What I’ve Been Reading: Summer 2015

Okay so it is August and I haven’t posted anything since May. Not very good blogger behavior. I apologize.

I’ve been having some crazy months. I graduated from college. Moved home. Started a job. I’m trying to adjust to this new life. It’s weird to be back here, but it’s awesome getting to read whatever I want. I loved most of my required reading at school, but being an English lit minor meant there was a lot of it. I didn’t get to read nearly as many of the books that I wanted to read. And I just minored in it.

That being said, the first thing I did when I got home was go to Politics and Prose and stock up.

Here’s what I’ve read so far:

The Rules for Disappearing by Ashley Elston. I’m struggling to remember this one because I read it in June, but from what I recall, it was pretty cool. The premise is that this girl and her family were placed in the Witness Protection Program and she doesn’t know why. When she moves to Nowhere, Louisiana, she’s just hoping it sticks so they don’t have to move again. The book details her attempts to solve her family’s mystery, and it includes a sexy farmer. So, win. It’s a series, which I think is a bold move for contemporary, sort of reality YA lit (I’m sure there’s a term for this and I just don’t know it because I’m a terrible blogger). I liked this book, but did I love it like I love my favorite books? Nah.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. Jenny Han is a big deal in the YA book world, so this has been on my list for a while. But can I just say, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” was too cutesy—even for me. And I like a good cutesy book! I think 13 year-old me would have liked this, but—dare I say it? I think I might have grown out of this particular flavor. But you should read it if you want a warm and fuzzy read.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. (PSA: NOT YOUNG ADULT. So proceed to my mini review with caution). Ugh, WOOF. Stop trying to make “Gone Girl” happen, Paula Hawkins! It already happened! I don’t know, a lot of people liked this book. I thought it was a cop out of a plot. Exactly what you think is going to happen happens. A truly boring plot construction. She had something going with the nonlinear storytelling technique, but that basically didn’t matter given the cliche-ness of the overall story. Am I totally off-base? I need constructive feedback, so lay it on me.

And drumroll plz….

The Mara Dyer series by Michelle Hodkin. Considering this is required reading for fans of YA, it’s shameful that I am just reading this fantastic series now. I read them all in quick succession, so I don’t think I could adequately review each one. I’ll just dump a lot of thoughts right here. Let’s talk about how twisted this story is. I mean, Paula Hawkins wishes she could get this twisted. Hodkin wrote a layered, smart and captivating story with a plot to kill and characters I won’t soon forget. Mara’s personal journey gets more interesting as her and Noah’s relationship gets more complicated, which makes their ultimate search for the truth about who the heck they are all the more stressful, yet so satisfying. If you haven’t read this series yet, forgo whatever is at the top of your to-read pile and read this. It’s so good. Like leave-you-crying-for-no-reason good, you know? Of course you know. If you like books like I like books, you know. Which you all do. Come on, you know you all do. OMG JUST READ THESE BOOKS!

General things:

I re-read “Anna and the French Kiss” for probably the tenth time. Stephanie Perkins, willyoupleaseadoptme. Or I can like be your assistant. Or clean your house. Or take care of your pets or cook your dinners or whatever you want hello I love you.

ALSO!! Sequel to Libba Bray’s “Diviners” is *finally* out! I’m currently reading, I cannot deal. AND a new Huntley Fitzpatrick book is about to come out. YOU GUYS KNOW HOW I FEEL ABOUT THIS.

“Isla and the Happily Ever After” is about to be released in paperback, which means I’m about to complete my collection and take so many instagrams. Speaking of, why don’t you follow me on Instagram?? @colette_whitney. I’ll follow you back if I think you’re cool enough! Jk I’ll just follow you back.

(But only if you’re cool enough).

What are you guys reading? Tell me tell me. And anyone considering going to Yallfest? I’m thinking about making that journey.

Peace n blessins.

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REVIEW: Making Pretty by Corey Ann Haydu

From Goodreads:

Montana and her sister, Arizona, are named after the mountainous states their mother left them for. But Montana is a New York City girl through and through, and as the city heats up, she’s stepping into the most intense summer of her life.

With Arizona wrapped up in her college world and their father distracted by yet another 22011484divorce, Montana’s been immersing herself in an intoxicating new friendship with a girl from her acting class. Karissa is bold, imperfectly beautiful, and unafraid of being vulnerable. She’s everything Montana would like to become. But the friendship with Karissa is driving a wedge between Montana and her sister, and the more of her own secrets Karissa reveals, the more Montana has to wonder if Karissa’s someone she can really trust.

In the midst of her uncertainty, Montana finds a heady distraction in Bernardo. He’s serious and spontaneous, and he looks at Montana in the way she wants to be seen. For the first time, Montana understands how you can become both lost and found in somebody else. But when that love becomes everything, where does it leave the rest of her imperfect life?

The back cover copy of Making Pretty by Corey Ann Haydu really convinced my that I would not like it. I am not a huge fan of supposedly intoxicating summer stories, just because they’re usually cliched and riddled with stereotypes. Making Pretty has a lot of that going on, especially with its crazy first relationship and friend drama.

