Book Review: Ollie’s Odyssey by William Joyce

Ollie's OdysseyAuthor: William Joyce

Illustrator: Moonbot

Genre: Children’s fiction

Publisher: Atheneum

Publication Date: April 12, 2016

304 pages, hardcover

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

What a cute book! I absolutely loved following along with Ollie on his A-venture to get back to his boy, Billy.

Ollie is a Favorite, a super high honor for a Toy. Zozo, a creepy little clown toy, has never been anyone’s favorite, and he and his Creeps (clockwork-esque Toys made by Zozo) search out and kidnap favorites to make them forget their kids forever. One day, Ollie is toynapped at a wedding, and both Billy and Ollie go on their biggest A-venture ever to find each other.

This book would be super fun to read at bedtime with kids – a chapter or two each night before bed. The illustrations are wonderful and really capture the personality of these toys. Plus, Ollie, a Handmade – stitched together by Billy’s mom and resembling a bit of a teddy bear and a stuffed rabbit – is the absolute cutest thing, and I just wanted to reach in and cuddle him.

The bottom line: Highly recommended for kids AND adults. Honestly, I recommend all of William Joyce’s books – if you didn’t know, he’s the writer behind the book that Meet the Robinsons is based on (A DAY WITH WILBUR ROBINSON) as well as Rise of the Guardians (based on his Guardians of Childhood series).

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Book Review: Slasher Girls & Monster Boys (ARC)

Slasher Girls & Monsters BoysAuthor:  Various authors; stories selected by April Genevieve Tucholke

Genre: Horror

Publisher: Dial Books

Publication Date: August 18, 2015

385 pages, hardcover/ARC

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

Slasher Girls & Monster Boys was a horrifying, creepy, thrilling, strange collection of stories from some of the coolest YA writers out there right now. It was a perfect one to read during this time of the year, and I would highly recommend it for a Halloween read. I love that each of the stories are based on horror stories and movies, and it was really cool to try to figure out their inspiration or find out when I finished the story.

My favorite stories of the lot were:

Jay Kristoff’s “Sleepless” – a story that is sure to creep out anyone who’s ever spoken to someone on the internet and never knew who they really were. It’s full of unexpected twists and turns that are sure to surprise you. Although I knew where the inspiration for this one came from pretty quickly, it wasn’t predictable and was quite horrifying. I really want more from Jay Kristoff.

Nova Ren Suma’s “The Birds of Azalea Street” – Nova is so good at magical realism, and this story is no exception. I really like her writing style, and this one was decidedly creepy because it felt real even with the addition of the magical realism.

Carrie Ryan’s “In the Forest Dark and Deep” – Inspired by Alice in Wonderland, but oh so much creepier. It’s a terrifying story of monsters in the woods, mean girls, tea parties in the woods, and the terrible things that people…or creatures can do.

Marie Lu’s “The Girl without a Face” – I love that this one was inspired, in part, by the film Los Ojos de Julia, which is one of my favorites. You could really get that super creepy and eerie feeling from it. It’s definitely the most “traditionally” scary one of the whole collection. It makes you want to keep your closet door open and check under your bed. *shudders*

The rest of the collection is made up of some great stories as well, and a few that I could’ve done without. I was a little bored with Stefan Bachmann’s “M” and Cat Winter’s “Emmeline”, but was intrigued by A.G. Howard’s story inspired by Frankenstein. Overall, I really liked this collection, and I’ll definitely be rereading some of these at Halloween next year.

The bottom line: Add this to your Halloween TBR.

Rating: Each story has its own rating, but overall, I’ll give this collection a 7 – pretty good

Shout out to Dahlia Adler who sent me an ARC of this one.

Blog Tour – Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl (Review & Giveaway)

BlackWidowBanner

I am so excited to be kicking off the BLACK WIDOW: FOREVER RED blog tour with my review! Before I get to it, let me tell you a bit about the book.

Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret StohlRelease Date: October 13, 2015

Pages: 304

Publisher: Marvel Press

Formats: Hardcover, eBook, Audiobook

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks

Enter the world of the Avengers’ iconic master spy. Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

MY REVIEW

Most of your probably know how into comics I am, and, like most of the world, I’m a big fan of superhero movies, so when I found out there was going to be a novel about one of the Avengers (particularly one I believe deserves more attention), I was pretty pumped. I hadn’t read a Margaret Stohl book before, but I wasn’t disappointed. Here are my favorite things about the book:

  • Black Widow: I loved learning more about Natasha Romanov. I’ve always thought she was fascinating in that she is so human. She doesn’t have any special powers/technology/etc. She’s so engaging in this book, and I was totally engrossed in all of her scenes. I honestly didn’t think there were enough scenes with her.
  • Interview transcripts: You guys know how much I like alternate storytelling methods, and we get part of an interview transcript at the end of every chapter, which was so cool. It kept me reading, wanting to know what the interview was about and who had been the line-of-duty death they were discussing.
  • The voices: Stohl nailed the voices of Natasha, Tony Stark, and Agent Coulson, especially for MCU fans – they are spot on. Stark is arrogant and Coulson is a nerd, and it’s so great.
  • Ava: She’s a pretty cool character. Tough but vulnerable, bitter, and tough. She does what she has to do, and I thought she was pretty badass.

There were a few things I wasn’t as big on:

  • The length: For comic book fans, Black Widow: Forever Red is going to run pretty long. I’m used to 24-page single issues or 120-150 page trades, so a novel about a comic book character coming in at just over 300 pages was a little long and felt somewhat drawn out.
  • MORE Natasha: As much as I enjoyed Ava, the main character, I was hoping for more scenes with Natasha, as she was the most engaging part of the book for me.
  • Instalove: There was a mild case of instalove/too hot too fast, which didn’t fit with who Ava was previously. It felt a little out of character for her.

The bottom line: Overall, this was a fun, action-packed, kick-ass novel about a comic character that I felt deserved more attention. Natasha was hard, tough, bitter, and awesome, and I thought the well-known comic book characters were spot-on. It’s a little long but I still enjoyed it.

Rating: 7 – pretty good

ABOUT MARGARET

Margaret Stohl is the #1 New York Times Bestselling co-author of the BEAUTIFUL CREATURES Novels and DANGEROUS CREATURES novels, as well as the author of BLACK WIDOW: FOREVER RED forthcoming from Marvel Press (Marvel YA), and the ICONS Novels.

Margaret StohlShe is the USA Today, Publishers Weekly, Los Angeles Times, Indie-Bound, Wall Street Journal and Internationally Bestselling author of nine YA novels, and has been published in 37 languages and 48 countries. BEAUTIFUL CREATURES was adapted into a film (2013) by Warner Brothers and Alcon Entertainment, and was an ALA William C. Morris YA Debut Award finalist in 2010, as well as a SCIBA award finalist, a NYPL Book for the Teen Age, and a YALSA Teen Top Ten Pick. Beautiful Creatures was named the #1 Teen Pick from Amazon in 2009, and the #5 Editors Pick, Overall.

Prior to becoming an author, Margaret worked in the video game industry as a writer and lead designer for sixteen years, eventually co-founding 7 Studios game developer with her husband, Lewis Peterson. She is also the co-founder of YALLFEST (Charleston, SC) and YALLWEST (Santa Monica, CA), two of the biggest kid/teen book festivals in the country. An alumnus of Amherst College, Stanford University, and Yale University, Margaret lives in Santa Monica with her family, two rescue cats, and two bad beagles.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram

THE GIVEAWAY

3 winners will receive a finished copy of BLACK WIDOW: FORVER RED. US Only.

