January 28, 2016

BCP - What we loved about The Rest of Us Just Live Here

This is a new feature here at Not-So Teen Reads!  Years ago my coworkers and I started a YA book club that meets semi-regularly throughout the year.  It’s really an excuse to take ourselves out to dinner and spend some time together, but over time we’ve gotten better about discussing the books we pick.  We try to shake up our usual reading patterns, so we’ll read any genre under the sun.  BCP stands for Book Club Pick (obviously) and I’m going to post our thoughts on the books we read.  This month’s read was the much-hyped The Rest Of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness.

Author: Patrick Ness
Pages: 352
Publisher: Walker Books
About: What if you aren't the Chosen One?

The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.Award-winning writer Patrick Ness’s bold and irreverent novel powerfully reminds us that there are many different types of remarkable.

Me: 5 stars
B: 5 stars
E: 3 stars
Y: 2 stars

Mixed reviews from the club, which made the discussion a lot of fun.  I was initially going to give it four stars but when I sat and thought about it there was nothing I didn’t like about it.  My final hurdle for five star books is re-readability and I would gladly reread this one.

- The chapter bumpers:  It’s so cool that they tell the indie kid story, what would be the main plot of another book, in just a few short sentences at the beginning of every chapter and then we get to spend most of our time with the normal kids, who are just fighting the everyday good fight.

- The indie kid names: this got mixed reviews from our group.  Some of us felt they were confusing; I loved them with all of my being.  I thought it was hysterical that so many of them were named Finn.

- The family stuff: watching Mel, Mike, and Meredith take care of each other was one of my favorite parts of the story and the whole group agreed.

- Jared being part god, but it not being a big deal: He’s part cat god so all the cats flocked to him.  Cutest powers ever?

- That sometimes you and the best friend you’ve been in love with forever just don’t work in the way you wanted to and that’s okay.  You move on from it and no one is mortified and you’re actually a little bit closer because you’ve faced these questions together and come out on the other side.  It doesn’t always have to be true luv 4 evah.

- That this book doesn’t feel heavy, even though there’s so much going on, which I guess is part of the point.  Everyone is living their own story, not just the heroes, and when you have groups of friends like this one, their lives are your lives too.  You have Mel’s eating problem, Henna’s not wanting to go to Africa with her parents,  Jared’s secretiveness, Meredith and the Bolts of Fire show, the new kid trying to join the group, Mike’s OCD, their mom running for office, their dad’s drinking, Mike’s relationship with Henna and how it’s changing, Mike’s relationship with Jared and how it’s changing, impending prom and graduation, but I never felt bogged down by it.

- The references to Chosen One YAs: Twilight, The Fault in Our Stars, etc.  So fun and done in a way that showed love for the genre.

“There’s nothing out here but woods and the huge great Mountain on the very near the horizon that’ll blow up one day and flatten everyone and everything in this part of the state.”

“'I wonder if realizing you’re not sure about stuff makes you a grown-up?'
'Lots of adults seem really sure about things.'
'Maybe they’re not grown-up either.'”

“And that was the end of our high school.  Which was only eight years old, because it had replaced the last one that had been blown up to destroy the soul-eating ghosts.  The circle of life, I guess.”

* * *

So that's it for the first installment of BCP.  Love it?  Hate it?  Let me know.  They probably won't be an every month thing, but as often as book club is able to meet there will be a post.

January 27, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday (59)

Title: Black Hearts
Author: Nicole Castroman
Pub Date: 2.9.16

Blackbeard the pirate was known for striking fear in the hearts of the bravest of sailors. But once he was just a young man who dreamed of leaving his rigid life behind to chase adventure in faraway lands. Nothing could stop him—until he met the one girl who would change everything.

Edward "Teach" Drummond, son of one of Bristol's richest merchants, has just returned from a year-long journey on the high seas to find his life in shambles. Betrothed to a girl he doesn’t love and sick of the high society he was born into, Teach dreams only of returning to the vast ocean he’d begun to call home. There's just one problem: convincing his father to let him leave and never come back.

Following her parents' deaths, Anne Barrett is left penniless and soon to be homeless. Though she’s barely worked a day in her life, Anne is forced to take a job as a maid in the home of Master Drummond. Lonely days stretch into weeks, and Anne longs for escape. How will she ever realize her dream of sailing to Curaçao—where her mother was born—when she's stuck in England? 

