Book Review: Our Song by A. Destiny and Elizabeth Lenhard

At the beginning of September, I was at the Decatur Book Festival, where I moderated two panels, including Thicker Than Water with Una LaMarche, Katie M. Stout, Elizabeth Lenhard, and Marie Mardquart.
Our Song by A. Destiny and Elizabeth Lenhard

Author:  A. Destiny and Elizabeth Lenhard

Genre: YA, contemporary

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication Date: July 7, 2015

240 pages, paperback

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

Our Song is a super quick, light read. Nell doesn’t want anything to do with her family’s business – her family is “folk music royalty” and everyone at the camp she’s sent to knows it. She’s rebelling against her family and trying to figure out who she is. And then Jacob shows up – he’s a fellow musician at the camp, and through their interactions, Nell realizes she might be more in love with her family’s ways than she thought (but in her own way), and quite possibly in love with Jacob.

This book was cute, you guys. It has that distinct summer-book feel with its light story, cute romance, and summer camp shenanigans. I read it quickly and laughed a lot. Nell and Jacob’s banter was adorable. I really enjoyed the focus on music – Elizabeth includes a lot of musical sounds in the book; in fact, Elizabeth described her book is these six words: Grumble; Stutter; Clang; Sigh; Sizzle; SING! How cool is that?

Our Song also has a distinctive focus on family. Nell may be rebelling against her family and everything that means, but throughout the book, she also comes to realize that they might mean more to her and who she is than she originally thought. I loved this. The book may have a few clichés and such, but it was cute and I enjoyed it.

Rating: 7 – pretty good

ARC Review: Beastly Bones by William Ritter

Beastly Bones by William RitterAuthor:  William Ritter

Genre: Young adult, historical fiction, fantasy

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Publication Date: September 22, 2015

304 pages, hardcover (291 ARC)

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

Shout out to the wonderful Emma aka Miss Print for being so kind and sending me her ARC.

Brilliant, wonderful, charming, witty, fantastic, fun, entertaining. Basically, think of any good word you want, and it can probably be used to describe Beastly Bones, the follow-up to William Ritter’s debut novel, Jackaby (which I read earlier this year and loved).

I think the best part of this book is how many layers there are; there are so many stories all woven together into one incredible book. Not only do we have the theft of the dinosaur bones, but there’s also a group of shapeshifting kittens, a mysterious monster, a murderer who may or may not be a vampire, and so many other delightful things. Honestly, delightful is one of the best words I can think of to describe Beastly Bones.

Abigail is just as witty and wonderful as in the first book. I love reading her narration – she’s clever and charming. I’m also a big fan of Jackaby; he’s just quirky enough and I know it may turn some people off, but he reminds me so much of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock, which I totally dig. We also get a few new characters in this one – namely paranormal creature trapper Hudson and nosy but fierce and independent reporter Nellie.

Beastly Bones opens up so many possibilities for future books – YES, THERE’S GOING TO BE MORE – and I loved the little bit of foreshadowing we get for the next book. I will say there were a few instances where I just wanted to yell at the characters because they were taking so long to put it together, but overall, I was completely into the story and I cannot wait for the next one – this is the main problem with reading books that aren’t even out yet. EVEN LONGER TO WAIT.

The bottom line: Three words – GIVE ME MORE! How about four more? Definitely a favorite series.

Rating: 8 – freaking fantastic

Waiting on Wednesday: Revenge and the Wild by Michelle Modesto

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine in which we share a book that we are eagerly anticipating!

Revenge and the Wild by Michelle ModestoPublisher: Balzer + Bray

Author: Michelle Modesto

Release date: February 2, 2016

Synopsis from Goodreads:

The two-bit town of Rogue City is a lawless place, full of dark magic and saloon brawls, monsters and six-shooters. But it’s perfect for seventeen-year-old Westie, the notorious adopted daughter of local inventor Nigel Butler.

Westie was only a child when she lost her arm and her family to cannibals on the wagon trail. Nine years later, Westie may seem fearsome with her foul-mouthed tough exterior and the powerful mechanical arm built for her by Nigel, but the memory of her past still haunts her. She’s determined to make the killers pay for their crimes—and there’s nothing to stop her except her own reckless ways.