Giveaway Enter

CHECK OUT THE REST OF THE TOUR 

Week One:

10/5/2015- Caught Read Handed Review
10/6/2015- Mundie Moms– Interview
10/7/2015- Novel Novice– Review
10/8/2015- IceyBooks– Guest Post
10/9/2015- Word Spelunking– Review

Week Two:

10/12/2015- Fangirlish– Interview
10/13/2015- Wishful Endings– Review
10/14/2015- Nerdophiles– Guest Post
10/15/2015- Chapter by Chapter– Review
10/16/2015- The Reading Nook Reviews– Interview

Book Review: Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout

Hello, I Love You by Katie M. StoutAuthor:  Katie M. Stout

Genre: YA, contemporary

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Publication Date: June 9, 2015

304 pages, hardcover

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

Hello, I Love You was really cute. Grace is running away from her family, and she decides to head to the complete opposite side of the planet to a school in Korea, where she meets a Korean musician who is brooding and…even rude at times. Grace has to navigate a country and culture completely different from her own as well as potential love.

When I first finished this book I was kind of…angry? Grace is not a nice person. She was ignorant, patronizing, judgmental, and just flat out rude to a lot of the people around her because they were different than her. Now that I’ve had time to think about it though, I realize that a lot of that was because of how she was raised – her family shaped her and influenced her thoughts on other cultures. While I do think she began to break out of that by the end of the novel, I don’t think it was quite as much as I wanted her to. But it was a start.

The romance was cute at times. I got a little annoyed by Jason (the love interest) as he continued to flip flop about his feelings and I wanted to reach in and shake him. Well, honestly, both Grace and Jason were hot and cold for each other throughout the novel. There were several times when I questioned WHY they even liked each other. However, this did kind of remind me of KDramas a LOT, which I know Katie is a big fan of, so I guess it makes sense.

I wouldn’t recommend this book to you if you think this a book about KPop or Korean culture because those themes are almost non-existent. Differences in American and Korean culture/customs/food/etc. were mentioned occasionally but not explored in depth like I was hoping. I was pretty disappointed with that. However, if you’re looking for a book that really resembles a KDrama (emphasis on the drama bit), Hello, I Love You is for YOU! The end of the book will give you all the feels.

Rating: 5.5 – take it or leave it (some people could really dig this one)

Babes and Books Review: Confess by Colleen Hoover

Babes & Books

Babes & Books is the name that Rachel at Confessions of a Book Geek, Brandie at Brandie is a Book Junkie, and I have named our irregular, conversational joint reviews. You might’ve seen our last review of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith. What follows is our joint review of Confess by Colleen Hoover. Fair warning: There are some minor spoilers in this review, but we couldn’t do it justice without them!

​Brandie: I am SO excited to discuss this one! My love for CoHo apparently knows no bounds, and I loved pretty much everything about this book.

Rachel: My anticipation levels for this book were HIGH, knowing the artwork element was going to be included made me swoon for this book before even seeing it, and the artwork really didn’t let me down, in fact I want to own one of the prints so bad (edit: I found out you can buy them here!). After finishing the book I had to give myself a couple of days to think it over before discussing it. I love CoHo but didn’t want to be biased and automatically love this book without being critical of it. I had a couple of minor issues with it, but overall I really enjoyed it.

Stef: My anticipation level was pretty high as well – mostly because of how freaking excited the two of you were! I LOVE books that include art or some other kind of medium (music, pull outs, maps, etc.) as I feel they really add to the story, and I think the artwork in Confess really lived up to that anticipation level. I would really like to own some prints of the art too. I thought the story was cute and I absolutely loved the banter! Overall, I liked it, but some things left a bad taste in my mouth.

Confess by Colleen HooverRachel: OK, let’s get into this! When I first started reading Confess I was tad confused, I feel Tarryn Fisher has rubbed off on Hoover (from them collaborating on Never Never), because this read had more of a mystery element than we’re used to with CoHo, particularly at the start as we try to piece together what is happening to which characters, and how they all fit together.

Hoover did a great job with this story-line, my only minor complaint is how successful Owen is at 21. The maturity level of Hoover’s characters makes me feel like a toddler sometimes…

Brandie: There’s no denying that there is an element of suspense and mystery throughout the entire book, and I LOVED that. I’m a big fan of suspense novels, and CoHo did an awesome job with it. I loved the shock factor of the reveals throughout the book, and the ending – how it all wrapped up blew my mind. I can NEVER see anything coming when it comes to CoHo books, she’s constantly surprising me and keeping me on the edge of my seat.

