Last night I met my first NBA all-star!!! By NBA, of course, I mean National Book Award, not basketball (his joke, not mine).
But I’m getting ahead of myself because this man has won many awards, and he will tell you that after he got the call for the nomination for his biggest award, he had to go back to cleaning dog vomit off his kitchen floor like any other “normal” person. The person I am talking about, is the amazingly funny and humble Neal Shusterman (author of Challenger Deep, Scythe, Unwind, plus he’s dabbled in film and TV writing/directing….). My fiance and I drove about 90 minutes last night to meet him and hear him and four other authors speak last night and it was a great experience. My fiance, Dan, is not a reader, but he is an avid movie-watcher with a great mind and a wild imagination, and if you can get him hooked on the idea of your book, then I’m impressed for you. Of course, Neal had him sold on Scythe in about 30 seconds. I own the book but have not yet read it. Dan plans on listening on the audiobook. Again, I am beyond impressed. Hats off to you, Mr. Shusterman!!
The main point of my post is this: if you ever have the opportunity to hear Neal Shusterman speak, or to meet him and pick his brain, or to go to a book signing, or to find out about his backstory and his inspiration for his writing, or be near him or anything like that, jump at that chance. Even the other authors on the panel say that his bad ideas are good. Of course, being his humble self, Neal says that he is waiting for the day that his publishers “find out that [he] has been faking it all along.” He has an inspiring background and I don’t want to tell his story for him, for it is his to tell, but trust me when I say that there is a reason that he is a great writer. He really draws his words from the heart. So check him out.
“My greatest wish for humanity is not for peace or comfort or joy. It is that we all still die a little inside every time we witness the death of another. For only the pain of empathy will keep us human. There’s no version of God that can help us if we ever lose that.” – Neal Shusterman, Scythe
Listening to: “Moonlight” by Grace VanderWaal
I have been wanting to E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars book for a while, and finally I did because I am going to an author signing with E. Lockhart tomorrow evening! I am so glad I finally came up with an excuse to finally pick it up and read it because its actually REALLY GOOD!! Well, I thought so at least.
I started out listening to the audiobook and wasn’t digging it. There are several parts throughout the book where Lockart exaggerates her writing and its hard to tell that its an exaggeration until the story really moves on. As an example, in the second chapter, Cady’s father is walking out on her and her mother and Cady tells the story as “Then he pulled out a handgun and shot me in the chest. I was standing on the lawn and I fell. The bullet hole opened up wide and my heart rolled out of my rib cage and down into a flower bed….” The scene goes on for a couple more sentences. I’m reading this like ‘what?! How did you survive?!’ Well, that’s only what it felt like. Duh. There are a few more scenes that are similar to this where she describes painful scenes in violent ways, but really they aren’t happening. She just feels like they are. It really makes you reality check yourself and the book and by the time you get to the end it sort of all clicks but as you’re reading it you’re just thinking ‘wait, what?!?!?!’ (yes, all of that punctuation is necessary).
So what else happens in this book? Well “the liars” are four cousins, basically, who visit the family island each summer. I really can’t say very much more without giving away very much. The book actually is much more of a mystery/thriller than I thought that it would be. It involves a lot more beach and summer island sun than I realized as well, plus summer love, and its pretty short–I finished it in just 2 days or so–so I would recommend it if you’re looking for an edge-of-your-seat summer read. Like I said, the book really kicked my book and was not what I expected and I really liked that so if you’re up for something a little off the beaten path, give this a go. I think you’ll enjoy it. Happy reading!
Listening to: “Sunset Lover” by Petit Biscuit
Hello, everyone! I just wanted to check in and wish you all a Happy Father’s Day if you’re celebrating it. To those of you who are missing someone today, my thoughts go out to you and I hope you are doing the best you are able today. And if today is just a normal Sunday to you, then more power to ya!
On to bookish things, my pick for favorite literary father figure is Matthew Cuthbert. Yes, I could have chosen Arthur Weasley or Sirius Black from Harry Potter, Charlie Swan from Twilight, or even Mr. Bennett from Pride & Prejudice (those were the three big ones I saw on Bookstagram earlier today) but I’m going the Anne of Green Gables route. That seems to be my default so far this year. So why Matthew?
“…he was the shyest man alive and hated to go among strangers or to any place he had to talk.” – Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
When it came to Anne Shirley, the orphan girl who Marilla and Matthew wanted to be a boy to help out around the property, Matthew was a softie. Matthew always listened to Anne’s chatter, even though he didn’t always understand it, and even asked to learn from her since he never went to school himself. Their relationship was so sweet, and Anne referred to them as ‘kindred spirits.’ I just love that phrase and think it fits perfectly.
“True friends are always together in spirit.” – Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Listening to: “Jolene” by Ray LaMontagne
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a book that centers around in-the-closet gay Simon. An email confessing his sexual preference is intercepted by a somewhat jerky classmate named Martin. What does a jerk do with Simon’s news? Blackmail. Make life that much more difficult. Meanwhile, Simon continues his email relationship with this mystery schoolmate who he calls “Blue.” The two grow comfortable with each other as friends, but eventually find that their struggles with homosexuality and coming out are similar with their families and friends as well.
