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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Hot Off the Presses! New YA Releasing August 23-29

Hot Off the Presses -- brand new YA releases!

Welcome to Hot Off the Presses!  

Tuesday is book release day, so every Tuesday I tell you about all the great new YA books you can buy in the week to come.

Enter the August giveaway! Each month's winner can pick any book up to $15 on either Amazon (for US winner) or The Book Depository (for international winner.)

Hot Off the Presses aims to include every traditionally published YA book. Please let me know about books that came out this week that I might have missed! Some titles may have different release dates outside the US.

Click on the photos to get to each book's Goodreads page!

Which of these are you interested in? I was a little bit intrigued by Unscripted Joss Byrd, but the main character is only 12, so I'm taking a pass. I'm tempted by the weirdness of Spontaneous, but according to my Goodreads feed, it has an unlikeable main character and a bad romance. And 100 Days sounds good but really depressing - I'm kind of done with YA illness books. But if you think I should reconsider, let me know!

100 Days Eight Rivers of Shadow Ghostly Echoes Scavenger of Souls
100 Days by Nicole McInnes (FSG)
8 Rivers of Shadow (13 Days of Midnight #2) by Leo Hunt (Candlewick)
Ghostly Echoes (Jackaby #3) by William Ritter (Algonquin)
Scavenger of Souls (Survival Colony #2) by Joshua David Bellin (Margaret McElderry)

Spontaneous Thieving Weasels Under the Lights Unscripted Joss Byrd
Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer (Dutton)
Thieving Weasels by Billy Taylor (Dial)
Under the Lights (Field Party #2) by Abbi Glines (Simon Pulse)
Unscripted Joss Byrd by Lygia Day Penaflor (Roaring Brook)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Just Finished Reading: Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

Girl in Pieces
by Kathleen Glasgow
To be published on August 30, 2016
by Delacorte

Source: eARC for review from publisher

Synopsis from Goodreads: Charlotte Davis is in pieces. At seventeen she’s already lost more than most people lose in a lifetime. But she’s learned how to forget. The thick glass of a mason jar cuts deep, and the pain washes away the sorrow until there is nothing but calm. You don’t have to think about your father and the river. Your best friend, who is gone forever. Or your mother, who has nothing left to give you. Every new scar hardens Charlie’s heart just a little more, yet it still hurts so much. It hurts enough to not care anymore, which is sometimes what has to happen before you can find your way back from the edge.

My take: I'm not sure what's been going on with the synopses of the books I've read this week. This one (above) doesn't really say much for a book without significant spoilers.  So first off I'll say that this book could definitely be triggering for anyone with a history of self harm, addiction or abuse. Girl in Pieces is a story about a girl with a tough home life who self-harms and also ends up in a pretty bad situation.   She is admitted to a psychiatric hospital, but is discharged too soon due to her inability to pay, then travels cross-country to stay with a (possible) boyfriend and try to put together some sort of a life. But life is hard, strangers are both kind and unkind, and she has to learn even more tough lessons about who she can trust and how to choose a different path than the one that led her to the hospital.

First off: Girl in Pieces is dark, guys. Literally every character has some kind of addiction or crappy home life or sad past or self-destructive tendencies ... or all of the above. I wasn't sure I was going to make it through, but I'm glad I stuck it out.

The book begins in the hospital, but I was sort of surprised (perhaps because of the vague synopsis) that Charlie doesn't spend all that much time there.  I've always had a fascination for books set in psychiatric hospitals and rehabs, and thus I was a little disappointed (and worried for Charlie) when she gets unceremoniously discharged, but I also thought the parts of the book after the hospital were the strongest. While being in treatment must be hard, having to go out into the world and face all the old difficulties and temptations must be really tough. With no emotional or financial support from her family, Charlie has to find a job and a place to live. She falls into a relationship with a much older guy (a YA trope I'm not all that fond of) but I though the book handled it well.

I also thought Girl in Pieces was beautifully written and incredibly moving in parts. At the same time, it felt a little long to me. (I was reading an e-ARC and didn't know the exact page count until I looked it up, but yeah, 416 pages is long for a contemporary and at times I felt that things were going on too long.)

Definitely recommended for readers who like dark contemporary YA. The in and out of hospital structure and Southwestern setting reminded me a bit of The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork and the post-hospital parts reminded me of Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt.

If you've read this, let me know what you thought in comments, or let me know your thoughts on dark books. For some reason I find them easier to read in the summer...


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Hot Off the Presses! New YA Releasing August 16-22

Hot Off the Presses -- brand new YA releases!

Welcome to Hot Off the Presses!  

Tuesday is book release day, so every Tuesday I tell you about all the great new YA books you can buy in the week to come.

Enter the August giveaway! Each month's winner can pick any book up to $15 on either Amazon (for US winner) or The Book Depository (for international winner.)

