel as if they’re discovering books they love for the first time.

And the last member of my squad, Melly-G (Author of The Sight Seer Saga and The Fading Dusk) is SO EVIL that she didn’t even show up for the party (and thus did not get to choose her own name!) She’s a book horder and her power is ignoring the world as it burns because she’s too busy editing her next great work (which she uses to enslave the masses).

As for myself… I am Fast Mollies (name throwback to 2006 y’all!)

I do everything quickly. Sometimes too quickly. When I’m called upon to save you I tend to rush right past you to the next person! My power is speed and I use it for reading as many books as I can… not saving the poor and downtrodden as I should. Sure I might rush out to answer my signal, but I often do a shitty job of saving you because I’m going too fast because I want to return to my damn book! 

What’s your villain persona and power? Who would be on YOUR villain squad????

Recent Bookish Adventures

Hello! Look at me update! And not take six months to do it! So last month (June) and this month (July) have been rather bookish! In July I read something like 18 books and I’m now 28 books ahead on my goodreads challenge (to read 100 books). Holy crazy wow. Also last month I attended two book events here in Boston.

The first event was a children’s lit trivia night. I went with the lovely Mackenzi Lee and some other authors and book friends and while we did not win, we did exceptionally well (and I think we got like 4th place). I knew like two answers but hey, it was fun to go out and meet some new people.

After that Mackenzi and I set up the first Boston Book Swap (okay I’m sure it’s not THE FIRST but whatever, it’s the first of more that we plan to have!) we got the idea from the popular #booksfortrade on twitter and first it was just going to be the two of us swapping books but then we thought hey! let’s invite more people! So we (she) contacted all the book people we know in Boston (I know like, five, but more now!) and set up the party. Everyone was allowed to bring 10 books to trade. Sadly the day of the party was very stormy and rainy and not that many people wanted to trek out to Mackenzi’s place, so we only ended up with six people. But it was a TON of fun and there were A LOT of books!

IMG_1265All the books that were brought!

How it worked was like this: we each drew a number and then went around in a circle. You were allowed to choose one book from the floor OR you could steal a book from another person. Each book was allowed to be stolen three times. It took awhile and there were some hilarious steals but we all went home with lots of books!

IMG_1270All the books I ended up with! (Two were BEA gifts from Nicole and a few were extra’s given to me by Mackenzi)

I feel like the book swap was a success and I hope that more people will go next time!

This month I’ve been reading a lot as well, probably not as much as in June, but I DID get a huge ARC package from HarperCollins so I have A LOT of stuff to read…

IMG_1484IMG_1487I’m still in shock at how generous Harper was to me this month. This is my third time getting ARCs from them and this is the most I’ve gotten so far. I’m SO excited to read all of these, and a few are books that I have been DYING to read one of them being…

IMG_1486We are not surprised at all, now are we?

Again I cannot say how happy I am to be back in the USA where I can have the chance to participate in book events and make book friends and get physical ARCs. My bookish heart is filled and my bookish dreams are slowly being fulfilled.

Cultural Accuracy in YA

Lately there has been a big push for more diversity in YA. Non-white main characters, non-American (non-Western) settings, LGBQTI characters, and so on. With that comes the challenge of writing not only diversely, but accurately. Often non gay or non POC authors get flack for not writing their gay or POC characters stereotypical and cliche. And I’m glad that this stuff is being addressed. It’s important that diversity isn’t used as a gimmick.

I take issue with books set in Asia that are not accurate. I’ve run across a few ‘white girl goes to ::insertAsiancountryHERE::’ novels that have thrown me into a rage. It’s a topic that I feel very close to, and I’ve decided to write about it here. I polled twitter and facebook and people are interested, so here we go.

179542_10100696192142385_2114367399_nBefore we get too far I want to say that while I am addressing accuracy in books set in Asia, Japan specifically, I am not an expert on Japan and Asia. I do feel that I am qualified to speak about this topic though because I lived in Japan for seven years. I did one year of study abroad in Tokyo while living with two host families and then after graduation I worked in Japan for another six years. I lived in Tokyo, Saitama, and Ibaraki. I worked for three different English teaching companies. I did my taxes in Japanese. I went to the hospital in Japanese. I got married to a Japanese man and have an extended family still in Japan. I might not still be living in Japan, but I have life experience there (I almost died twice!) Oh, and I have a minor in East Asian Studies. So that’s as far as my “authority” goes.