The entire book is relatable and easy-going, even to someone like be (straight and female). The story doesn’t fully revolve around being gay, and it doesn’t have to, but rather it has more to do with Simon’s personal growth and his relationships not just with Blue, but with his parents, siblings, his friends, and his ‘rival’ in Martin. There is that moment towards the end where Simon thinks that there’s a reason Martin was acting so harshly towards him about the email in the beginning. Well, there was and it wasn’t quite what he suspected, and I’m glad we found out in the end. (I tried really hard not to spoil that for anyone!) There is also some other high school friend drama, some literal drama (a high school musical), family drama, and it all gets balanced out with Simon’s wit and pop culture references.
So overall I think that this falls into a good subgenre of YA fiction that needs to be out there right now. The book is never preachy, never boring, never harsh. It is exactly what it needs to be–entertaining, sweet, funny, but still real. Goldilocks, how about that!
Listening to: “Georgia, Georgia” by Elliott Smith
Moment of truth: When I first read the synopsis for this book, I had zero interest in reading it. Looking at the cover did not make me want to read it and the title did not feed my interest either. I ended up reading this book simply in order to give an honest review of it, and I did so by listening to the audiobook.
Going into the book, I felt like I still didn’t really know what the book was going to be about. I was ready to read it and get it over with. I was not expecting to really enjoy it or engage or relate with the characters in any way. Boy, was I wrong.
The Hate U Give centers around 16 year-old Starr Carter, who is the only witness to her unarmed best friend Khalil’s murder at the hands (gun) of a police officer. This happens within the first few chapters, so the majority of the book focuses on Starr struggling with when, how, and how much to tell her friends, family, the police, and the courts. The book deals with a contrast between Starr and her siblings living in a low-income, violent neighborhood where rival gangs show their colors and riots break out nightly, and them attending a nice suburban prep school over an hour away where diversity is rare. Starr strives to live two lives but the situation escalates as everyone wants to know the truth of what happened that night.
“Brave doesn’t mean you’re not scared. It means you go on even though you’re scared.” — T.H.U.G. by Angie Thomas
This book hit me hard. Hopefully it will hit everyone hard. I read on Goodreads that this book sparked a bidding war between 13 publishing houses! That’s how powerful this book is. Its soon to be made into a movie, but don’t wait for that. Read it now.
“That’s the problem. We let people say stuff, and they say it so much that it becomes okay to them and normal for us. What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?” — T.H.U.G. by Angie Thomas
Of course, there were times in the book where you want to shake the main character and say “COME OUT AND TELL THE TRUTH!!” But then again, you think of the consequences of telling the truth. Will the gang lord come after her parents? Will she be able to go outside at night? What are the consequences? There are also times when I yelled out “AMEN SISTER!!” in the middle of the book. Literally! I scared the crap out of my dog. T.H.U.G. has laugh out loud moments, cry out loud moments, shout and yell and be shocked and outraged moments….seriously, there is everything here. I always say I know I can give a book a solid 5-star rating (and I don’t normally give “1-5 star ratings”) if a book makes me feel the full spectrum of emotions AND I can tell it is a book I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. This is one of those. I am changed, at least a bit, because of this book. Thanks, Angie Thomas. Power to ya, girl.
Listening to: “Definition of a Thug” by 2Pac
I didn’t want to write my thoughts down until I finished all three “books.” AND apologies in advance. This is an incredibly disjointed review because I am tired and I think that reading these books back to back also did something to my own brain. Thanks Colleen Hoover.
WARNING: This review contains many spoilers.
So thought #1 – why are they separate books? Why not different sections within the same book? I mean, I get that ((spoiler)) each book is a separate memory reset but the books are so short they could easily just be put into **A** book. This kind of thing always bothers me. Sorry – I’m not an author or publisher so I suppose its all about money and publishing books and whatever things I, the lowly reader know nothing about. But from my end….its annoying.
Thought #2 – I did really enjoy the ‘series’…if that’s what we are calling it. Trilogy? Whatever. Silas was almost one of those too-good-to-be-true guys but the books kind of proved the theory that certain parts of your personality are ingrained within you. This held true for Charlie too. I liked that they really acted on what “felt” right and natural to them and could feel their personalities and it really led them, ultimately ((spoiler)) back to each other as soul mates.
Thought #3 – This is also my above thought continued. I liked all of the mystery surrounding the memory loss and Charlie and Silas having to figure out why they lost their memories. (I was convinced it was some voodoo stuff from the crazy affair fortune teller lady from downtown!) I liked the romance aspects of the story and all of the letters and the journal entries and them falling in love again. However, cheesiest. ending. ever. I threw up a little. Like, really? Wow. So that’s really all I can say about that. Epilogues are a NO-GO.