To be honest I didn’t really think about the age thing, Aubrey and Owen had already been through so much in their lives that they seemed older.

Stefani: I liked it. I didn’t love it, but I liked it. I enjoyed most of the book but I wanted to like the romance so much more than I actually did. I felt like the chemistry between Aubrey and Owen was somewhat forced at times, but I also had heart-eyes and swoony moments several times too. I think I’ll eventually need to do a reread, because I’m still not sure if I liked Confess or not. I’m so torn.

Auburn irritated me because, while she was sweet and kind, she was also a doormat. She didn’t stand up for herself and wasn’t really her own person, and I hate that in female protagonists. Yes, I understand not all women are strong or independent, etc., but to let yourself be run over like that all the time is irritating to me. She was SO indecisive. I can’t connect with a character who’s self-esteem is SO low and who lets everyone run over her SO much. What did you guys think?

Rachel: When it comes to the romance itself and the forced feeling, I did think it was verging too close to being insta-love at times. Realistically, Owen and Aubrey hardly knew each other when they developed this strong connection and I wish that had have been fleshed out a little more at the start to make it more realistic.

I could understand Aubrey’s doormat ways because of the situation she was in. Though I did have a problem with one scene in particular because she didn’t fight back. I’m not sure how I’d react in that circumstance, I don’t think any of us do unless we’re in it, but I’d like to think I’d put up one helluva fight.

Brandie: Was the love a little fast for me? Maybe a little, but I didn’t focus on that because I had a feeling from the get-go that Owen and Aubrey knew each other somehow. I guess that made it more realistic and easier for me to believe.

I could sympathise with Aubrey when it came to being a doormat for a large part of the book. Without being too spoilery – doing whatever it takes for someone you love, I got that.

Stefani: I completely agree about the insta-love thing. They were actually in each others’ presence for what? A WEEK? They fell for each other too quickly and too intensely, which definitely came across in the book. I agree that’s what felt forced to me. I still swooned, but occasionally I also rolled my eyes.
Rachel: Agreed, though I loved Owen’s POV, it felt much more “real” than a lot of male POVs I read because he wasn’t always politically correct, and he wasn’t overly lovey dovey (at least at the start anyways). Smushy romance can be swoonworthy when you’re in the right headspace, but sometimes it can just rub me up the wrong way because it’s overdone to the point where it isn’t realistic. *Sigh* I LOVED the banter, I have such a soft spot for Owen.

Brandie: I agree, I love when a book shows both POVs – getting into the guy’s head and his feelings is such an added bonus. Plus the amazing artwork. CoHo added so much to this book to make it incredible!

Stefani: I seriously love dual POVs – especially if one or both is a guy. I like getting into a guy’s head.

My big issue with this book was the cheating. It’s the second CoHo book I’ve read that this happens in. I’m not sure what it says about CoHo, or if it just happens to be the two that I’ve read. I know it happens in real life too, but I hate how easily the characters rationalize it. I guess to me there isn’t much of a gray area when it comes to cheating. It obviously didn’t ruin CoHo for me, or my enjoyment of the book, but I just wish she’d think of other ways to get characters out of relationships. You know, like just breaking up. Do you guys get where I’m coming from?

Rachel: It’s times like this I begin to question my morals! I definitely get where you’re coming from, especially the whole breaking up with someone instead of cheating on them thing, BUT I’ve been cheated on and when I read CoHo’s books, I can still see how the cheating in these cases is far from black and white. Hoover always does this to me, there’s always at least one thing in her books that makes me… “uncomfortable”. It can verge on ugly, but it’s real, and I appreciate fiction that doesn’t shy away from ugly.

I find it so difficult to explain my stance on this – probably because it can be such a grey issue. Cheating is one of those topics that causes a divide among readers, and with CoHo I struggle to see it in terms of “wrong” or “right” because she’s so damn good at tapping into human emotion and presenting a scenario that makes you question your stance. I think she handles it really well.

