October 8, 2015

The Lost Girl - R.L. Stine

Title: The Lost Girl
Author: R.L. Stine
Pages: 272
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Source: Netgalley
About: New student Lizzy Palmer is the talk of Shadyside High. Michael and his girlfriend Pepper befriend her, but the closer they get to her, the stranger she seems… and the more attractive she is to Michael. He invites her to join him on a snowmobile race that ends in a tragic accident. Soon, Michael's friends start being murdered, and Pepper becomes convinced that Lizzy is behind the killings. But to her total shock, she and Michael are drawn into a tragic story of an unthinkable betrayal committed over 60 years ago. 

I haven't read an R.L. Stine book in a million years, so when I saw this up on Netgalley I thought it would be the perfect inaugural book for my scary October reads.  

If you've read a Fear Street book before, you know what you're getting into.  Crazy paranormal plots happening to normal teenage kids that have no idea what they're in for, but generally come out unscathed.   This one is no different.  It starts off with the story of Beth, a teenager in the 50s (with secret supernatural powers, of course) whose dad is gruesomely murdered in front of her before we're abruptly shoved into present times.  The present story, as the description states, is centered around Michael and his friends and a mysterious new girl that shows up in town - I wonder who that could be.  Michael hits someone when he's riding on a snowmobile with his friends and they flee, only to come back to discover the body has gone missing.  When he starts getting threatening messages, he can't figure out if he's being haunted or hunted.  Then his friends start being picked off and Michael doesn't know how to stop it.   I will say, there is a lot of casual death in this book - like, one of the friends die and the day after Michael is like, 'I can't believe my dad didn't tell me he got new snowmobiles at the store.'  It's a little disconcerting.  The resolution ties itself back into the 50s storyline, as one would expect.  

Now, this book wasn't even a little bit scary and it so reads like a book from the 90s, but every once in a while you want that nostalgia read.  If you loved Fear Street or Goosebumps as a kid, you will definitely get a kick out of The Lost Girl.

September 10, 2015

Tonight the Streets Are Ours - Leila Sales

Author: Leila Sales
Pages: 342
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Source: BEA15
About: Seventeen-year-old Arden Huntley is recklessly loyal. Taking care of her loved ones is what gives Arden purpose in her life and makes her feel like she matters. But she's tired of being loyal to people who don't appreciate her—including her needy best friend and her absent mom. 
Arden finds comfort in a blog she stumbles upon called "Tonight the Streets Are Ours," the musings of a young New York City writer named Peter. When Peter is dumped by the girlfriend he blogs about, Arden decides to take a road trip to see him.During one crazy night out in NYC filled with parties, dancing, and music—the type of night when anything can happen, and nearly everything does—Arden discovers that Peter isn't exactly who she thought he was. And maybe she isn't exactly who she thought she was, either.

I feel like I flew right through this book.  The pacing was perfect, and physically splitting it into parts one and two really made sense for this story.  This book takes on a lot of things – different manifestations of love, people not being who you thought they were or who you wanted them to be, learning that you can’t live your life in a way that prioritizes and protects other people all the time…but it never felt like too much. 

I really liked Arden.  She’s lived her whole life according to this mantra that (the book’s version of) the Pleasant Company came up with for her when she won their doll of the year contest: recklessly loyal.  She even takes the punishment for her best friend Lindsey when she brings drugs to school.  (Note: this is an insane thing to do.  Do not try this at home.)  RECKLESS.  This is the event that really kicks off Arden feeling like no one would go to such lengths for her.  Not her best friend, not her boyfriend, not even her family who she is barely holding together.  Who, at some point, hasn’t felt like this?  Arden finds some solace in a blog asking the same question, “Why doesn’t anybody love me as much as I love them?”  She becomes obsessed with the story of Peter and Bianca.

A conflagration of events leads Arden to take off for the night with Lindsey in tow in search of Peter.  I think one of my favorite things about this story was that Sales didn’t take Peter too far into villainous territory.  It’s too easy at this point to play the ‘I’m not who I say I am on the internet, I’m actually a terrible monster’ card.  I like that Peter was the Peter from the blog, but Arden didn’t have the whole picture.  Of course she didn’t, we try to be our best selves on the internet.  Also, everyone doesn’t interpret our actions the way we do, they all have a different perspective.  All that being said, he did leave out/change some major details.

I really liked the parallels between Peter and Arden’s mom.  I liked Lindsey and have definitely had friendships just like this, that feel not totally one sided, but like you’re definitely giving more than the other person.  You can’t really force yourself to give less and you definitely can’t make them care more.  It’s really frustrating.  I also, as I may have mentioned, really dig tight timeframe stories and this really worked with the bulk of the story spanning one night.  Overall this was a win for me and I will definitely be looking out for more from Leila Sales.