From the moment Teach and Anne meet, they set the world ablaze. Drawn to each other, they’re trapped by society and their own circumstances. Faced with an impossible choice, they must decide to chase their dreams and go, or follow their hearts and stay. 

January 26, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday (91)

This week's topic is a freebie, so I'm going to do my top ten books that I read in 2015.  Looking at my Goodreads year in books shows me that I thought very highly of the things I read last year.

And I read 101 books.  Hmmm, this is not going to be as easy as I anticipated.  Maybe I'll just do YA?  Taking out my rereads, my middle grades, and my adult books leaves me with 14 5 star books.  I can probably whittle that down to 10, right?  These are going to be in no particular order because these books were all awesome.

1. The Wrath and the Dawn - Renee Ahdieh
2. Jellicoe Road - Melina Marchetta
3. The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly - Stephanie Oakes
4. The Wrong Side of Right - Jenn Marie Thorne
5. Suicide Notes From Beautiful Girls - Lynn Weingarten
6. Emmy & Oliver - Robin Benway
7. The Boy Most Likely To - Huntley Fitzpatrick
8. Dumplin' - Julie Murphy
9. The Accident Season - Moira Fowley-Doyle
10. The Raven Cycle - Maggie Stiefvater

Have you guys ready any of these?  Did you love them?  Hate them?  Tell me why!

January 23, 2016

Series Rewind: The Mediator

Series Rewind is a new feature here at Not-So Teen Reads.  There are a million series that I haven't read yet, so every once in a while I'm going to pick a series and do some type of mini-review on the whole thing.  First up:

The Mediator by Meg Cabot

This series will be split into two posts, but they should both be posted before Remembrance comes out on 2/2/16.  (Update: Part two is right here)  For every book I'm going to give a little bit of plot and a breakdown of the ghosts we encounter.

Suze is awesome.  She's a mediator (duh), someone who helps ghosts move on from our world to the afterworld.  The series starts with her moving across the country when her mom remarries, into an old house (not so good for avoiding ghosts) with three new stepbrothers.  She very quickly acquires a Giles-like mentor in Father Dom, one of the teachers at her school.  There's a little bit of a cheese factor: Suze is from New York City.  She talks fast and wears leather jackets in California, but it was written in 2001, so I'm giving it a little bit of a pass.  My biggest praise about Suze is that she's so freaking awesome and she's not just Mia-light.  A lot of Meg Cabot's female leads that come after The Princess Diaries came out rely too much on Mia's personality to carry them through.  Suze is her own character.  She's weirdly obsessed with prom like Mia, but that's about it.

The ghosts:
Mr. Simon - Suze's dad, not seen, just mentioned.
Heather -  Dead girl at school, she's the reason that there was an empty spot in the school for Suze to fill.  This one made me feel a little squicky - she killed herself, reportedly over her boyfriend who broke up with her.  Now she hangs around the school, sort-of regretting her decision, definitely terrorizing her ex.
Jesse - Hottie hot hot cowboy ghost that resides in Suze's room.  I don't think he's going anywhere anytime soon.  

Suze is sent on a mystery mission to tell someone named Red that he didn't kill a woman.  Ghosts, man.  So vague and dramatic.  While on the search, Suze gets tangled up with a man who may or may not be a vampire.  Now, this series is basically about ghosts, but the vampire thing really felt weird to me at first.

The ghosts:
Mr. Simon - Suze's dad makes an appearance!  He comes to check on Suze, give Jesse a talking to (LOL!), and warn Suze off of investigating on behalf of an unnamed woman.
Unnamed lady - Wakes Suze up twice by screaming her head off with very little info on what she wants.  I would have smacked the crap out of her.  Something was clearly up with this lady (who does, in fact, have a name), and it does come to light towards the end of the book.
Mrs. Fiske - Who I thought was the unnamed lady when she showed up, but I'm glad to know Suze thought so too.  Red Beaumont killed her for her land, or did he?  She was summoned by Cece's aunt and her tarot deck. 
Jesse - still lives in Suze's room and things are starting to get swoony.  Like, in the first book I could tell that I was supposed to think that, but now he's all sitting on her bed, holding her hand, and I am totally sold.  I laughed when he popped up when Suze was kissing Tad in his car.  Super helpful in the final "battle" of the book.

Gina's here!  I appreciate that even though Suze moved clear across the country, it isn't like her past is totally wiped from the record.  Suze is trying to get rid of four ghosts that recently died in a car wreck that may not be as innocent as it first seems.  Also, Gina catches the eye of two of Suze's stepbrothers, while a geek becomes enamored with Suze.