Brandie:  This is what I love most about CoHo’s writing – the fact she makes you think. Her stories are always unique and she incorporates some sort of controversial issue, proving that everything isn’t always black and white. That is what I think makes a great author. She pushed a lot of buttons with this one – clever lady.

When it comes to the cheating,I totally get what you’re saying, but I agree with Rachel on this – CoHo portrayed it in a way that made it not feel like cheating. Could the characters have dealt with it differently?Probably. But in the situation Aubrey was in, most rational thought goes out the window. It’s unfortunate that both CoHo books you’ve read involve cheating, because she incorporates other major issues in her books too. They aren’t just fluffy feel-good reads. I expect a HEA from all of them, but it’s never an easy journey getting there. You should try Slammed or Hopeless.

Stefani: There were two parts in this book that made me want to stop reading, but then you have CoHo’s writing that is so freaking wonderful and feels-inducing that it’s SO hard not to keep reading. CoHo’s writing is just so gripping. I liked Confess, but I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone. Rating 3/5

Brandie: I enjoyed this book so much, and didn’t find much fault in it at all. I don’t usually focus on things that irk most people while I’m reading a book, it ruins the reading experience for me. As soon as I finished it, I knew the ‘insta-love’ would be a major issue in a lot of reviews, but it just didn’t bother me. Maybe because it was CoHo, but mostly because she made me believe it was real. Her writing does that for me, and that’s why I love her! Rating: 5/5

Rachel: CoHo’s writing just sucks me up and doesn’t let me go. For me, her writing is just so unique. I can only read so many contemporaries before I need a break because there can be a lot of common themes and tropes. But her storylines!! In Confess, we have the “good guy” and the “bad guy” but with a twist, the mysterious bad guy’s secrets being revealed, the poignancy of the artwork Aubrey owns, the heart-breaking history of her first love, the surprise revelations, and the history of how Owen first met her. Add to that the fact the confessions in the novel are real confessions from Hoover readers?! Where does she get her inspiration from?! I would say, “you just can’t make this shit up”, but clearly CoHo can! Rating: 4.5/5

Audiobook Review: I Don’t Know What You Know Me From by Judy Greer

I Don't Know What You Know Me FromAuthor: Judy Greer

Narrators: Judy Greer

Audiobook length:

Genre: Autobiography

Publisher: Doubleday (book); Random House Audio (audiobook)

Check out the synopsis on Goodreads.

So you might be looking at the cover of that book and asking yourselves why that person looks so familiar (which is the point behind the title of the book).

Like me, you might’ve first come across Judy as the mean-girl best friend in 13 Going on 30.

Judy Greer - 13 Going on 30

Or as the co-worker best friend in 27 Dresses.

Judy Greer - 27 Dresses

Or her one-episode guest role as the slutty Dr. Elizabeth Plimpton on The Big Bang Theory.

Judy Greer - The Big Bang Theory

Or the unstable office assistant in Arrested Development.

Judy Greer - Arrested Development

Or The Village. Or the voice of Cheryl in Archer. Or really, the tons of other co-star roles she’s been in since she started acting. She’s “Hollywood’s go-to best friend,” and because of that she’s relatable and easy to connect with. Her autobiography provides us with anecdotes about how much going to the Oscars can suck, especially when you don’t know anyone and you have to wear Spanx.

This book isn’t laugh out loud funny as the synopsis makes it out to be. It is, however, full of amusing (but not hilarious) essays on Greer’s life before Hollywood, her life as a co-star, and her life as a step-parent to Dean Johnson’s kids (it was amusing and also weird how she always first and last named him). It’s not a tell-all about the various actors and actresses she’s worked with. It doesn’t really go in depth about what it’s like working on movies. It’s probably not what you’d expect. But it isn’t necessarily bad either. There are really amusing bits – like the things she texts to her friends (probably the only laugh-out-loud moment in the book, but so funny my face hurt from laughing) or what she gets up to off-set on-location.

If you’re interested in what it’s like to be a co-star or the shenanigans you could get up as a step-parent (which are pretty funny), then check this book out.