But Westie’s search ceases when a wealthy family comes to town looking to invest in Nigel’s latest invention, a machine that can harvest magic from gold—which Rogue City desperately needs as the magic wards that surround the city start to fail. There’s only one problem: the investors look exactly like the family who murdered Westie’s kin. With the help of Nigel’s handsome but scarred young assistant, Alistair, Westie sets out to prove their guilt. But if she’s not careful, her desire for revenge could cost her the family she has now.

This thrilling novel is a remarkable tale of danger and discovery, from debut author Michelle Modesto.

Why I’m excited: I’m not usually a huge fan of historical fiction, unless it’s the type that blends a different element (magic, fantastical creatures, etc.) into that historical time period. So the idea of magic + the Wild West sounds freaking brilliant to me. Westie sounds like an AWESOME character, and I can’t wait to meet her! Not going to lie, her “foul-mouthed tough exterior” is one of the selling points, for sure.

Top Ten Tuesday: Series I Have YET to Finish (or start)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. Today’s theme was:

Ten Finished Series I Have YET to Finish

Hi, lovelies! I’m on vacation this week, so I might not be able to respond to comments as quickly as I usually do. I hope you’re all having a wonderful week. I’m going to change this up a bit and do a few that I haven’t finished and a few series I haven’t started but want to

NOT FINISHED

Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater     Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo     The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan     City of Fall Angels by Cassandra Clare

The Wolves of Mercy Falls by Maggie Stiefvater – Need to read Sinner

The Grisha series by Leigh Bardugo – Need to read Siege and Storm and Ruin and Rising

Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan – I’ve read the first four but it’s been so long so I started a reread recently and have only read the first one so far.

Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare – Need to read City of Fallen Angels, City of Lost Souls, and City of Heavenly Fire. I kind of gave up on this series for a while, so I may or may not go back to it.

NOT STARTED
(the sad thing about this list is that I own – at least – the first book in each of these series)

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi     Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi     Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor     The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin     Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi // Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi // Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini // Taylor  // Mara Dyer series by Michelle Hodkin // Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

ARC Review: The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

The Dead House by Dawn KurtagichAuthor:  Dawn Kurtagich
Genre: young adult, horror
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 15, 2015
432 pages, hardcover (401 ARC)

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

NOTE: I was provided with an ARC of this book through The NOVL’s newsletter in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for letting me read this!

The four best words I can think of to describe Dawn Kurtagich’s The Dead House are: Deliciously creepy and strange. More than two decades ago, Elmbridge High School burned down; several students were killed and one student, Carly Johnson, disappeared. 25 years later a diary belonging to Kaitlyn Johnson (supposedly Carly’s twin) is found in the ruins, but Carly didn’t have a twin. FREAKY, right? Is the incident at the school a result of dissociative personality disorder or something more…sinister?

If you’ve read the description of The Dead House, I bet you could figure out my favorite part of this book. It’s “made up of diary entries, interview transcripts, film footage transcripts and medical notes.” YESSSS! We all know how much I love books made up of alternate storytelling techniques, and this one has something I’ve never seen in a book before – film footage transcripts. How cool is that? One of Carly’s friends was doing a project for a class and had to film her everyday life, but as something strange starts to happen with Carly, she keeps filming – the transcripts each come with a still from the footage, and some of them were pretty creepy. In fact, I had to call it quits for the night one time because I saw one of the stills on the next page and was freaked out. The format made you feel like an observer or someone reading the case file of the Johnson Incident, and this made it somewhat difficult to connect with the characters. At first. After a while, I was super invested in what was going to happen to them. My main issue with the characters was with the boys, who fell flat for me. Most of them (even those that were integral to the plot) were uninteresting and somewhat formulaic.

It’s hard to talk about the book’s plot without giving too much away, as I think figuring out the mystery as you read is one of the best parts. So I’ll just say it wasn’t where I thought it was going, though I should have seen it coming. I was really into the story and I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. This book explores all kinds of interesting and peculiar topics: psychology and mental illness, possession, witchcraft, violence (lots of violence).

