Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Great American Whatever

The Great American WhateverAuthor: Tim Federle
Info: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, copyright 2016, 288 pages

Quinn Roberts is a sixteen-year-old smart aleck and Hollywood hopeful whose only worry used to be writing convincing dialogue for the movies he made with his sister Annabeth. Of course, that was all before—before Quinn stopped going to school, before his mom started sleeping on the sofa…and before Annabeth was killed in a car accident.

Enter Geoff, Quinn’s best friend who insists it’s time that Quinn came out—at least from hibernation. One haircut later, Geoff drags Quinn to his first college party, where instead of nursing his pain, he meets a guy—a hot one—and falls hard. What follows is an upside-down week in which Quinn begins imagining his future as a screenplay that might actually have a happily-ever-after ending—if, that is, he can finally step back into the starring role of his own life story.

~Goodreads Description

Back to being pessimistic.

Super quick blurb - Quinn has a sister.  Sister dies.  Quinn is grieving.  Quinn is gay.  Quinn is looking for his identity.  Quinn moves on.  Was that glib?  That sounded glib.  Okay, it was a little glib.

What is it with siblings dying?  Is that the only obstacle authors think that teens face?  The loss of a brother or sister?  Or perhaps I've just read way too many of this particular kind of book lately.  I don't know, but this one left me underwhelmed.

The thing is, I didn't particularly like Quinn.  He had potential.  Lots of potential.  But things that it felt like Federle wanted us to focus on - Quinn as an aspiring screenwriter, Quinn as a caring sibling, Quinn as a friend - got glossed over or forgotten.  If they were meant to define who Quinn was both before the loss of his sister and after, shouldn't they have played more of a prominent role?

Even Quinn's sexual identity and coming out was given the time or understanding that it could have or should have.  He just came off as selfish and ungrateful, and the glimpse of Quinn you get at the end doesn't really work with that image.  Despite Annabeth being dead, getting to know her would have allowed the reader to get to know Quinn better, to sympathize and empathize with what he was going through.  He wasn't a bad guy.  But a character driven book should allow you to get to know the characters, and I don't feel like that really happened...and what I did learn about him didn't leave me wanting more.

So this wasn't my favorite of the year so far.  It also wasn't the worst.  It was.  Maybe I need to sit with it a little longer.  Toss it around in my head for awhile.  Hmmm.  I don't know.  What did you think?


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

10 Books I Loved More / Less Than I Thought I Would

10 Books I Loved More / Less Than I Thought I Would

There are times when I immediately fall in love with a book (I'm looking at you My Lady Jane, Illuminae, and all things Sarah Dessen).  It's as if the books were written just for me.  I grab hold tight and don't let go.

There are also times when I have to sit with a book for awhile.  Let the words, characters, and feelings percolate until I realize that I did, in fact, actually enjoy the book.  I couldn't tell at first, but spending time alone with my thoughts convinces me.

On the flip side, I can usually tell right away if dislike a book.  It usually festers while I'm reading, bubbles underneath the surface, until the ick explodes and the ranting begins.  It's nothing against the authors.  Usually the writing itself is admirable and interesting.  It's just that sometimes I really don't like the characters...or the setting...or the plot.  And sometimes it's just unfair because I have favorite authors who I feel do it better.

All that to say, here are some books that surprised a bit - for the good and the bad.

Didn't expect to like these, but it turns out I did... 

I'll Give You the Sun
1) I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

The Serpent King
2) The Serpent King by Jeff Zantner

Not a Drop to Drink (Not a Drop to Drink, #1)
3) Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

Dumplin' (Dumplin', #1)
4) Dumplin' by Julie Murphy

Vengeance Road
5) Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman

As for these...not so much

The Thousandth Floor (The Thousandth Floor, #1)
6) The Thousandth Floor by Katherine McGee

P.S. I Like You
7) P.S. I Like You by Kasie West

Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies
8) Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies by Lindsay Ribar

Wink Poppy Midnight
9) Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke

Kill the Boy Band
10) Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky

Monday, February 20, 2017


Caraval (Caraval, #1)Author: Stephanie Garber
Info: Flatiron Books, copyright 2017, 407 pages

Whatever you've heard about Caraval, it doesn't compare to the reality. It's more than just a game or a performance. It's the closest you'll ever find to magic in this world . . .

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

~Goodreads Description

Shamefully, this remained on my Goodreads "currently reading" shelf far longer than it should have.  It actually haunted me every time I logged on, making me feel guilty and shameful that I hadn't finished yet.  Oh the woes of a book nerd.

But I did finish!  And I enjoyed it! (Look at me being positive!  No Debbie Downer to be found in this here review!  Go me!)

Scarlett started writing to Legend, the master of ceremonies of the mysterious and magical Caraval, when she was a young girl.  She pleaded with him to bring the performance to her small island, but letter after letter remained unanswered.  But then, many years later, she received an invitation which was quickly followed by a whirlwind of activity in which Scarlet is kidnapped by one guy, her sister is kidnapped by another guy, and the game begins.

Things I like 1) mysterious carnival like dream places 2) mysterious loner dudes and 3) mysterious masterminds who could be good but in all likelihood could also be bad.  Done. Done. And done.  Garber jumps immediately into the action and stars building a world that is both interesting and dangerous.  It reminded me a lot of Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus with the setting coming alive as a another, equal parts dark and magical.

It was a little disappointing that both Scarlet's life on the island with her horrible father, and time spent in this fantastic game setting, was focused on the need and convenient want for a gentleman.  I wanted her to be a little stronger and more independent than she was, but given her background her actions were easily explained.

There are a lot of moving parts, a lot of characters to keep track of, and a lot of plot to be sorted out.  I was confused on occasion, but Garber always found a way to bring me back into the fold.  The action starts right away and doesn't stop until the very end.  And I was sad when it was done.

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