Although, I will say that I DNF’ed this audiobook at about 85% (I know! I made it almost to the end). I just couldn’t keep going. I kept saying to myself, “Who cares?” – which is harsh, I know, but I just wasn’t invested enough to finish.

Review: Midnights by Rainbow Rowell (My True Love Gave to Me)

When I bought My True Love Gave to Me (edited by Stephanie Perkins and including short stories by wonderful authors like Rainbow Rowell, Holly Black, and Stephanie herself), I knew I wanted to read one of the twelve stories each day until Christmas. You know, have my own “twelve days of Christmas.” 🙂 Then I thought you guys might enjoy mini reviews of each of the stories, instead of one review of the whole book, which might exclude some of the stories. At least, I hope you’ll enjoy that. Because that’s what I’m going to do. That’s what I’m doing. Yeah… I hope you’ll stick around and read all twelve – one a day until Christmas.

My True Love Gave to Me     IMG_20141214_163141

The first story in My True Love Gave to Me is by Rainbow Rowell. It’s called “Midnights” and it documents several New Year’s Eves at “almost midnight” between Mags and Noel – from the beginning in 2014 when Mags is apparently hiding from Noel, back to when the met in 2011, and then through the New Year’s Eve parties for the next two years until we find ourselves back in 2014.

This story is very evidently by Rainbow Rowell. Okay, I’ve only read one book by her (Attachments, which I loved), but the writing was Rowell – hope that makes sense. She’s got wonderful descriptions that I just love, like this one:

He looked like his teeth were too wide for his mouth, and his mouth was too wide for his face. – page 4

Maybe it isn’t super beautiful or anything, but I can just picture Noel perfectly. In my opinion, that’s the mark of a great writer. The story is also funny in Rowell’s somewhat dry and not overly obvious way. An example:

Mags felt it when Noel walked in. (He came in through the back door, and a bunch of cold air came in with him.) – page 13

My only complaint with this story is that it was too short. Because of that, it felt rushed in parts and it was harder to see the growth that occurred in the characters. Mostly, I just really wanted this to be a much longer story – you know, a book. I could’ve read a lot more about these characters.

Check back tomorrow when I’ll be reviewing the second story in the book, Kelly Link’s “The Lady and the Fox.”

Audiobook Review: Doll Bones by Holly Black

I am reading several books for the Magnolia Book Awards. When I saw that Doll Bones was on the list, I volunteered to read it for my library as it’s been on my TBR for a while. I checked out the audiobook to listen to, and I am glad I did.Doll Bones

Author: Holly Black

Narrators: Nick Podehl

Audiobook length: 5 hours and 15 minutes

Genre: Middle grade, fantasy, adventure

Publisher: Listening Library (audiobook), Margaret K. McElderry Books (physical book)

When I’ve reviewed audiobooks in the past, I’ve kind of just done a general review, mixing both the story and the review of the narration into one review. I think I want to start breaking them down into Story and Audiobook as a way to better clarify my reviews and make them easier to read. How’s that sound to you guys?

STORY

Zach, Poppy, and Alice are best friends who’ve been playing a continuous game of adventure – with mermaids, pirates, and thieves – for a long time. Ruling over their land of make-believe is the Great Queen, a special, bone-china doll locked up in a cabinet and trapped there. When Zach’s there-again father pushed Zach to give up make-believe, Zach quits the game. But Poppy begins having dreams of a ghost girl who won’t rest until the Great Queen is laid to rest, the threesome must go off on an adventure to bury her. Is there really a ghost? Will she curse them if their quest isn’t completed? Bum. Bum. Bum.

This is a perfect coming-of-age story full of fun, adventure, spookiness, and a sense of is-this-real-or-not? Holly Black wonderfully captures that age just before adolescence that us adults tend to forget. Growing up tends to mean putting away our toys and entering a new and scary world of adulthood, and Holly Black is able to weave a story that brings you back to that age of first crushes, awkwardness, and confusion.

There’s also a ghost story here. I think it was just creepy enough, but not too creepy to scare young children into nightmares. The best part is that Black leaves it up to the reader to decide whether or not the story is real.

