Monthly Archives: April 2013

Book Review: Coffeehouse Angel by Suzanne Selfors

Title: Coffeehouse Angel
Author: Suzanne Selfors
Page Count: 276
F/NF: Fiction
Genre: Contemporary YA

Rating: 8/10

When a random act of kindness involves Katrina with Malcolm, a handsome teenage guardian angel intent on fulfilling her greatest wish, fame and fortune seem like the most obvious requests. But after two botched wishes, Malcolm knows Katrina is hiding something from him. How can she tell him the truth, when her heart’s desire has become Malcolm himself?

I bought this book on a whim a few weeks (possibly months) ago, and I’ve been reading it a little bit at a time since then. It sounded like a cute, silly romantic story, and that was what I felt like reading at the time. This book was definitely different than I expected it to be, though not necessarily in a bad way. The romance was actually a much smaller part of the novel than I expected.

This novel really has four plotlines. The first follows Katrina as she tries to figure out who she is and what she wants out of life. The second focuses on family as Katrina and her grandmother try to save their old world coffee shop. The third focuses on friendship and betrayal, as Katrina’s best friend starts hanging out with the daughter of the owner of a rival coffee shop. The fourth focuses on Katrina’s relationship with Malcolm, the angel. There are also several subplots. It sounds like there’s a lot going on, but I think it works. The different threads weave together nicely. Everything wraps up a little too nicely in the end, but I’m still impressed overall.

The characters in this book are fantastic, as is the world-building. I’ve always considered world-building a fantasy/sci-fi thing, but it definitely applies here. They live in a small town in the Northwest that still follows Old World traditions, and Selfors did a great job of describing the town. I could picture all the people and events, and it felt like a real place. The characters also felt real. They all have distinct personalities and their own problems going on. Everything doesn’t revolve around Katrina and her problems, which was nice. That said, most of the novel did focus on Katrina, and it was nice to read about a character who didn’t have it all figured out yet. I loved her “closet of failure” or whatever it was that she called it, which was filled with projects she had started and given up on when she figured out that that wasn’t her talent. I could definitely relate to that, and it was fun watching as she eventually figured out what she wanted to do with her life.

While the writing was great overall, there were a few things that bothered me about this novel. The main thing that bothered me was that the romance just sort of appears all of a sudden. I did eventually grow to like Malcolm and hope that he and Katrina would get to be together, but that wasn’t until long after she first thought about kissing him. It just seemed a bit forced at first. Another thing I didn’t like was the already-mentioned fact that everything just sort of falls together in the end. Katrina does work to make this happen, so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but I still think a lot of luck was involved at the end.

The next paragraph contains a minor spoiler involving a minor side character. If you don’t want to know anything about the end, skip this paragraph:

The last thing that bothered me is a much smaller part of the book, something that most people probably don’t care about but which really bothered me. The daughter of the competing coffee shop is an overachiever. The principal holds her up as a shining example of a student, and she’s constantly doing something to help other people. We’re clearly supposed to find her annoying, and she only becomes less annoying at the end of the novel, once her father is no longer “forcing” her to be an overachiever. So she’s forgiven for being an overachiever because she didn’t actually want to be. Why wasn’t it enough that she was a nice person who also did a lot of things?

Overall, this was an enjoyable book. The writing was decent, the description fabulous, and the characters realistic and easy to cheer for. If you’re looking for a light, quick read, this is a good one to pick up. It’s also like $1.60 on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, so it’s definitely not a big risk if you end up not liking it.

Book Review: Shut Out by Kody Keplinger

Title: Shut Out
Author: Kody Keplinger
Page Count: 273
F/NF: Fiction
Genre: Contemporary YA

Rating: 9/10

Goodreads Summary:
Most high school sports teams have rivalries with other schools. At Hamilton High, it’s a civil war: the football team versus the soccer team. And for her part,Lissa is sick of it. Her quarterback boyfriend, Randy, is always ditching her to go pick a fight with the soccer team or to prank their locker room. And on three separate occasions Randy’s car has been egged while he and Lissa were inside, making out. She is done competing with a bunch of sweaty boys for her own boyfriend’s attention

Then Lissa decides to end the rivalry once and for all: She and the other players’ girlfriends go on a hookup strike. The boys won’t get any action from them until the football and soccer teams make peace. What they don’t count on is a new sort of rivalry: an impossible girls-against-boys showdown that hinges on who will cave to their libidos first. But what Lissa never sees coming is her own sexual tension with the leader of the boys, Cash Sterling…

Even considering how much I loved Keplinger’s last two books, I did not expect to like this book. It’s about a rivalry before the football and soccer players, two groups of people that I generally don’t care about. I hate sports, and I usually don’t get along with people who play/watch sports. I generally feel awkward around those people, and I don’t really like people that I’m uncomfortable around, so reading a book about such people didn’t sound like fun. Really, I only read it because it was written by Kody Keplinger, and I figured I should give it a shot.