August 27, 2015

Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between - Jennifer E. Smith

Title: Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between
Author: Jennifer E. Smith
Pages: 256
Publisher: Poppy
Source: BEA15
About: On the night before they leave for college, Clare and Aidan only have one thing left to do: figure out whether they should stay together or break up. Over the course of twelve hours, they'll retrace the steps of their relationship, trying to find something in their past that might help them decide what their future should be. The night will lead them to friends and family, familiar landmarks and unexpected places, hard truths and surprising revelations. But as the clock winds down and morning approaches, so does their inevitable goodbye. The question is, will it be goodbye for now or goodbye forever?

I usually really like stories that take place over a small period of time (like one night, or 24 hours).  This is one that I think would have benefitted from a little more time to let the story breathe.  It felt a little clumsy shoving all the memories into the “scavenger hunt.”    If it had taken place over their last summer I think it would have been easier to get invested in the characters and feel their pain a little bit more about leaving. 

I found Clare and Aidan really selfish.  Which is sort of okay if you look at the narrative, it’s their last night home before leaving for college, but I’ve addressed that I don't love the timing thing.  The fights and reconciliations didn’t hold as much weight because you don’t really know these people or their relationship.  The reveals like – SPOILER – Aidan LYING to his parents about applying to Harvard (like, what????) aren’t truly impactful because what are they going to do about it, ground him for six hours?  He leaves for UCLA in the morning.  Also, it’s probably because I’m an old now, but going away to college wasn’t that big of a deal?  Like, I was a little upset to leave my friends, but we knew we were going to see each other again in a few weeks.  Not everything changes right away.  If you want to play like leaving for college is this HUGE THING (which I don't really buy into) then you have to build up to an explosion, not just be thrown into someone’s last night.  I feel like so many of the things you feel when you’re leaving for college is because your whole existence becomes this countdown.  There’s too much history you can’t jam into one night.  And you definitely can’t care about it.

July 9, 2015

The Ruining - Anna Collomore

Title: The Ruining

Author: Anna Collomore
Pages: 313
Publisher: Razorbill
Source: Borrowed
About: Annie Phillips is thrilled to leave her past behind and begin a shiny new life on Belvedere Island, as a nanny for the picture-perfect Cohen family. In no time at all, she falls in love with the Cohens - especially with Libby, the beautiful young matriarch of the family. Life is better than she ever imagined. She even finds romance with the boy next door. All too soon cracks appear in Annie's seemingly perfect world. She's blamed for mistakes she doesn't remember making. Her bedroom door comes unhinged, and she feels like she's always being watched. Libby, who once felt like a big sister, is suddenly cold and unforgiving. As she struggles to keep up with the demands of her new life, Annie's fear gives way to frightening hallucinations. Is she tumbling into madness or is something sinister at play? 

Having just finished this book, I feel like the crazy one.  Which, I guess, is what’s supposed to happen with a book like this?  I feel like the beginning of this book was strong: Annie leaves her dead end life in Detroit to go to college in San Francisco and already has a nannying job lined up.  She’s going to live with the family that she found over the internet and watch their two kids when she’s not going to school.  Libby, the mom, welcomes her with open arms, even giving her some of her clothes upon Annie’s arrival.  Annie feels a closeness with Libby, something that had been missing from her life since her little sister’s death four years ago. 

It’s very soon that things start turning a bit sinister.  They take the door off of Annie’s bedroom (with the excuse of fixing the hinge) and it doesn’t go back up for months.  Her time off is super limited, to the point where Libby suggests cutting back school to part time, so she can take care of Zoe.  That’s another thing, originally taken on to watch both children, she actually winds up being Zoe’s primary caretaker, watching her all day, comforting her in the middle of the night (Libby basically wants nothing to do with this child) and doesn’t watch the baby at all.  Libby actually sees that Annie is reading The Yellow Wallpaper for school and tears down the wallpaper in her room and replaces it with yellow wallpaper.  Libby also convinces her to break up with Owen, the boy next door that she spends her very limited time off with. 

I don’t want to go too much further into plot, because it does get twisty and weird.  I guessed the twist pretty early on, but it really isn’t confirmed until the very end.  The end’s circumstances reminded me of the ending of The Skulls a little bit.  I will say, I didn’t love the end of this book.  I feel like it’s not as strong as it started out.  Another thing I didn’t love was Owen.  I started out really liking him, but as their relationship developed a little bit, I feel like it became a little too generic relationshipy.  He started calling her babe all the time (gag me) and their drama (aside from the crazy stuff) was so basic, I don’t really feel like it fit with the insanity level of the story.  If I had to sum it up, I’d say The Ruining was just okay.  I’ve read some better crazy nannying books, but it was still enjoyable if you like feeling a little crazy when you’re done reading.  