Japan is a beautiful country, Japanese is a difficult language, and the culture is very different 268770_10100219200966525_3845584_nfrom Western culture. One of the biggest issues I have with some of the YA books set in Japan is that the MC usually acclimates way too quickly. She (so far I’ve only read one book with a male MC) picks up the language in no time and never suffers from culture shock. In Ink, by Amanda Sun, our MC, Katie, moves to Japan to live with her aunt after her mother’s death. Not only is Katie dealing with grieving, she’s suddenly dumped in a new country. And yet she does FINE. We’re lead to believe that the dialogues are all in Japanese (which just was so confusing because it’s all written in English, hence it is a translation of the Japanese being spoken) and there is no way that Katie has mastered Japanese that quickly. In the book she often comments on her poor Kanji skills, but then she’s seen writing emails to her friends in Japanese. And with little trouble. There are a few times when we see her struggling, but her language skills (while not shown in actual Japanese) are pretty flawless. From my own experiences learning Japanese in class and learning Japanese on the street are two different things. When I moved to Japan for study abroad I had studied Japanese for three years in college. When I got there I thought I was the shit and would be able to communicate no problem. Instead I had a horrible time. I struggled so much. I even gave up after awhile. I did have friends that flourished and became very good at Japanese in a short period of time, but even then they weren’t fluent quiet yet. So unless Katie had some amazing secret language genius that the author didn’t let us in on, that was just totally unbelievable to me.

I also take issue with the lack of culture shock most MCs face. In both Ink and Katie M. Stout’s Hello, I Love You! (which was set in South Korea, so I can’t comment much on the Korean culture in this one) the MCs seem to have no trouble leaving their troubled pasts behind and flourishing in these new, unfamiliar places. Katie almost seems to forget about her mother and the most “culture shock” I saw her have was when she couldn’t eat karage (a type of fried chicken using sesame oil) for lunch and had to eat PB&J. Later on this is used to show Katie’s “growth” as she leaves her American-ness behind to embrace her Japanese self or something. It really bothered me that she never had any true culture shock. And not ‘oh this is a weird thing in Japan’ (that is not real culture shock), but the debilitating anxiety that comes before having to go use the ATM or send a package at the post office or get your hair cut. The feeling that it’s probably safer to stay inside where you don’t have to face something in a foreign language. Culture shock that myself and many of my friends faced when first living in Japan. Hello, I Love You‘s MC, Grace,  never even had jet lag, let alone culture shock. This is such a real thing and should be explored! I know that it probably takes away from what the author wanted the story to be about (romance in a foreign land) but it’s just not accurate at all.

574635_10100599906679225_1114244541_nMy number on biggest rage inducing trope in these books is the ‘white girl can’t use chopsticks’ stereotype. But Molly!, you cry, I’m a white girl and I can’t use chopsticks! I’ve tried! Well guess what, you weren’t taught properly. And if you were taught properly, you could do it. It’s NOT hard. And it makes me so mad that people think it is. And it makes me RAGEFULL when this is used to show growth. It’s not growth. When you learn how to use a fork does that show that you’ve really made strides as a person and have really come to accept the land around you? No. (Guess what, Japanese people can use forks! And spoons! And knives!) Also, being judgmental about food. I get that in a lot of these books the MC doesn’t want to go to whatever country they’re going to. They didn’t choose, and I did. But they should still try. I don’t understand the judgement. I recently read Holly Smale’s Geek Girl: Model Misfit. This book takes place in Japan, and it’s probably one of the best YA books set in Japan that I’ve read to date. The MC wants to go to Japan, has some interest, but she’s there as a tourist. She’s not expected to act like someone who’s living there, trying to assimilate. And I loved how fun it was to see Japan the way I saw it when I first went there. And that first time EVERYTHING IS AWESOME feeling isn’t in either Ink or Hello, I Love You! You might think it shouldn’t be in either of those books because both of the MCs are in Japan and Korea following some heavy issues, but I do feel like they should have experience some of that initial I’M HERE euphoria. That’s NATURAL of traveling anywhere (and, also, a stage of real culture shock!). I loved Geek Girl’s wide eyed fun view of Japan. And I loved how freaking accurate all of it was! (some of the Japanese romanizations weren’t 100%, but other than that, so good). I also loved that there was no judging of the food (or anything really).