I’m definitely glad I did. I think I actually ended up liking this book more than either of her other two. Lissa’s boyfriend Randy is sort of the stereotypical jerky jock, but other than that the characters are really well-developed and interesting. I still don’t really care about sports, but for the first time I can sort of understand the appeal of dating a sports player and cheering them on at games.

Lissa is my favorite of all of Keplinger’s protagonists, as I could relate to her more. She doesn’t always stand up for herself (at least at first). She’s awkward in social situations. She’s sort of bossy. She reads books with a red pen in her hand. She’s definitely my kind of character. She definitely grows as the story continues, and I enjoyed watching her slowly figure out what she wanted and how to go for it.

I also loved Cash Sterling. I liked the guys from the other two Keplinger books I’ve read, but there was something about Cash that I found myself drawn to (even though his name is ridiculous). I guess it’s because he reminds me so much of this guy I used to like. Like Cash, he flirted with everyone but never actually dated anyone. Like Lissa, I found myself hoping that something would happen with this unattainable boy and then having it all go sour without having any idea what just happened. So, really, a lot of my enjoyment from this book and the main love interest stems from my own background. But that’s okay, because everyone brings their experiences with them when they read, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s found herself in Lissa’s position before.

The supporting characters were great, as well. There are a lot of girls getting together to talk about not having sex, and Keplinger does a great job at making them all (or at least the ones that we get to see) sound unique. People view sex differently, and Keplinger does a good job of showing that with these characters. I loved Chloe. She’s loud and funny and doesn’t put up with any crap from people. She’s also not afraid to admit that she likes sex. I liked that the girls eventually started talking about sex and being open with each other. At times if felt a little too much like we were being lectured, but I don’t think it’s possible to have characters have that conversation (which was important for the novel) without sounding a little preachy, so I’m not really upset by it.

I definitely enjoyed this modern version of Lysistrata. The characters were realistic and amusing. Also, someone starts singing an ‘NSYNC song at one point. I mean, really, what more can you ask for in a book?

Book Review: A Midsummer’s Nightmare by Kody Keplinger

Title: A Midsummer’s Nightmare
Author: Kody Keplinger
Page Count: 291
F/NF: Fiction
Genre: Contemporary NA (Since Whitley has graduated high school, I’m counting this as book #3 in my NA challenge)

Rating: 9/10

Goodreads Summary:
Whitley Johnson’s dream summer with her divorcé dad has turned into a nightmare. She’s just met his new fiancée and her kids. The fiancée’s son? Whitley’s one-night stand from graduation night. Just freakin’ great.

Worse, she totally doesn’t fit in with her dad’s perfect new country-club family. So Whitley acts out. She parties. Hard. So hard she doesn’t even notice the good things right under her nose: a sweet little future stepsister who is just about the only person she’s ever liked, a best friend (even though Whitley swears she doesn’t “do” friends), and a smoking-hot guy who isn’t her stepbrother…at least, not yet. It will take all three of them to help Whitley get through her anger and begin to put the pieces of her family together.

Filled with authenticity and raw emotion, Whitley is Kody Keplinger’s most compelling character to date: a cynical Holden Caulfield-esque girl you will wholly care about.

This is the second book I’ve read by Kody Keplinger, and I liked this one even more than the first one (The DUFF). This book didn’t have to overcome anything in order for me to enjoy reading it. I was hooked from the first sentence. I felt vaguely like I was reading the first Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants book at first, but Keplinger manages to take a similar situation and make it completely her own. I loved it.

Whitley was such a great character to read about. I sort of wanted to smack her at the beginning of the book for hating her mother so much while she adored her father who was clearly the one at fault, but overall I enjoyed reading about her. She’s definitely flawed, but you can’t help but feel for her. The more we got to know her, the more I wanted someone to give her a hug.