Listening to: “Never Be Alone” by Shawn Mendes
Today was amazing! I was SO jealous of seeing all the buzz from bookcon in NYC over last weekend. All the swag, all the meetups with fellow bloggers and bookstagrammers, all the epic author signings….JEALOUS!!! Well, get a load of THIS you crazy New Yorkers. I got to meet up with authors Julie Murphy (Dumplin’ and Ramona Blue), Evelyn Skye (The Crown’s Game and The Crown’s Fate), Joelle Charbonneau (The Testing and Dividing Eden), and Kim McCreight (Reconstructing Amelia and The Outliers).
Highlights of my little Epic Reads adventure included: talking opera with Joelle Charbonneau!! Plus she’s also from Chicagoland so she went to school around here so it was really easy to talk to her about local music and it was so fun. She is really quirky and silly…absolutely a singer. Next time we meet, we’re going to since. We are both Lyric Soprano’s, just in case anyone was wondering. Next, I got to talk to real life people about books. Not just my screen or myself because I don’t get to talk to my fiance or my friends really or anything. So that was so refreshing!! And finally, all of the swag pictured above! I love swag and new books and autographs and all around good stuff. The event was held at Anderson’s Bookstore, which has locations in Naperville, LaGrange, and Downer’s Grove. This shop is really neat–it has not only an awesome stock of book, but a great selection of gifts (I bought a Father’s Day gift, and an early Birthday present for my mom too).
I highly recommend looking up and reading these books if you’ve ever even considered any of them. These authors are great people and their books deserve your attention.
Listening to: “No Vacancy” by One Republic
“Carnivalesque” is a fantasy book about a boy named Andy who enters Burleigh’s Amazing Hall of Mirrors at a travelling circus. He becomes trapped in the mirrors and an identical-looking stranger exits the hall and goes home with his parents. Thus begins the tale of Andy/Dany.
This book is a little difficult to rate. It started off reading like an old classic or fairy tale. Think Peter Pan or Alice in Wonderland. “The boy did this and then he went to wherever and the boy was sad. But the boy’s mother held his hand and entered the carnival where the air smelled of caramel and candy.” bla bla bla. We literally do not find out “the boy’s name” until about page 75. Then the writing style completely changes to a more contemporary feel for most of the book and then the last 75 pages or so is back to the classic/fairy tale feel again.
The middle part of the book has some interesting action. In the middle of the action, there is a ton of written word. Most of it is history, and some of it seems slow, and some of it seems a little irrelevant or maybe just out of order. I enjoyed hearing a new perspective on carney mythology and most of all, this legend of ‘Burleigh’s Amazing Hall of Mirrors,’ which is really how the whole Andy/Dany duology originates to begin with. Some parts of the book are fun and fantastical, while others are freakish and almost scary. I like the polar opposites and think that every fantasy needs some of that. It gave the book depth, whereas the wordiness robbed it right back.
So for these reasons, I had to go with a middle of the road rating for this book. Loved the cover and the concept, but several things fell short. I like a good carnival book but this does not come close to the top for me.
Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
Listening to: “Half Jack” by The Dresden Dolls
I love Gilmore Girls. I love Lauren Graham. I loved this book!
Let me just say that if you have read the actual book, go out and listen to Lauren read the audiobook. She makes it laugh-out-loud funny. I listened to it and I loved it. However, by listening to it, I missed out on looking at the pictures so I am thinking that I will go out and purchase a hard copy just so I have it, and just because I enjoyed it that much. That’s how I know its a 5* book.
Also, I am glad that I waited until I finished the newest Gilmore Girls episodes before reading the book, as Lauren goes into them, too. She does preface them first by saying something along the lines of “If you haven’t watched “A Year In the Life” yet, you might want to skip this chapter. Its all so good. I just want all of the Gilmore I can get!
Listening to: “Feels Like Summer” by Weezer
I have unfortunate news. I wasn’t a huge fan of this book. It was good, but not mindblowing. Here are my thoughts:
Let me start by stating that the Goodreads description of this book claims that “Readers of Kate Atkinson will delight in this suspenseful debut novel about a woman haunted by nightmares and her grandmother’s role in a doomed love triangle almost seventy years before.” I’m a fan of Kate Atkinson and in my opinion, this is why she doesn’t write suspenseful novels. Pick one genre or another and commit. There was just SO MUCH DESCRIPTIVE WRITING going on that I often found myself confused or bored or indifferent. Especially in the first half of the book. BUT THEN…..
Everything picked up in the second half and everything was magnificent. I was ready to call it quits and apologize to NetGalley and the publisher and then all of a sudden WHOA! Now we’re getting started here! The characters were fascinating. There were twists and turns I did NOT see coming. And the writing remains strong all the way until the end. So ultimately, if you have the patience to wade through at least 120-150 pages of reading before a plot really thickens, then this book will really satisfy you and you will not regret picking this up. However, if you are someone who needs a beginning to end page-turner (i.e. Dan Brown or the likes?)…..move on.
Listening to: “Witness” by Katy Perry