The best book I’ve read that was set in Asia has to be Listen,
22477286Slowly, by Thaniha Lai. I don’t know much about Vietnam, but this book is about a young girl who’s, I believe, 3rd generation Vietnamese. She has no connection to the country other than it’s where her parents and grandmother are from. She knows maybe five words of Vietnamese, and has no interest in her heritage. She then has to go spend the summer there with her grandmother and the MC suffers culture shock, acceptance, and immersion. She also reconnects with her grandmother and starts to accept and show interest in her heritage. Now, this book doesn’t have a white MC (she is very American/ Western tho), so maybe that’s part of it, but also I believe the author has real experience in Vietnam or with Vietnamese culture. And I feel that therein lies the problem with a lot of these books. While they are researched, they aren’t lived. When I find out that an author didn’t truly LIVE (not stay, not visit, LIVE) in the country they’re writing about (and they claim they did) I can see how it falls into stereotypes and inaccuracies. With Ink I felt like I was reading a manga. With Hello, I Love You I felt like I was reading a Kdrama. When your source material is already fiction it’s difficult to construct your own accurate fiction.

Anyways, these are just a few thoughts I have on this topic (I have more!) and in no way is this post intended to attack the books and authors mentioned. I believe that the authors tried their best, but at the same time could have done better to keep things more accurate. I am not critiquing the stories or the writing, only the inaccurate portrayals of what it’s like to be a foreigner (specifically a western female) living abroad in an Asian country.

295113_10100599907248085_553024258_nFeel free to leave me your thoughts in the comments and let’s have a dissuasion! Also, I’m interested in hearing about if you have any experience with books set in countries that you have experience in! For example, I’ve had a few British friends have trouble with Anna and the French Kiss! I’d love to know more about the inaccuracies that take place in books set in other countries as well!

A Bookish Update of Sorts

IMG_1240Look at all my babies! I mean um Hi! I know I haven’t posted in a million years (Sammy is the best! I’d make the hands up emoji on here if I could). I’m TRYING. I know, I say that every time. But life has just been so busy! And now it’s summer and I’m really enjoying my new job and Husband is in Super Research Mode, so I’ve been Reading All the Time. And not blogging enough. So this is my attempt to update y’all on my bookish endeavors as of late!

If you follow me on twitter you know that I’ve been really into book trading the past few months! I’m one of those people who wants to have ALL the copies of her favorites, even the ARCs. Those are just so hard to get sometimes and they just feel so special to me when it’s a fav. So I’ve been collecting my favs from the past two years and I’ve gotten SO many amazing things! It’s also a little addicting… so I think I need to stop after this next trade…  (which is what I say every time…)

BUT the trading did lead to something good… The First Boston Book Swap! Hosted by myself and The Mackenzi Lee (Author of This Monstrous Thing, out in September) (that was a shameless plug) (It was a shitty choice!) (no it wasn’t!) (somebody get me an ARC!!!) basically we’re getting a bunch of Boston Book People together and we’re going to swap all our books for newer cooler ones! I’ll make sure to take some photos and post about it because I’m sure it will prove to be the Best Party Ever. And will hopefully happen again in the near-future!

IMG_1242

As I mentioned, Husband is in Serious Research Mode so I’ve been reading a lot. Sometimes he doesn’t come home until really late, other times he leaves for his lab really early, and when we do spend time together it’s usually in silence while I basically eat books and he scribbled math stuff on a paper. It’s fun, it works, we’re some type of weird power couple (maybe). But I’ve read like fifteen books so far this month and I STILL HAVE ONE WEEK TO GO! So far my fav book of the month has been Devoted… which opened up lots of issues and gave me all kinds of panic attacks and just made me think SO MUCH.

IMG_1241

I also got this beauty from Sammy for my birthday (yes I’m still accepting presents!) and I read it over the weekend (in two sittings) and now I’m on some weird fantasy kick (maybe too much contemporary?) and I really want a kick-ass sci-fi but alas I don’t have one on my shelf.

And finally today I had an epiphany while I was filing confidential documents at work. I was thinking about my (someday) novel and I finally have a pitch for it! It’s ALL THE RAGE meets Anna & the French Kiss… in Japan! No White Girls Allowed! I’m THISCLOSE to working on it but not quite sure if I’m at A Place where I can do so. We will see!

 

Summer of Sarah Dessen – Along for the Ride

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I was so shocked when Penguin Teen contacted me and asked if I wanted to participate in the Summer of Sarah Dessen read-along! I was asked to review Along for the Ride for week four, so here I am! I want to thank Penguin Teen SO MUCH for sending me a copy of the book and for asking me to participate. Sarah Dessen is one of my favorite authors and one that I’ve had the longest “relationship” with.

To be honest, I don’t even know how to review books of authors I love. Because I just LOVE their words too much to even know what to say other than a bunch of adjectives and OMGs. So I thought that along with an attempt to a review I would talk about what Sarah Dessen’s books mean to me.