Montana’s story is one about love and friendship, but it’s an even more thorough commentary on her family, how it’s cracked and different and okay.

The only parts in the book that I truly enjoyed are her family moments. I thought the love interest was overdone and a little bit too cheesy for my taste. The tension between Montana and Karissa is pretty interesting and kept me flipping pages. But the family moments, they are the most honest and intriguing.

Making Pretty definitely is not one of my favorite books of the year, but I still enjoyed it. Haydu has excellent one-liners and is really great at setting the scene in unexpected ways. If you are a fan of summer stories or New York stories and have some time on your hands, definitely check this out.

Review: Everything that Makes You by Moriah McStay

From Goodreads:

One girl. Two stories. Meet Fiona Doyle. The thick ridges of scar tissue on her face are from an accident twelve years ago. Fiona has notebooks full of songs she’s written about her frustrations, her dreams, and about her massive crush on beautiful uber-jock Trent 21795576McKinnon. If she can’t even find the courage to look Trent straight in his beautiful blue eyes, she sure isn’t brave enough to play or sing any of her songs in public. But something’s changing in Fiona. She can’t be defined by her scars anymore.

And what if there hadn’t been an accident? Meet Fi Doyle. Fi is the top-rated female high school lacrosse player in the state, heading straight to Northwestern on a full ride. She’s got more important things to deal with than her best friend Trent McKinnon, who’s been different ever since the kiss. When her luck goes south, even lacrosse can’t define her anymore. When you’ve always been the best at something, one dumb move can screw everything up. Can Fi fight back?

Hasn’t everyone wondered what if? In this daring debut novel, Moriah McStay gives us the rare opportunity to see what might have happened if things were different. Maybe luck determines our paths. But maybe it’s who we are that determines our luck.

I’m going back to my roots with Moriah McStay’s debut novel, Everything that Makes You. You all know I love a good debut book and this one is no exception. I recently received this and three other novels (reviews to come), but this is the first one I read. And I read it in approximately 4 hours.

It’s an intriguing premise — one girl, two stories. I think a lot about what might have happened if I had chosen differently for myself. To imagine what might have been is something we all do, I think. McStay makes a study of what might have been in Everything that Makes You.

The two dueling stories seem to ask how one moment can affect the rest of your life. How strong is that effect? Does it really matter? McStay attempts to answer those seemingly unanswerable questions with Fiona Doyle. The two Fiona Doyles, one meek and scared, one strong and confident. And then one thing flips them around and makes each the opposite.

It’s a thoughtful story and one that left me thinking for a couple days. I’m not sure what conclusion McStay drew from her book. But I think that question mark is part of the point. We don’t get to decide what happens to us, but we can decide who to be and what to chase. That’s sort of what I got from the book.

On top of that, it was beautifully written. The book is poised and purposeful and mature, with a sort of smoothness about it. The characters were full and well-developed. My favorite is her brother. That’s a relationship we don’t see much in this genre, unfortunately.

If you’re looking for a smart and interesting quick read, check this out!

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REVIEW: Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton

From Goodreads:

Quin Kincaid has been put through years of brutal training for what she thinks is the noble purpose of becoming a revered ‘Seeker’.

Only when it’s too late does she discover she will be using her new-found knowledge and training to become an assassin. Quin’s new role will take her around the globe, from a remote estate in Scotland to a bustling, futuristic Hong Kong where the past she thought she had escaped will finally catch up with her.

I swiped Seeker  from NetGalley about a month ago. It sounded like it was right up my alley, a little mix20911450 of low fantasy with high fantasy, a sprinkle of a love triangle, and some intense traveling.

But like I said, I picked it up a month ago, and I am just now finishing it. I am a fast reader, but I could motivate myself to keep reading Seeker. I was not devoted to the characters or the story line. There was no intrinsic need for me to know what was going to happen next.

Quin, Shinobu and John are in training to become seekers, protectors of humanity. They spend their whole lived working toward this goal, and eventually, Quin and Shinobu achieve it. But it’s not what they expect. They’re forced by the haunting Briac (who also happens to be Quin’s father) to harm people. They learn they’re more akin to glorified assasins. So they escape, Quin forgets her past, and they start a new life. One without each other. Meanwhile, John is out for revenge. Briac wronged his family and he is trying to set things right, which puts his romantic relationship with Quin at risk.

It sounds like a cool plot, and it was for the most part. But there was a lack of connection between the reader and the characters that was hard for me to overlook. It was like a combination of them not revealing their feelings and as a consequence, me not fully understanding why they did what they did. So I just really didn’t care much about what happened.

That being said, this is the first book in the series, so there’s undoubtedly a lot of character development and revelation to come. I just wish there had been more from the start. Would I read the next one? Probably, but it doesn’t come out until spring 2016, so who knows what I’ll be reading then?

4 Bookish Podcasts You Need to Hear

Since Serial entered our lives, I’ve been really into podcasts. They’re awesome for car drives, working out, walking to class, general living…

Here are a couple of my favorite bookish (and not bookish) ones for you to try out!