NARRATION

I’d heard Nick Podehl’s narration once before in the audiobook for Wonder. I enjoyed him then, but I really liked him in Doll Bones. He was able to use his obvious talent for creating voices and narrated the entire book himself. He perfectly captures the voices of Poppy, a somewhat sassy, confident young girl, Zach, a sad, strong, intelligent young boy, and Alice, a shy, reserved girl, as well as the variety of other cast members – including a creepy old man on a bus and a firm but kind librarian. Nick Podehl is very, very good, and I will look up some of his other narrated books to try.

OVERALL, I quite liked the audiobook for Doll Bones, and I will definitely be checking out some of Holly Black’s other books to read. Recommended for those who have middle-school aged children or for those who just enjoy a good ghost story.

ARC Review: Oh Yeah, Audrey! by Tucker Shaw

Oh Yeah, Audrey! by Tucker Shaw has a cute premise but the execution fails to impress.

Oh Yeah, Audrey!Author: Tucker Shaw

Genre: Young adult, contemporary

Publisher: Amulet Books

Publication Date: October 14, 2014

256 pages

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

Oh Yeah, Audrey! is about Gemma Beasley, a 16-year-old obsessed with Audrey Hepburn and her character in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Holly Golightly. Gemma and her two internet best friends, Brian and Trina, started the Tumblr blog of the same name as the book, and they have planned to meet up for the first time in NYC for a special showing of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. But after meeting up with everyone, she’s swept off her feet by a cute boy with a lot of money.

This book is a ridiculously fast read; I read it in just a few hours. It was okay, but I wouldn’t say it was great…maybe not even good. It felt really unrealistic: everything in the book was constructed to move the story, and the characters, along to teach them something about themselves and life. The decisions that Gemma made were because the author wrote her making the decisions; Gemma herself didn’t make them. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but when I read a book, I want it to seem like the character is doing the things. I don’t want to be pushed out of the story because it is so obvious it’s a work of fiction.

As for the writing: the descriptions felt really superficial and the character had no real depth to them. On the other hand, there were some good descriptions though:

“She doesn’t hold back her opinion. Like two opposite people in one. But I like them both and, besides, who isn’t at least two opposite people in one? Sometimes I feel like four or five people during the course of the day.” *

But then there were some bad descriptions too. I was surprised to find out that this was not a debut novel.

Gemma comes across as seriously immature, which I’m not sure was the point or not. The end of the novel does have more of a quiet emotional moment that did help the novel in my opinion. I wish that more of the novel were like that. Gemma has recently lost her mother, but this doesn’t really resonate in the book. Rather, Gemma (or the author) brings it up when she wants sympathy.

The bottom line: This was a really cute idea that just fell a little flat for me in its execution. I think bigger fans of Breakfast at Tiffany’s (not saying I’m not a fan; just saying super fangirls like Gemma) will enjoy the correlation to the movie and references to Audrey Hepburn. Not a memorable book for me.

Rating: 5 – take it or leave it

*Quotes taken from an advance copy of the book. Note that they might change in the final edition.

Book Review: Love Letters to the Dead

Love Letters to the Dead

 

Title: Love Letters to the Dead

Author: Ava Dellaira

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux

Publication Date: April 2014

Hardback: 323 pages

Stand alone or series: Stand alone

How did I get this book: Bought

 

 

I would like to start by saying that The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of my absolute favorite books, and Love Letters to the Dead has been highly recommended by the author of Perks, Stephen Chbosky, on Twitter, Goodreads, blurbs on the cover, and several other outlets. This was how I originally heard about Love Letters to the Dead, and it gave me pretty high expectations. I wasn’t disappointed.

Let’s start with a brief synopsis:

Love Letters to the Dead begins with “Dear Kurt Cobain.” Laurel’s first assignment in her freshman English class is to write a letter to a dead person. She chooses Kurt Cobain because her older sister May loved him. But there’s another reason: May died young just like Kurt. Laurel doesn’t just stop at one letter though; she keeps writing letters to other people who have died, like Janis Joplin, Amelia Earhart, and Amy Winehouse. She writes to them about starting high school, being alone, making new friends and falling in love. Her letters detail what it is like to live with her broken family after the death of her sister. And eventually she writes about what happened to her before May died and why she cannot accept May’s death. She’s stuck, and through her letters she discovers who she is, who May was, and where she’s going in life.