July 7, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday (87)

This week's topic is top ten hyped books I've never read.  Oh boy.  This one's gonna get me in trouble.  I think I've mentioned a time or two on here that I am the absolute worst at reading the big books.  Now, I've gotten better than I used to be, but there are still books on this list that I'm sure are going to make y'all mad at me.  (Backs away slowly) Here goes nothing...

Oh man, I really don't want to admit to this first one.

I'm trying to put off reading this until The Raven King comes out and I can read them all together.  I've heard nothing but raves from everyone, but I'm so trying to wait.  With each new tumblr post I see about it I feel my resolve wavering.

Another one that I've heard great things about, but just haven't gotten to yet.

I don't even really want to read this one, but I do see it hyped all over the place and it's always on endcaps at work.

Been sitting on this one for a long time.

I've had the ARC of this since before it came out, but I heard some mixed reviews somewhere along the way and it put me off.  I made the decision a while ago that I really wanted to check it out anyway, but just haven't picked it up yet.

My sister has been recommending this one to me forever now.

I swore up and down that I read this forever ago, but when I made my sister describe the plot to me it didn't sound familiar at all.  What is going on in my crazy head?

This is another recommendation from my sister.  And it's Meg Cabot, hello.

I will read this before the movie comes out.  (Which I think looks great, by the way.  I so love Cara and I think she's going to be awesome in it.)

I've heard great things about Graceling, I've met Kristin Cashore, and I still haven't read this.

Alright, I've survived.  I'm ready for you guys to bring on the yelling...

July 2, 2015

First There Was Forever - Juliana Romano

Author: Juliana Romano
Pages: 400
Publisher: Dial Books
Source: Borrowed
About: Lima and Hailey have always been best friends: Lima shy and sensitive, Hailey funny and free-spirited. But Hailey abandons Lima to party with the popular kids and pursue Nate, her disinterested crush. As their friendship falters, Lima and Nate begin spending more time together. And before Lima knows what she’s feeling, she and Nate do something irreversible. Something that would hurt Hailey....if she knew it happened.
Lima thinks she’s saving her friendship by lying, but she’s only buying time. As the secrets stack up, Lima is forced to make a choice: between her best friend forever, and the boy who wasn’t meant to be hers. 

The description of this book doesn’t really do it justice.  Lima and Hailey have been best friends forever.  When we come into the story, Hailey has gotten closer with another girl in their class, Skyler, and is distancing herself from Lima while sometimes still being really clingy (and terrible).  Amidst this, Lima finds herself falling in with these twins that everyone at school thinks are weird.  And they are.  They have a sort of put on sophistication where they’re above it all, but they take Lima in and they’re good to her for a while.  While Hailey is being super obvious in her intentions to get Nate, he rebuffs her every time and starts casually running into Lima.  I feel like the book's description makes it sound like they got drunk at a party and hooked up, but there’s a genuine relationship that develops before anything happens between them.

I don’t read cheating books that often, and I would argue that this is not a cheating book, but it’s still something that forces you in your gut to choose sides.  Does it suck that Hailey liked Nate and he and Lima got together?  Yes.  But I found the most terrible part of all of this how Hailey treats Lima even before anything is going on with Nate.  And part of that is just being in high school and hanging out with different crowds and growing apart.  The other part is Hailey is a nightmare bitch to be around.  She invites Lima places and then ignores her.  She gets pissed at her and then two days later is all, ‘I don’t know what came over me, you know I love you’ blah blah blah.  She’s practically part of Lima’s family, but then doesn’t go to her grandmother’s funeral because she wants to go to a party that Nate might be at.  She’s a bitch and I didn’t even really feel that bad that Lima and Nate’s friendship was turning into something more.  Towards the end I just wanted Lima to tell Hailey because in my gut I just wanted to see if their friendship would make it through this (and I was kind of hoping it wouldn’t).

There’s something sort of dream like about Romano’s writing coupled with the California settings of this book.  It sort of lets you see this story from a distance, while still being very much wrapped up in it.  I feel like the settings really influenced these characters and their goings on: from Lima’s beachfront house to the twins’s glamorous but empty house up in the Hollywood Hills, to Lima’s aunt’s house in Santa Barbara.  It was perfect.  I really enjoyed this debut from Romano and will definitely be keeping an eye out for her next project.