Hot Off the Presses aims to include every traditionally published YA book. Please let me know about books that came out this week that I might have missed! Some titles may have different release dates outside the US.

Click on the photos to get to each book's Goodreads page!

Flame Never Dies Vicarious Edge of the Light
The Flame Never Dies (The Stars Never Rise #2) by Rachel Vincent (Delacorte)
Vicarious by Paula Stokes (Tor)
The Edge of the Light (Whidbey Island Sage #4) by Elizabeth George (Viking)

Poisoned Blade Cherry Almost King
Poisoned Blade (Court of Fives #2) by Kate Elliott (Little, Brown)
Cherry by Lindsey Rosin (Simon Pulse)
The Almost King (Take Back the Skies #2) by Lucy Saxon (Bloomsbury)

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Monday, August 15, 2016

Just Finished Reading: Enter Title Here

Enter Title Here
by Rahul Kanakia

Published by Disney-Hyperion
on August 2, 2016

Synopsis from Goodreads: Reshma is a college counselor’s dream. She’s the top-ranked senior at her ultra-competitive Silicon Valley high school, with a spotless academic record and a long roster of extracurriculars. But there are plenty of perfect students in the country, and if Reshma wants to get into Stanford, and into med school after that, she needs the hook to beat them all. What's a habitual over-achiever to do? Land herself a literary agent, of course. Which is exactly what Reshma does after agent Linda Montrose spots an article she wrote for Huffington Post. Linda wants to represent Reshma, and, with her new agent's help scoring a book deal, Reshma knows she’ll finally have the key to Stanford. But she’s convinced no one would want to read a novel about a study machine like her. To make herself a more relatable protagonist, she must start doing all the regular American girl stuff she normally ignores. For starters, she has to make a friend, then get a boyfriend. And she's already planned the perfect ending: after struggling for three hundred pages with her own perfectionism, Reshma will learn that meaningful relationships can be more important than success.
My take:  If you read the synopsis above, forget what you read. I don't think the synopsis does a good job of describing what this book is about, and makes it sound like a rehash of How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life (which turned out to be plagiarized.) Then again, Enter Title Here IS about a plagiarist, which makes it either super confusing or very meta. Or both.

Here's my summary of the book's plot. Reshma wants to get into Stanford but, despite what the synopsis says, she's far from perfect. Based on her academic record and Stanford's 95% rejection rate, she knows she has a very low chance of success. After publishing an article in HuffPo, Reshma is contacted by a literary agent and decides that writing a book will be what gets her into Stanford.
She fleetingly has this idea that she isn't interesting enough to write a book, and makes a vague plan to Get Wild and Get a Life, but she actually spends most of the book doing one of three things:

a) obsessing about her GPA and how she wants to be the school valedictorian
b) explaining how her parents are suing the school to make sure she is the valedictorian
c) arguing with her English teacher about a low grade on a poem she wrote

So ... yeah. Applying to college (and writing a book) aren't really things that will keep the average reader on the edge of her seat.

So here's my rundown of what I thought worked and what didn't.


-Reshma's voice. No, she isn't an admirable character, but many of us reader will recognize her right away. She's Tracy Flick, she's Blair Waldorf, she's Rachel Berry. (I kind of relate to characters like that, and I think they reveal a lot about how we view women and ambition.)

-- The writing. I had issues with the plotting, but I liked the writing a lot.

--The meta/humorous quality of the book was interesting, though I wasn't clear on how much of it was deliberate. Was this book a nod to Opal? Was this book supposed to be Reshma's book? Was this book supposed to be Dr. Wasserman's book (see below.)

Didn't work:

-- I wished Enter Title Here had a stronger plot structure. To me, it felt like a bunch of half-developed subplots -- the GPA war, the lawsuits, her date, the book. Hilariously, Reshma's therapist gives her a whole lecture on writing. He's going on about Internal Arcs and External Arcs and I'm thinking ... "paging Dr. Wasserman" because I thought this book needed Arcs in the worst way.

--To be fair, I don't think Enter Title Here was trying to be an issue book. It raises, but doesn't really delve into, the crazy blood sport of college admissions and the psychological damage it can wreak on kids. But I was a little bothered that it raised some problematic issues in a way that almost seemed to trivialize them. Kids do cheat to keep their GPAs high and jump in front of trains when they feel like failures in school. Parents do sue school districts over valedictorian status and sue colleges for discrimination in admissions.  Maybe Tracy Flick's machinations seemed funnier because back in 1998 the stakes were that much lower.

--I felt the book lacked a sense of purpose. It's not an issue book, it isn't dark enough to qualify as black comedy, and it isn't quite poignant enough to be a coming of age story in which the main character realizes something about herself or the world. For me, it kind of veered uneasily between all those things.