The bottom line: If this is Dawn Kurtagich’s first novel, I CANNOT wait to see what she comes up with next. This book is innovative, haunting, and so very creepy. I had a few issues with some of the characters, but as I was on the edge of my seat waiting to find out what happened next, it obviously wasn’t a deterrent. I LOVED the format – the inclusion of so many different storytelling techniques. It was really well-done and so very cool.

Rating: 8 – freaking fantastic

ARC Review: Bream Gives Me Hiccups by Jesse Eisenberg

Bream Gives Me Hiccups by Jesse EisenbergAuthor:  Jesse Eisenberg
Genre: Short stories, humor
Publisher: Grove Press
Publication Date: September 8, 2015
256 pages, hardcover

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

NOTE: I was provided with an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Grove Atlantic for letting me read this!

I don’t know about you, but anytime I see that an actor or musician or whatever has written a book, I’m pretty skeptical. I’ve read a lot of books by “famous” people that really should’ve stayed on that person’s computer. But I loved Jesse Eisenberg in Zombieland, Adventureland, and Now You See Me, and I researched him a bit and saw that he’s actually a playwright as well as an actor. So he had me intrigued, as did the summary of Bream Gives Me Hiccups. I thought, “Why not? I’m probably not going to get approved for this one anyway.” And then I did. And then I read the book. And now I need more from Jesse Eisenberg.

Okay, no, it’s not the greatest short story collection I’ve ever read, but I’m seriously impressed with Jesse Eisenberg’s writing ability. He’s obviously talented, and his stories are intelligent, funny, and well-written. I updated my Goodreads status after almost every story with my immediate and initial thoughts upon finishing each one.

Bream Gives Me Hiccups updates

Note that I used words like “hilarious” with almost every single update. My absolute favorite story was the very first one, “Restaurant Reviews from a Privileged Nine-Year-Old”. It was dry, emotional, and got me so pumped to read the rest of the collection. I do think they did a bit of a disservice by beginning the collection with what is obviously the strongest story, but I don’t even care. I loved this one.

Another favorite was “If I Was Fluent In…” I literally laughed out loud SO hard and loudly that a patron at the library asked me if I was okay. HA! (Not a spoiler, but if you do read, watch out for the Indian section of this story – LOL!) When I read short story collections, I tend to read a story here and there but not straight through. NOT with this one! I didn’t want to stop.

The bottom line: I’ve got to mention that there were a few stories that I honestly wouldn’t have missed had they not been included, but overall, Eisenberg’s collection is seriously funny, honest, intelligent, and engrossing. He’s obviously talented, and I’m looking forward to what’s next from him.

Rating: 7.5 – between pretty good and freaking fantastic

I’m going on vacation!

Hey, lovelies! I just wanted to let you know that I will be going on vacation from TOMORROW (!!!), Friday, September 4 until Thursday, September 10. I have posts scheduled for most of the week, but I won’t be responding to comments as quickly as I usually do. In case you missed it though, I have a great giveaway going for copies of THREE of Jennifer E. Smith’s books!

Where will I be going, you ask? I’ll be heading to Decatur, GA for three days for the Decatur Book Festival, where I’ll be moderating TWO panels (PG-13 on Saturday & Thicker Than Water on Sunday) plus hopefully meeting a bunch of amazing authors and fellow bloggers. Then I’ll be heading down to FL for a few days (going to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter on Monday with Annette aka Booknerderie then spending a few days with family and generally vacationing). I’m SUPER excited! This is the first time I’ve taken a weeklong vacation by myself and the first vacation (longer than a weekend) I’ve taken in years.

I also wanted to mention that if you will be at the Decatur Book Festival, come say hi if you see me! This is what I look like (I only occasionally make this face). But, like, I have no hair, so I’m really hard to miss. 🙂

A picture of me

Anyway, I just wanted to give you guys a little heads up and say that I’ll miss you! If you would like to follow along on my vacation, I’ll be posting pics and updates on Twitter and Instagram (mostly Instagram for pictures).

<3,

Stefani

Interview with Jennifer E. Smith (& Giveaway!)

