Picture drawn by Maggie Stiefvater, 2009. Header made by S.F. Robertson, 2010.
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Friday, May 1, 2015

The Thing I Didn't Know I Didn't Know by Brent Hartinger

The Thing I Didn't Know I Didn't Know by Brent Hartinger
"Russel Middlebrook is twenty-three years old, gay, and living in trendy Seattle, but life isn't keeping up with the hype. Most of his friends have a direction in life—either ruthlessly pursuing their careers or passionately embracing their own aimlessness. But Russel is stuck in place. All he knows is that crappy jobs, horrible dates, and pointless hook-ups just aren't cutting it anymore.
What's the secret? What does everyone else know that he doesn't?

Enter Kevin, Russel's perfect high school boyfriend. Could rekindling an old flame be the thing Russel needs to get his life back on track? Or maybe the answer lies in a new friend, an eccentric screenwriter named Vernie Rose, who seems plenty wise. Or what the hell? Maybe Russel will find some answers by joining his best friend Gunnar's crazy search for the legendary Bigfoot!

One way or another, Russel is determined to learn the all-important secret to life, even if it's a thing he doesn't even know he doesn't know."- summary from Amazon

I am so happy that there are more Russel Middlebrook books being written. I love reading about my favorite characters growing up (see also Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot, coming in June!) and taking on new adventures. Russel is dealing with what every person just out of college is going through- having a crappy job, dealing with loser dates (or dates who seem really good at first, but turn out bad), and trying to use sex as an answer to your problems.

I love that Hartinger always includes some crazy outlandish side plot to move the action along and provide a parallel to what's going in Russel's life (as well as his friends). This book has the search for Bigfoot, which is masking a bigger issue in Gunnar's life. It always adds a fun layer to the more realistic problems that Russel and his two friends deal with, like polyamory, which is dealt with very delicately. Occasionally, the narrative can get a bit preachy on a few subjects, but Hartinger is still such a good writer (and the lectures/rants are still in Russel's voice) that I can usually overlook that sort of thing.

Overall, a fantastic fifth installment to this wonderful series and I'm eager to see where the story goes next, especially with that ending (but no spoilers!)!

FTC: Received e-galley from Netgalley. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Truth Commission by Susan Juby

The Truth Commission by Susan Juby
"Open secrets are the heart of gossip -- the obvious things that no one is brave or tactless enough to ask. Except for Normandy Pale and her friends. They are juniors at a high school for artistsl, and have no fear. They are the Truth Commission. Then, one of their truth targets says to Normandy: “If you want to know about the truth, you might want to look a little closer to home.”- summary from Amazon

Susan Juby's books are always a delight, and this one is no different. I love the idea of narrative nonfiction and Juby's created a fantastic character in Normandy and story in her life and situation. It's such a sharp, witty and poignant book, and the footnotes and illustrations included in the book really enhance the story; the footnotes in particular provide a lot of the humor, as footnotes tend to do (at least in the books I read). It's a quiet, slowly building book until the reveal at the end and the epilogue provides some good closure but keeps things realistic. Not everything is going to turn out neat and rosy.

Overall, another winning novel from Juby and I strongly urge you all to go out and buy this fantastic book! She's such a wonderful, interesting and different author, and I always love reading a new book from her.

Side note: Even though no one commented, in case anyone cares, my lie from last week was that I like roller coasters. I do not. I get nauseous on them.

FTC: Received hardcover from publisher. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Friday, April 24, 2015

When by Victoria Laurie

When by Victoria Laurie
"Maddie Fynn is a shy high school junior, cursed with an eerie intuitive ability: she sees a series of unique digits hovering above the foreheads of each person she encounters. Her earliest memories are marked by these numbers, but it takes her father's premature death for Maddie and her family to realize that these mysterious digits are actually deathdates, and just like birthdays, everyone has one.

Forced by her alcoholic mother to use her ability to make extra money, Maddie identifies the quickly approaching deathdate of one client's young son, but because her ability only allows her to see the when and not the how, she's unable to offer any more insight. When the boy goes missing on that exact date, law enforcement turns to Maddie.

Soon, Maddie is entangled in a homicide investigation, and more young people disappear and are later found murdered. A suspect for the investigation, a target for the murderer, and attracting the attentions of a mysterious young admirer who may be connected to it all, Maddie's whole existence is about to be turned upside down. Can she right things before it's too late?"- summary from Amazon

Laurie's debut YA (she's written numerous adult books) is a rollercoaster ride, slowly building up and up as the pages go on until you're rocketing through the last 100 pages to see how it will all end. It's a crazy, suspenseful, mysterious story with lots of twists and turns. Maddie is a complex character and I felt bad for her home life and everything she's had to deal with both before the book takes place and during the book.

The romance is a little bit love at first sight, at least from the guy's POV. Maddie's only seen him from afar and been obsessed with him, but it didn't really bother me. I think because I kind of hope for the same thing in my own life. I know a few guys that I think are attractive but I rarely talk to them and just wish they would notice me one day. It's a fantasy scenario, but one I'm all for. It's nice to see it at least happen in books. And as for the ending, it's pretty darn sweet, especially considering how crazy and suspenseful the book is.

Overall, it's a quick, fun read and I'm eager to see more from Laurie in the YA world.