What I thought:

Oh, man. This book is so powerful. There were several times that I just had to put the book down and breathe. Dellaira’s prose is beautiful, lyrical almost in the way she writes about Laurel and what’s she’s dealing with. The novel begins several months after the death of Laurel’s sister May, and Laurel has just started high school. She switches between a week at her father’s, where it is too quiet and sad, and her Aunt Amy’s, where she feels suffocated. Her mother left her to move to California after May died. Laurel is lost; she doesn’t know who she is or who she wants to be. The letters follow her as she begins to make friends at school: Natalie and Hannah, two girls who are trying to hide their true selves from the world, Tristan and Kristen, a free spirited couple dealing with what comes next after graduation, and Sky, the boy who will change, support, and love Laurel for who she is, if she could ever figure that out.

Not only does Laurel detail her own life, but she also writes about the lives that these deceased celebrities lead. She pays tribute to them in a way, because she doesn’t relate to them for their fame but rather for who they were as people and for the art they gave us. She talks about how Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse were able to use their voices to express how they truly felt and how we are able to relate to it because of that. Laurel tells us about what these people went through, why they died, or at least why she thinks they did, and how they suffered. She relates most of it back to herself in these letters. I really enjoyed these parts because I was able to learn so much more about these incredible people, and I can now relate to them on a completely different level, not just through their music, movies, or feats.

And finally she tells us what she went through, the abuse she suffered at the hands of someone that May trusted to take care of her. I think that the reader will probably be able to tell long before it is actually detailed that something like this happened to either her or May, but it was still a shock when you read it and could see how Laurel felt, the shame, the guilt, the uncertainty and confusion. And how she was unable to tell May because she was both angry at May and afraid. I think, however, that this is one of the only things I didn’t like about this book: Laurel repeats several times in her letters that she has a secret that she cannot tell anyone. While I understand that she felt that way, once I got that she had a secret to tell, every time she said it, I was just like Yeah, I know! But I think I can deal with the few repetitions for the beauty of the rest of the book.

After May’s death, Laurel deals with the guilt she feels, as if she was the one who killed her. Through Dellaira’s writing, we feel what Laurel feels, we deal with the guilt, too. It’s intense, horrific, and heartbreaking. This is one of Dellaira’s bestselling points: her portrayal of Laurel’s emotions. Sometimes it was like Dellaira just took as many emotions as she could and smashed them all together on a single page. But you know what? That’s what life is like, especially for someone dealing with the grief that Laurel is. Sometimes Laurel seems unpredictable in her emotions; one minute she is happy and falling in love and the next, she is grumpy, quiet, crying. I don’t think she could have more accurately captured the life of an adolescent. I also think she captured the emotions and unpredictability of someone dealing with depression. I’ve seen some reviewers say that the book seems as if it was written by someone who is analyzing Laurel’s emotions and not actually someone this young. I think these people have forgotten what it was like to be this age.

More than once I had to reread a few sentences or one of the letters because I just couldn’t believe how true it was or how much I could relate to it or just how beautifully written it was. Dellaira has written a book that pulls on your heartstrings and that rings completely true and sincere. I am so happy and sad to have read this book, and I hope that makes sense.

The bottom line:

Read it. I loved it. When I was just about to read the last letter, I put it down and sighed, pretty hard, I guess, and my mom said, “What’s wrong?” I just said, “I don’t want to finish it.” It was true; I didn’t. Not because it wasn’t good, but because then it would be over.

If you’re a fan of Perks, I think you’ll be a fan of Love Letters to the Dead.

One of my favorite quotes:

The house felt haunted, like only I understood the way all of our shadows, the ones we’d left, had seeped into the wood and stained it.” – Page 90

Rating: 9 – Practically Perfect

You can read and download the first four letters HERE

Learn more about Dellaira and her book on her website

 

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