Recently, my new blogger friend Brittany from Brittany’s Book Rambles and I buddy read Jennifer E. Smith’s new book, Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between (my review) and loved it. I was fortunate enough to interview Jen at last year’s Decatur Book Festival, and now I am fortunate enough to bring you a follow up interview about her latest book. Brittany also has a fun interview from Jen over on her blog! AND I’ve got a little fortune FOR YOU. I won the April #NOVLBox curated by Jen, which contained copies of all three of her main books (The Statistical Probability of Love at First SightThe Geography of You and Me, and This Is What Happy Looks Like), all three of which I already owned (I LOVE Jen). So I’m going to share the love! Stick around to the bottom of the post and click over to Rafflecopter to enter to win all three paperback copies!

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Last year at the Decatur Book Festival, we talked about how Hello, Goodbye is more of a goodbye versus your other books which are one big hello. Can you talk about the differences in writing that – how this relationship was already in full swing versus at the very beginning, etc.

Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between by Jennifer E. SmithYes, it was a lot of fun to write a book that was set up a bit differently than my last few.  With STAT, HAPPY, GEOGRAPHY, the characters are just meeting each other, and the book is really about the first steps of their relationships, the getting to know each other part.  But this one is about a couple that’s been together for two years, and they’re getting ready to part ways.  So it’s a deeper relationship right off the bat, which means more emotion, more baggage, more intensity.  And no matter how the night ends, they’re both leaving for college in the morning, which means they’re going to have to say goodbye.  The question is just whether it’s goodbye for now or goodbye forever.

Can you talk briefly about the journey you’ve been on from last year (when there wasn’t even a title to the new book) to almost publication date?

I think at this time last year I had finished the book itself, though we were probably still editing it. But that year between getting to the end of the book and waiting for it to come out is always an odd one.  On the one hand, the heavy lifting is over, and you’re just working out the details.  On the other, you’re excited for people to start reading the book, so it feels like a very long time to wait until it’s officially out in the world.

We had a tough time with the title on this one.  It’s the first time in a while that I really couldn’t think of anything, and it took a very long time and a whole lot of brainstorming to get to HELLO, GOODBYE, AND EVERYTHING IN BEWEEN. I absolutely love it, but it’s a little weird for me too, since this is the first time I didn’t come up with one of my titles myself.  My editor and her assistant thought of this one, and I’m very, very grateful to them.

As for the cover, that was a fun process. The picture on this one is actually a real engagement photo, which I think makes it feel that much more realistic. I always feel really lucky to have the covers that I do, since I really love the style, but I think this one is particularly great.

For those who haven’t read the new book, can you give us a little insight into Clare and Aiden’s relationship and why they’re making the decision to either split up or try for long distance?

Well, they’ve been together for a couple years, but they’re about to head off to colleges at opposite ends of the country – Clare to New Hampshire and Aidan to California – and while neither of them really wants to break up, the idea of staying together in the face of all that distance seems daunting.  Clare is more pragmatic; she thinks it makes sense to end things now on their own terms, rather than slowly drifting apart, which she thinks is inevitable.  But Aidan is an optimist, and he believes they can survive it, even when so many others don’t.  At the start of their last night, they still haven’t managed to agree on what to do. So they basically have twelve hours left to decide…

Distance (and travel) are always a big influence in your books. Splitting characters apart allows for a lot of developments for the characters and their relationships. What is it about distance that appeals to you in regards to your writing?

Honestly, I think a big part of it is that I don’t like to write bad guys. I prefer to let time and fate and circumstance be the obstacles in my stories.  But I’m also fascinated by those same themes – time and distance, chance and serendipity – and so they’re a lot of fun for me to explore, and I tend to keep returning to them in different ways.

What draws you to the contemporary/romance genre?

Mostly, I think it’s just what I tend to gravitate toward as a reader, so it was only natural that I’d end up writing it too. That said, I don’t really think of my books as romances. I realize they have couples on the cover – and hearts! – but the family elements to the stories are really important to me too, so I think of them more as just realistic fiction.

Has your writing style/preferences evolved as you’ve continued to write books?

I hope so! I’d like to think I’m always growing and evolving as a writer.  But the crazy part of this process is that every single time I sit down to start something new, it feels like I’m learning to do it all over again for the very first time, which can be thrilling in its own way, but also really challenging.  If there are any shortcuts to this whole writing thing, I certainly haven’t figured them out yet!

And like I asked last year, what book(s) are you reading right now?