FTC: Received e-galley from Netgalley. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Solitaire by Alice Oseman

Solitaire by Alice Oseman
"My name is Tori Spring. I like to sleep and I like to blog. Last year—before all that stuff with Charlie and before I had to face the harsh realities of exams and university applications and the fact that one day I really will have to start talking to people—I had friends. Things were very different, I guess, but that's all over now.

Now there's Solitaire. And Michael Holden. I don't know what Solitaire is trying to do, and I don't care about Michael Holden. I really don't."- summary from Amazon

This was a really interesting book. While there is a central mystery to the book, the majority of it is fairly quiet. It was a nice change of pace from all the action-packed fantasy and paranormal books I'd been reading lately. Tori is a fascinating character and the reader really gets to know her throughout the book. As a narrator, she's very closed off in the beginning, but as Solitaire takes over the school and Michael Holden takes her out of her comfort zone, she really starts to come out of her shell. The ending is extremely crazy and is fairly action-packed for a contemporary. It's something that the book was slowly building toward and keeping the reader captivated and intrigued. I also did enjoy the character of Charlie, her gay brother, who's different from most of the gay characters you seem to see in YA and his story was very interesting.

Oseman has written an original debut featuring some realistically written teen characters, and I am excited to see what she has in store for us next.

FTC: Received ARC from publisher. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profits go toward funding contests.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Blog Tour- The Truth Commission by Susan Juby

The Truth Commission by Susan Juby
"Open secrets are the heart of gossip -- the obvious things that no one is brave or tactless enough to ask. Except for Normandy Pale and her friends. They are juniors at a high school for artistsl, and have no fear. They are the Truth Commission. Then, one of their truth targets says to Normandy: “If you want to know about the truth, you might want to look a little closer to home.” This dryly funny, knife-sharp novel, written as "narrative nonfiction" by Normandy herself, features footnotes and illustrations."- summary from Amazon

As part of the Truth Commission blog tour, each participant is doing the Two Truths and a Lie game! Leave your guesses in the comments below and I'll reveal my Lie later this week when I post my review of The Truth Commission!

1) I have been at a signing where I met Sarah Dessen and stood in line with David Levithan and Melissa Walker.

2) I do not like bacon.

3) I love rollercoasters.


Good luck guessing!

And now, here's an interview with Susan:
1) How did you come up with the idea for The Truth Commission? Were you ever involved in a Truth Commission yourself?

I was working on another novel, and was brought up short when I realized that I was using big chunks of the personal story of someone close to me. I abandoned that book and began thinking about who owns true stories, and what that means for artists and writers and their friends and family members. That led naturally to The Truth Commission. I have not been involved in a formal truth commission or even an informal one. I do love to speculate about what may be going on behind the scenes in peoples’ lives. I like to say it’s because I’m a writer, but it’s also because I’m nosy. That said, I don’t want anyone poking into my business!


2) Two books are releasing this year from you- this and the sequel to Home to Woefield. Can you tell us about this other book?

Republic of Dirt is a follow-up to Home to Woefield as it’s known in the U.S. and The Woefield Poultry Collective as it’s known in Canada.

Republic takes place a couple of months after the first book ends. Our intrepid farmer, Prudence, an overly idealistic Brooklyn girl who has inherited a derelict plot of land named Woefield Farm, feels like she finally has things on track. Then she’s felled by a mysterious health condition.

Her motley crew of farm hands consisting of Earl, an elderly, reclusive bluegrass legend; Seth, an agoraphobic heavy-metal blogger in early recovery from alcoholism; and Sara, an 11-year-old girl with a flock of elite show poultry, struggle to keep things together without her.

Efforts are complicated by a renegade mule, attempts to turn a hideously ugly child’s playhouse into a high yield roadside farm stand, and an electrical station’s worth of crossed wires.

The book is told in four, first person voices and is basically about what happens when passions collide with pride and what it takes to save each other, our small part of the planet, and ourselves. I had a lot of fun writing the further adventures of Woefield Farm and its incompetent but endearing inhabitants.


3) What is your favorite Jelly Belly jelly bean flavor(s)? Or if you don't like those, do you have a favorite snack to have while writing, or as a reward for writing?

Excellent question! I’m not a Jelly Belly person. My vice is sour jujubes. And raspberry chocolate sticks. And Barbra’s Jalapeno Cheese Puffs. I should really cut back on my vices.


4) What are you currently reading, or are about to start? Any 2015 books you're excited about reading?

2015 is shaping up to be a terrific year for books. Books I’ve read and adored recently include The World Without Us by Robin Stevenson, Best Friends Through Eternity by Sylvia McNicoll, Mosquitoland by David Arnold and The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma. I’m excited to get my hands on All the Rage by Courtney Summers. And I’m extremely thrilled to be going on tour in May with Susin Nielsen, whose new book, We Are All Made of Molecules, is astonishingly touching and charming.


5) You teach creative writing at two different universities and also give workshops. What do you love about teaching, and is there a piece of advice you love to give to writers?

I now just teach at one school: Vancouver Island University. I’ve loved teaching since the first time I tried it when I was in grad school. I’m still surprised and quite thrilled to find myself a writer. Writing our stories is empowering. It’s also tough. Teaching writing involves conveying what I know about craft and giving writers the permission to go for it. Writing classes also help writers get connected. This can be a lonely business. We need all the community we can get. When a new writer finds her or his voice, it’s like magic.

My advice is to a) do whatever it takes to get the words down and b) push past your comfort zone. Don’t be polite in your creative writing! Surprise yourself and others.