I will definitely try future books by this author, but the lack of plot and overall murkiness made Enter Title Here a frustrating read.

If, like me, you have a weird soft spot for Type A teen girl characters, and if, unlike me, you don't mind a book with not much of a plot, try this one out!


Friday, August 12, 2016

Freebie Friday: Georgia Peaches and Been Here All Along

Happy Friday!

Today Freebie Friday has an LGBTQ theme - these are two books I've just finished and reviewed (scroll down to read my thoughts) and the winner can choose either or both!

Happy weekend and happy reading!
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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Just Finished Reading: Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit

Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit
by Jaye Robin Brown

To be published on August 30, 2016
by Harper Teen

Synopsis from Goodreads: Joanna Gordon has been out and proud for years, but when her popular radio evangelist father remarries and decides to move all three of them from Atlanta to the more conservative Rome, Georgia, he asks Jo to do the impossible: to lie low for the rest of her senior year. And Jo reluctantly agrees. Although it is (mostly) much easier for Jo to fit in as a straight girl, things get complicated when she meets Mary Carlson, the oh-so-tempting sister of her new friend at school. But Jo couldn’t possibly think of breaking her promise to her dad. Even if she’s starting to fall for the girl. Even if there’s a chance Mary Carlson might be interested in her, too. Right?

My take: Confession: I put off reading this because I wasn't crazy about the title, but what a lovely surprise this book was! It's a heartwarming story of identity and faith.

Jo is already out as a lesbian to her conservative radio preacher father, but when he remarries and moves them to a small Southern town, he asks Jo a favor. It's her senior year, so could she just ... tone herself down until she heads off to college? Jo agrees (after making him give her a radio show of her own) and becomes Joanna. Then she gets herself a mall makeover and hides her sexuality from her new friends. Until she falls in love with a girl, and discovers that girl might just share her feelings.

Yes, there is some suspension of disbelief required here. In the age of social media, in order to hide her old identity, Jo (literally) has to create a new name for herself. There's a fairly implausible explanation of how her father changed his Italian surname for his career, so that all Jo's social media was under a different name.

But after that comes a really nuanced story about finding yourself, accepting yourself, and accepting the fact that not everyone will agree with your life choices, whether that means being religious or gay ... or both. There's also a lovely stepmother/stepdaughter relationship. At first, Jo calls her new stepmom "Three" to distinguish her from Jo's biological mom (who died) and her first stepmother (who abandoned them). But slowly, the two form a bond that was really nice to see.

I wish Jo's radio show had been a bigger part of the book. It seemed to me that it was mostly used as a plot device at the end. I was thinking she could have formed a third alter ego and talked more on the air about some of her struggles.

Highly recommended for Miranda Kenneally fans - both authors do a great job exploring how religious faith doesn't have to equal narrowmindedness, and how differences of opinion don't have to lead to hate and contempt.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Just Finished Reading: Been Here All Along

Been Here All Along
by Sandy Hall

To be published by Swoon Books
on August 30, 2016

Source: ARC for review from publisher

Synopsis from Goodreads: Gideon always has a plan. His plans include running for class president, becoming head of the yearbook committee, and having his choice of colleges. They do NOT include falling head over heels for his best friend and next door neighbor, Kyle. It’s a distraction. It’s pointless, as Kyle is already dating the gorgeous and popular head cheerleader, Ruby. And Gideon doesn’t know what to do. Kyle finally feels like he has a handle on life. He has a wonderful girlfriend, a best friend willing to debate the finer points of Lord of the Rings, and social acceptance as captain of the basketball team. Then, both Ruby and Gideon start acting really weird, just as his spot on the team is threatened, and Kyle can’t quite figure out what he did wrong… 

My take: This was my first Swoon Reads book, and overall I thought it was cute. It's the story of a bunch of people realizing different things about themselves, but mostly a story about two guy best friends who (slowly) realize that they're in love. Gideon and Kyle put the Q in LGBTQ and I think that's a great thing in a YA book with teen characters who are just figuring stuff out. Gideon and Kyle were very sweet together and I was rooting for them.

However, I had some minor issues with the writing style and narrative choices. First off, I'm skeptical of the need for too many first person POVs, especially in a story that's primarily romance.  I think Kyle's girlfriend's POV and Gideon's brother's POV just cluttered up the story and kept us from our happy couple. Plus, Ruby (understandably) came off a little bitter about being ditched. I think these two could have been given their own story in a spin-off book.

In addition, there was something about the story that seemed a little too simple. The blurb talks all about Gideon's goals, but those aren't a big part of the story. Everyone was going through stuff, but everyone was also super-supportive of one another, which seemed a little too good to be true. But that could just be me - if you like your stories on the sweeter side, you won't mind. And those critiques aside, this is a quick, cute read for those in the mood for a sweet LGBTQ romance.

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