I just finished A LITTLE LIFE, which absolutely wrecked me, and I can’t stop thinking about it. It might be one of the most impressive novels I’ve ever read.  It’s a really tough read, but so, so beautiful. I loved it.

I also just read BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME, which is so important, and I think everyone should read it at some point.

I’ve read a few great YA books this summer too: P.S. I STILL LOVE YOU by Jenny Han, ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL by Jesse Andrews, and SIMON VS THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA by Becky Albertalli, among others.

And I’m in the middle of READY PLAYER ONE right now, which I’m enjoying so far!

One more fun one: if you could have been the original author on any book, which would it be and why?

HARRY POTTER, of course!

Thanks, Jen!

Make sure you head over to Brittany’s blog to see the other part of the interview!

ABOUT JEN

Author Photo_Jennifer E Smith

Jennifer E. Smith is the author of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, The Storm Makers, You Are Here, and The Comeback Season. She earned her master’s degree in creative writing from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, and currently works as an editor in New York City. Her writing has been translated into 28 languages.

Website | Twitter | Tumblr | Facebook Goodreads

THE GIVEAWAY

(THANK YOU TO THE NOVL FOR SENDING ME THESE BOOKS IN THE NOVL BOX!)

Terms & Conditions:

  • This contest is open to US residents only.
  • The giveaway will run until September 24, 2015 at midnight CST.
  • You must be 18 years or older, or have parents’ permission to enter.
  • I will check all of the entries for the chosen winner. If any of them have been given and you haven’t actually done them, you will be disqualified.
  • If the winner does not respond to my e-mail within 48 hours, I will choose another winner.
  • I am not responsible for any items lost in the mail, and I cannot replace anything that is lost. I’m sorry.

Giveaway Enter

Waiting on Wednesday: The Stars Turned Away by Lisa Maxwell

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine in which we share a book that we are eagerly anticipating!

The Stars Turned Away by Lisa MaxwellPublisher: Simon Pulse

Author: Lisa Maxwell

Release date: February 2, 2016

Synopsis from Goodreads:

For as long as she can remember, Gwendolyn Allister has never had a place to call home—all because her mother believes that monsters are hunting them. Now these delusions have brought them to London, far from the life Gwen had finally started to build for herself. The only saving grace is her best friend, Olivia, who’s coming with them for the summer.

But when Gwen and Olivia are kidnapped by shadowy creatures and taken to a world of flesh-eating sea hags and dangerous Fey, Gwen realizes her mom might have been sane all along.

The world Gwen finds herself in is called Neverland, yet it’s nothing like the stories. Here, good and evil lose their meaning and memories slip like water through her fingers. As Gwen struggles to remember where she came from and find a way home, she must choose between trusting the charming fairy-tale hero who says all the right things and the roguish young pirate who promises to keep her safe.

With time running out and her enemies closing in, Gwen is forced to face the truths she’s been hiding from all along. But will she be able to save Neverland without losing herself?

Why I’m excited: DID YOU READ THAT SYNOPSIS? You guys, seriously. A retelling of Peter Pan and Neverland in a world where that story is known and the place Gwen and Olivia are brought to is nothing like it – it’s dark and evil and strange. There’s fey and “flesh-eating sea hags” and shadowy creatures. Seriously, could someone please invent time travel so I could hop over to February 2016 and read this already? I need it yesterday. I mean, that title? THE STARS TURNED AWAY? What a perfect reversal of the meaning of stars in Peter Pan.

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters I Just Didn’t Click With

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. Today’s theme was:

Ten Characters You Just Didn’t Click With

This was a somewhat difficult list to come up with because if I don’t click with a character, I tend to forget them pretty quickly. There’s only 8 here for that reason. I’m sure I’ll remember more as I see other people’s lists.

  • Rose from Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
  • Mia from If I Stay by Gayle Forman (I didn’t click with this whole book)
  • Amy Gumm from Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige
  • Lara Jean from To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han (unpopular opinion time)
  • Hannah from The Museum of Intangible Things by Wendy Wunder (though I really liked Zoe)
  • Everyone from Panic by Lauren Oliver
  • Everyone from The Eye of Minds by James Dashner
  • Everyone from The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen

Tell me about some characters YOU just didn’t click with.