The Thrilling Adventure Hour!mza_3634691790099778933.600x600-75

This podcast is recorded in the style of old school radio shows, so they have a bunch of funny people act out a story in front of a studio audience. It’s really funny and the episodes aren’t too too long. They have regular cast members, but visiting actors also appear on the show. Think Aubrey Plaza, Nathan Fillion, JK Simmons, Alison Brie.

Invisibilia

icon_510307-915949e80ad42a31e2a2b741f635a7afd01c580e-s800-c15Invisibilia is NPR’s newest podcast is “about the invisible forces that control human behavior,” according to their description on iTunes. It’s really good if you want a longer podcast about ridiculously obvious stuff that you never thought about. I like it because it’s sort of like This American Life in that there’s one theme for every episode, but they kind of shift to at least three different perspectives to tell the story. It’s really cool and smart and engaging.

heres-the-thing-podcast-logoHere’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin

Whoever decided to put Alec Baldwin and a random celebrity/public figure in a room together and record it is a freaking genius. Every episode Here’s the Thing is basically like the best celebrity interview you’ll ever hear. He asks great questions and gets to the point right away, no BS. The Brian Williams episode is SO GOOD! Start with that one, then listen to the Julie Andrews one. Will not disappoint.

The Dead Authors PodcastFXLBERUe
H.G. Wells hosts this podcast in which he travels through time to bring authors to the present to interview them and talk to them about their books and lives. It is excellent, so funny and quick, I absolutely love it. My favorite episodes so far are the ones with Charlotte Bronte, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Edgar Allen Poe (all separate episodes). I’m about to go listen to it now, if I’m being perfectly honest.

REVIEW: For Darkness Shows the Stars

From Goodreads:

It’s been several generations since a genetic experiment gone wrong caused the Reduction, decimating humanity and giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology.

Elliot North has always known her place in this world. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her8306761 childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family’s estate over love. Since then the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress, and Elliot’s estate is foundering, forcing her to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth–an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliot wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she let him go.

But Elliot soon discovers her old friend carries a secret–one that could change their society . . . or bring it to its knees. And again, she’s faced with a choice: cling to what she’s been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she’s ever loved, even if she’s lost him forever.

Inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion, For Darkness Shows the Stars is a breathtaking romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it.

I’ve had Diana Peterfreund’s For Darkness Shows the Stars on my list for a while, pretty much only because it’s a re-telling of Persuasion by Jane Austen and, as you know, I kind of like Jane Austen. For Darkness Shows the Stars promised to be a funky, high fantasy vision of Persuasion which made me a bit skeptical. I like high fantasy occasionally, and only when it’s really compelling (example: the Graceling series), so the prospect of a Jane Austen fantasy seemed a little much.

That being said, I think Peterfreund pulled it off pretty well! She tells a great story about responsibility and love and how, sometimes, those things shift focus. Her narrative is well-structured and paced and kept me interested. The character of Elliot is easily the strongest part of the book. She is thoughtful and funny and brave and scared all at once—a very real portrait of a person.

My only issue is with the new world that Peterfreund creates. It sounded interesting and complicated and I wanted to learn more about it. Unfortunately, she doesn’t fully explain a lot about their society. I mean, we do know the important parts, but I just wanted more.

You know when you read those books that just kill you, leave you thinking about them for weeks, drive you crazy? For Darkness Shows the Stars was not one of those books. Not every book can leave you dumbfounded. If they did, nothing would get done let’s be honest. All in all, it was an entertaining read and a cool retelling of a classic Jane Austen

What I read during winter break!

Hello there! I’m officially back in Athens, Ohio after winter break for my last semester of college and I’m preventing myself from straight wiggin’ by doing lots of reading. I’m currently in the middle of a pretty rad book (about which I’ll write a separate post later) and it occurred to me that I never wrote about my winter break books! So here we go.

Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff

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Picture Me Gone is my first Rosoff, and it was just as heady as I expected it to be. Rosoff has this lyrical, melodic way of writing that, according to Goodreads reviewers, many people don’t like. I think some peopl just feel that she’s trying to do something with her books that’s just not working. But that rhythm of words is what I loved about Picture Me Gone. Rosoff depicts a new and unusual family dynamic and the conflict one has when caught between lies and family, tinged with just the right amount of romance. This is quick read that left me thinking about it and dazed by it for days. I definitely recommend it.

The Yonahlossee Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani

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DiSclafani’s book was a big genre jump for me, but I’ve had it on my to-read list for years and I finally got around to reading it. When she published it in 2013, the reviewers loved it, pretty much everywhere, so I had very high expectations. And although the narrative was so strange, it was incredibly compelling. It’s nonlinear, and DiSclafani’s writing is beautiful and mysterious. She’s a creative writing professor at Washington University and I would die to take a class from her. This book is not for the faint of heart, but if you want a lush and provocative novel set in interwar America, this is for you.

I also read A Little Something Different, but I reviewed that here!

Definitely thought I read more, alas. I did, however, meet my Goodreads Challenge of reading 50 books last year, so huzzah! This year, I’m aiming for 65. We’ll see!