The rest of the characters in this book were just as well-rounded and realistic. Bailey was adorable, acting like a real teenager who’s just starting to branch out and become her own person. Nathan was a great love interest. A basketball player who’s handsome and also a nerd – a little bit of something for everyone without feeling fake. I wish we had seen a bit more of Whitley’s mother, but her father and Sylvia definitely played important roles, and I was happy to watch them transform as the novel progressed.

I was also really excited to see some familiar faces in this novel. Harrison, the gay best friend who embraces some stereotypes and shatters others, was great. We met him in The DUFF, but he was definitely more of a side character there. He becomes a real person in this novel, and he was a great addition to the cast. Wesley and Bianca, the stars of The DUFF, had a brief appearance in this novel, which was awesome. I really enjoyed watching Whitley react to Bianca. This book makes sense if you haven’t read The DUFF, but that whole scene is even more amusing if you already know Wesley and Bianca.

This book is a cute, fast read that also deals with some real issues. There’s been a lot of talk in the news recently about the rape culture in America, and this book definitely calls out slut-shaming and (hopefully) makes people question the way they treat other people, although it never comes across as overly preachy or anything. I think this is a great book for teenagers and adults to read. The step-sibling thing is sort of weird, but I couldn’t help rooting for them anyway.

Ton Ten Tuesday: Books I Thought I Would Like More/Less Than I Did

Top Ten Tuesday is a cool meme created by the people over at The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Books that I Thought I Would Like More/Less Than I Did.

Okay, so I haven’t participated in one of these in a while. Actually, I don’t think I’ve participated in one in all of 2013. I liked this week’s topic, though, so I decided to jump on in. I didn’t like a lot of the books that everyone else loves, so hopefully I’ll still have some blog followers after people read this. 🙂

Books I Thought I Would Like More Than I Did:
1. Matched by Ally Condie I know a lot of people liked this series, and there were certainly aspects of this book that I appreciated, but I just couldn’t get into it. I didn’t really care which person she picked, and I didn’t feel any need to read the rest of the series.

2. Divergent by Veronica Roth I kept hearing that fans of The Hunger Games would like this, so I read the first one. I didn’t hate it, but I definitely had to force myself to get through to the end, when interesting stuff started happening. I hated the Dauntless and anyone who would choose to go into that house. I’m sure she was aiming for a Gryffindor-like section, but what we ended up with a house full of jocks and army guys, all people I have never felt comfortable around and don’t really feel like reading a whole book about. I also didn’t like that the smart section was the evil section.

3. Requiem by Lauren Oliver I expected to love this book as much as I loved Before I Fall, but that didn’t happen. It didn’t help that I had just finished reading Matched and wasn’t really in the mood for another “the government is trying to keep us from true love” novel. I just couldn’t get into the story. I skipped to the end and decided it wasn’t worth finishing.

4. Starters by Lissa Price I was so excited about the idea of this novel, but I was so disappointed. I really hated this book. I forced myself to keep reading, hoping it would get better, and it just never did.

5. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson I’m sure people will hate me for this one, but I just didn’t like this book. It deals with a very important subject matter, and the message is important. I just couldn’t really get into the story. Maybe my expectations were just too high. I don’t know.

Books I thought I Wouldn’t Like But Ended Up Enjoying
6. The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling My mother first told me about this series when I was in fifth grade, when only the first three were out. I thought the series sounded stupid, and I wasn’t interested. I finally gave it a shot one night when I had nothing else to read, and my life changed forever. This series helped get me into writing again, and it sparked my creativity like no other series since.

7. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith I don’t believe in the idea of “love at first sight” and therefore thought I would hate this book. I wouldn’t even have read it if a friend hadn’t recommended it to me. I’m glad she did, as this book was absolutely adorable.

8. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver I was interested in this book, but once I started reading it and realized how much I hated the main character, I thought I would hate the book. I didn’t really mean to keep reading, but somehow I was unable to stop. I ended up loving this book.

9. The English Patient by Michael OndaatjeI read this book while I was an undergrad. I wouldn’t have liked it had I read it on my own, but my professor helped us see that this book was written in response to the novel Kim by Rudyard Kipling, and I learned to appreciate this book so much more than I thought I would.

10. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque I read this book in high school because I had to. I usually hate war novels, but to my surprise I actually enjoyed this one. I don’t remember much of it, but I do remember liking it.

Book Review: The Boy Book (Ruby Oliver #2) by E. Lockhart

Title: The Boy Book: A Study of Habits and Behaviors, Plus Techniques for Training Them  (Ruby Oliver #2)
Author: E. Lockhart
Page Count:
F/NF: Fiction
Genre: Contemporary YA

Rating: 9/10

Goodreads Summary:

Here is how things stand at the beginning of newly-licensed driver Ruby Oliver’s junior year at Tate Prep:

• Kim: Not speaking. But far away in Tokyo.
 • Cricket: Not speaking.
 • Nora: Speaking–sort of. Chatted a couple times this summer when they bumped into each other outside of school–once shopping in the U District, and once in the Elliot Bay Bookstore. But she hadn’t called Ruby, or anything.
 • Noel: Didn’t care what anyone thinks.
 • Meghan: Didn’t have any other friends.
 • Dr. Z: Speaking.
 • And Jackson. The big one. Not speaking.

But, by Winter Break, a new job, an unlikely but satisfying friend combo, additional entries to The Boy Book and many difficult decisions help Ruby to see that there is, indeed, life outside the Tate Universe.

This is the second book in the Ruby Oliver series, and I liked this book just as much as I liked the first one. It was a bit slow in the beginning, as we had to endure the requisite summarizing of the first book for anyone who might not remember, but once it moved past that, I really enjoyed it. Ruby is still trying to deal with the aftermath of everything that happened in book one, and she’s trying to grow up and become a more responsible, active version of herself. Ruby doesn’t always make the right choices, but she tries, and she’s really easy to relate to – or at least I think she is. I felt I could learn a lot from her as I read about her struggles and watched her figure things out.

This book is called The Boy Book, but it’s actually more about female friendships than anything else. I enjoyed reading about teenage girls that actually acted like the people I knew in high school. They had realistic conversations about realistic topics. They did stupid things. The parents were clueless about details but were still trying to get involved.

That’s not to say that this book isn’t about boys, because there are certainly boys. Ruby is still trying to get over Jackson, which is something that you don’t really see a lot of in young adult books. Most of the books I read are about girls who are “deeply” in love with a boy, and we’re supposed to root for them to get together. With this book, though, we’re actually wishing for her to hurry up and get over her loser ex-boyfriend. She doesn’t immediately just move on. The breakup really affects her, and that was nice to read about for once.

I wish the book had ended differently, but I still greatly enjoyed this book. This might be a short book, but there’s a lot of stuff going on, and it’s really fun to read about all. As someone who loves lists, I really enjoyed reading all of the lists in this book. I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

Book Review: Same Difference by Siobhan Vivan

Title: Same Difference
Author: Siobhan Vivian
Page Count: 287
F/NF: Fiction
Genre: Contemporary YA

Rating: 8/10

Goodreads Summary:
Emily is ready for a change. She’s been in the same town with the same friends for a long time…and none of them really understand her art. But when she goes to Philadelphia for a summer art institute, she suddenly finds like-minded people. One in particular, Fiona, intrigues and challenges her. But there are some things Emily is going to have to find out for herself — like what the balance is between life and art, and which is more important when push comes to shove.

I had some issues with the end of this book, which I’ll address in a bit, but for the most part I enjoyed this book. I could definitely relate to Emily. She doesn’t really know where she fits in. She’s so used to going along with what everyone else has planned for her, and she’s just starting to question that and discover who it is that she wants to be. The writing was fantastic. Vivian does a great job of making you feel like you’re really there. I found myself paying attention to the descriptions in a way I never have before. I could picture what was going on, and I could really understand why Emily felt the way she did most of the time.

This novel also brought back of positive memories for me. I was totally in those same art classes in school. I remember making potato stamps. I can also think back to my writing classes and understand her hesitance to draw in public, even though she knows she’s being ridiculous. I can also understand why Emily was so afraid of sharing her work with others.

Really, I think that is one of the best parts of the book – you can understand why people do the things they do. They act like real people would act. Even the side characters have their own personalities and flaws. There are no good/evil people; there are just people who do things that hurt others, sometimes on accident and sometimes on purpose.