The ghosts: 
RLS Angels - four popular kids from a rival school that recently died in car crash after a dance (Footloose anyone?).  Suze first catches them trying to steal beer from a convenience store on the beach.  Then, she catches them trying to drown one of her classmates.  You know, the usual.
Jesse - he's really becoming Suze's right hand.  He always shows up when she calls him, ready to help with whatever the situation is - even when it's babysitting four disgruntled teen ghosts.  Suze has started admitting to herself that she totally loves him.

It felt a little light on ghosts this book, but I think it's because the four Angels were always together.

That's it for the first installment of Series Rewind: The Mediator.  Be sure to check back next week for the conclusion!

January 21, 2016

Sanctuary Bay - Laura J. Burns & Melinda Metz

Title: Sanctuary Bay
Author: Laura J. Burns & Melinda Metz
Pages: 320
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads rating: 

About: When Sarah Merson receives the opportunity of a lifetime to attend the most elite prep school in the country-Sanctuary Bay Academy-it seems almost too good to be true. But, after years of bouncing from foster home to foster home, escaping to its tranquil setting, nestled deep in Swans Island, couldn't sound more appealing. Swiftly thrown into a world of privilege and secrets, Sarah quickly realizes finding herself noticed by class charmer, Nate, as well as her roommate's dangerously attentive boyfriend, Ethan, are the least of her worries. When her roommate suddenly goes missing, she finds herself in a race against time, not only to find her, but to save herself and discover the dark truth behind Sanctuary Bay's glossy reputation. 

Spoilers ahead, proceed if you dare...

I need to start this out by saying there is no way a school like this would fly.  High school aged kids alone on a island for school with no way to contact their parents?  No leaving, no letters, no email?  No way.  "Total immersion" my ass.  So let's just suspend some disbelief here to get us all on this minimally supervised island.

Sarah is your typical 90s teen horror main character: an orphan who has bounced around foster homes for most of her life (so no one will miss her when she disappears, prove me wrong, you can't).  Not only does she have a photographic memory, she has a freaky memory issue where she is sometimes "transported" back into her memories and relives them.

The kids at this school are the total opposite of how she expected them to be.  She imagined everyone would be completely snotty and judgy, but they actually accepted her very quickly.  She forms a quick bond with her roommates, Karina and Izzy.  (Last chance to turn back before major spoilers) On the flip side, they're in a freaky secret society that likes to drink psychotropic drugs mixed with bone fragments and blood to have a good time.  Bone fragments.  And blood.  Girl, I promise you don't need friends that badly.  
One night, in order for the group to bond more fully, the leader of the society decides they need to kill one of their own.  Nothing makes a group tighter than a little ritual sacrifice.  The group ties Karina up, Izzy shoots her, and everyone scatters immediately.  This is the point when Sarah decides she's not really cool with murder.  Kids these days, am I right?  She runs to one of the teachers to tell him what's been going on, goes back to her room to sleep, and wakes up to everyone bullshitting her.  'What do you mean where's Karina?  We all watched a movie last night and you and Nate totally made out the whole time right in front of us.  It was super gross, why can't you two get a room, etc. etc.'  The longer this goes on, the more Sarah can't tell if her freaky mind made up the murder or if her friends are actually lying to her.

If you think this sounds wild, you ain't seen nothing yet.  While investigating, Sarah and Karina's boyfriend Ethan stumble upon Izzy getting some sort of medical looking treatment in the school's basement.  Treatment involving something plugged into the back of her head and some evil seeming scientists/doctors.  What is with this school?  It's like The Skulls meets Disturbing Behavior.  I don't care what Ivy League school you promise to get me into, no freaking thanks.

This book had a lot of things going on: a light love triangle, maybe murder, mind control, an abandoned insane asylum, boarding school...If you can get past the highly unlikely island boarding school totally cut off from the outside world this was a decent YA thriller with a 90s-style horror heroine.  The mysteries of Sanctuary Bay don't get tied up in this book, so I'll be keeping an eye out for a sequel.

January 20, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday (58)

Title: Remembrance
Author: Meg Cabot
Pub Date: 2.2.16

In REMEMBRANCE, the seventh installment of the Mediator series, all Susannah Simon wants is to make a good impression at her first job since graduating from college (and becoming engaged to Dr. Jesse de Silva).

But when she stumbles across an ancient murder, old ghosts—and ex-boyfriends—aren’t all that come back to haunt her.