Years ago, when I was in high school, I did not get along with my younger sister. We were too different. She was super girly and into boys and clothes and make up. I was into vampire books, horseback riding and Japanese culture. I could not connect with my sister at all. We eventually became obsessed with Harry Potter together and slowly became friends. I started to grow into myself and became interested in more feminine things. She gave magic and wizards a try.

When my sister and I would go to the bookstore we would head to different sections. I would get things with paranormal demons in it and she was grabbing books like Gossip Girl. I thought those kinds of books were stupid. I had no interest in ‘chick lit’. I didn’t care about girls and parties and romance.

In one pile of books my sister had a book by Sarah Dessen. I remember to this day that it was Dreamland. For some reason my sister left it in my room and in between vampire and demon books I picked it up. Read it in secret.

And loved it.

Along with Harry Potter my sister and I began to share a love for Sarah Dessen’s books. We’d go to the bookstore and grab the newest one and share it. Even years later, after graduating high school and college we still were sharing Sarah Dessen books. I’d get the newest one and pass it on to her. She’d dig up an old copy and we’d share our memories over it. Now I read about 85% contemporary. I have long let go of my vampire and demon loves. I still enjoy a good paranormal romance here and there, but my love is YA contemporary. There’s just something about it.

But there is nothing like a book by Sarah Dessen. And re-reading Along for the Ride felt like coming home. I just felt so happy and safe and warm while reading it. I haven’t had a chance to grab Saint Anything yet, but I have a copy coming soon and I will dig in as soon as I can.

Sarah Dessen and Harry Potter are the reason that my sister and I are best friends now when we were once sworn enemies. And that is something amazing. Books can save lives.

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Title: Along for the Ride
Author: Sarah Dessen
Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: It’s been so long since Auden slept at night. Ever since her parents’ divorce—or since the fighting started. Now she has the chance to spend a carefree summer with her dad and his new family in the charming beach town where they live.

A job in a clothes boutique introduces Auden to the world of girls: their talk, their friendship, their crushes. She missed out on all that, too busy being the perfect daughter to her demanding mother. Then she meets Eli, an intriguing loner and a fellow insomniac who becomes her guide to the nocturnal world of the town. Together they embark on parallel quests: for Auden, to experience the carefree teenage life she’s been denied; for Eli, to come to terms with the guilt he feels for the death of a friend.

In her signature pitch-perfect style, Sarah Dessen explores the hearts of two lonely people learning to connect.

Review: Sarah Dessen does two things well: complex family issues and friendships. She does romance perfectly, but there’s just something about the family dynamics in her stories that really makes me think. In this book Auden’s comes from a very academically affluent family. Her mother is a popular professor with many books and awards under her belt and Auden’s father is an acclaimed writer. Both of her parents are selfish people who, while they do love their children, have aspirations for them that might not be their own.

Auden has only known academics. She’s god at them, and never felt the need for a social life. Her brother is the opposite, he’s wild and charming and runs off into the world to do whatever he wants. And his charisma lets him get away with it. Auden, on the other hand, cannot seem to get the attention of both her parents. She works hard, studies, but it’s just not something that either of them really see because it’s what is expected.

So during the summer before her first year of college, Auden decides to go stay with her father, who is living with his new wife and newborn baby, in a small ocean side town. Auden dislikes her super-girly-annoying stepmother and isn’t necessarily looking forward to spending time with her. Auden instead imagines spending time with her literate father who is working on his new best seller.

Only when Auden arrives she finds her stepmother, Heidi, stressed out to the max while trying to care for the new baby, and her father hiding away in his office working on his book. The father made me SO MAD in this because he is just THAT selfish. While the mother was also incredibly selfish, at least her actions didn’t directly impact anyone the way that the father’s did. There were SO many times I wanted to scream at him, and when Auden finally let go and told him how she felt I cheered for her.

Along with spending time with her family, Auden takes a job at Heidi’s clothing shop where she’s surrounded by girls and girly things. Things that Auden doesn’t like, understand, or respect. Slowly over the summer though she becomes friends with the girls who work there and is even surprised when she finds out that the girls aren’t as shallow as originally perceived. I loved that Auden slowly learned that her judgements were off and that she actually had a lot more in common with the girls than expected.

And finally the romance between her and Eli was perfection. I loved the way that he slowly opened up to her and how he shifted her view on life. How they were having fun spending time together and that the ultimate goal wasn’t getting into bed together. I loved the slow burn and how he helped Auden discover things about herself that she didn’t even know she wanted or needed.

As I’ve said before, Sarah Dessen’s books make me feel so warm and happy and I just love them so much.