That said, I did have some issues with this book, but I can’t discuss them without giving stuff away. There will be some spoilers from this point on. You have been warned.

First of all – Meg. I couldn’t stand her. Since I usually like books for the completely opposite reason everyone else likes them, I’ll admit that everyone else probably loved her and thought that Emily was the mean one. But really, I couldn’t stand Meg. Trying to guilt your friend into going to a party that she doesn’t want to go to is mean. Yes, Emily should have been honest with her, but it is not her fault that Meg didn’t tell her how “important” that night was to her. It’s not Emily’s job to talk Meg out of having sex. It’s Meg’s job not to have sex if she doesn’t want to have sex. So blaming Emily for not being there to talk her out of it is just bitchy.

And Meg wasn’t really a good friend at all for most of the summer. She doesn’t care about Emily’s art. She sits by and laughs while her boyfriend vandalizes her sketchbook. She sets her up on a date with this guy without even asking Emily if that’s what she wants. She and her boyfriend make fun of art when they know it’s important to Emily. I’m sorry, but it something’s important to your friend, you should try to support them, even if you don’t understand it. Sort of like how Emily always sat and listened to Meg’s stories about her boyfriend, even though she wasn’t really interested. Funny how the same rules don’t apply now that Emily’s the one who’s off doing her own thing.

So, yeah, I despised Meg. Yes, even though she went to the art show.

I never completely trusted Fiona, but I could sort of understand why she did what she did in the end. What I don’t understand is why Emily just forgave her so fast. The end is where I stopped really liking the book. Emily was completely selfish when she was talking to Yates after they were told on. Yes, she eventually apologized for that, but I think this is a major event that’s just sort of glossed over. Screw Fiona and Emily – Yates has now lost his job and his credibility, and no one seems to care. That part annoys me.

Overall, though, I enjoyed the book. I loved the writing style, and I could definitely see this happening in real life. I may not have liked all of the characters, but I felt they acted realistically. I’m looking forward to reading more of Vivian’s works.

Finally off to a decent start

Yesterday was the most productive I’ve been all year. I wrote 5,342 words and finally finished chapter 1 of 2,000 Miles. Annelise has decided to hike the Appalachian Trail, and she’s made it to the last shelter in Georgia. She’s also just met her future love interest, though she doesn’t know it yet. She’s also met a couple named Bug and Ladybug. They’re not supposed to be a big part of the novel, but they amuse me, so they might stick around a bit longer.

I wouldn’t have been able to write this much without the help of Julie, who was running the #writeclub sprints last night. You can find out more about #writeclub at both of these posts: post 1, post 2. Basically, though, you sprint for 30 minutes and then break for 15 minutes. It goes on all night. I participated in several of the sprints last night and managed to write about 1k each time I actually participated in the whole 30 minutes – well, except for the first sprint, when I was trying to figure out what I was writing still.

I had a lot of fun last night, and I will be participating in a lot more sprints now. Starting a novel is always the hardest part for me, especially when I have no idea where I want the novel to start. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to start on the trail or with her at home deciding to walk it. I finally found a decent compromise that works well with the direction I hoped to take with this novel. I had a bit of the present and a bit of the past mixed together. I can already think of a scene I probably should have added, but I’m going to try not to go back anymore. I’m just going to write a note to remember the idea and then decide later if it’s still a good idea.

Step 1: Create an Outline

I have this problem where I can only seem to concentrate on one thing at a time. For the past few weeks, that has mainly switched between reading vegan blogs and books and playing Borderlands. Neither is all that conducive to writing, and I was really hoping to use April to get back on track with my writing.

What I’m going to do is try using Borderlands as a reward for writing. I participated in one #writeclub sprint on Friday, and I wrote about 780 words in half an hour. That’s nowhere near what I was able to write for NaNo, but that’s pretty good considering I had no real idea what I was writing. That said, I definitely learned during that 30 minutes that I need an outline of some sort. I already have a feeling I need to completely rewrite that opening, and it’s just going to get worse from there.

My goal for tonight and tomorrow is to come up with at least a basic outline. I’ve been waiting for the story to come to me, but I think I need to be a bit more active now. I figured out the backstory for Annelise, and I have a general idea of where the plot is going to go. Now I just need to figure out what the main scenes will be for each state that she travels through. No Borderlands until I come up with an outline. That’s the plan, and I’m sticking to it!