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Monday, May 22, 2017

Just Finished Reading: Words in Deep Blue

Words in Deep Blue
by Cath Crowley

To be published on June 6, 2017
by Knopf

Source: eARC for review from publisher
Synopsis from Goodreads: Years ago, Rachel had a crush on Henry Jones. The day before she moved away, she tucked a love letter into his favorite book in his family’s bookshop. She waited. But Henry never came.  Now Rachel has returned to the city—and to the bookshop—to work alongside the boy she’d rather not see, if at all possible, for the rest of her life. But Rachel needs the distraction. Her brother drowned months ago, and she can’t feel anything anymore. As Henry and Rachel work side by side—surrounded by books, watching love stories unfold, exchanging letters between the pages—they find hope in each other. Because life may be uncontrollable, even unbearable sometimes. But it’s possible that words, and love, and second chances are enough.
My take: Words in Deep Blue was an amazing book. I've been a huge Cath Crowley fan since Graffiti Moon. I love the realistic way she writes characters and relationships. I love the beauty she weaves into her books, whether that beauty is street graffiti or a shelf of books or the darkest depths of the ocean.

This isn't a sunbeams-and-rainbows kind of book, but I did find it poignant and hopeful. It's a grief book and a second-chance-at-love book. It weaves all sorts of themes and subplots together in a seamless way -- family relationships, first love, grief and heartbreak, letters, books and reading.

There is a secret-keeping aspect of the book, and that is never my favorite trope. It didn't bother me as much as it has in other books, though I still wished the character had opened up sooner. And there's a sort-of triangle-y situation, but strangely it actually didn't feel that triangle-y to me. I think that's because Cath Crowley sprinkles magic in her pages!

Fun fact: Crowley's publisher has created a Virtual Letter Library on tumblr that was inspired by this book, so be sure to check it out!

If you haven't read a book by this author, you're seriously missing out! Try this, or try Graffiti Moon. I'm reading A Little Wanting Song soon - it's been stacked under my nightstand for ages!

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Freebie Friday: The Fashion Committee

Happy Friday!

Today I'm giving away a finished copy of The Fashion Committee!  (I'll be on the blog tour later this month with another giveaway and a fashion quiz!)

Since this is a hardcover, the giveaway is US only.

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

#ReadaDessen What Happened to Goodbye

What Happened to Goodbye?
by Sarah Dessen

Published on May 11, 2011
by Viking

Source: library

Synopsis from Goodreads: Since her parents' bitter divorce, McLean and her dad, a restaurant consultant, have been on the move - four towns in two years. Estranged from her mother and her mother's new family, McLean has followed her dad in leaving the unhappy past behind. And each new place gives her a chance to try out a new persona: from cheerleader to drama diva. But now, for the first time, McLean discovers a desire to stay in one place and just be herself, whoever that is. Perhaps Dave, the guy next door, can help her find out. 
My take: I started blogging the fall this book came out, and am pretty sure I read it that year. To be honest, this wasn't one of my favorite Dessen books. My re-read made me appreciate it a little more, but I still feel like it's a bit flatter and less compelling than some of her other books.

Mclean is a child of divorce. I've never experienced divorce personally, so I'm not an expert, but I thought this book did present a good picture of what it's like to grow up in a family where you have to take sides. Mclean lives with her father, a former chef and now a restaurant consultant who moves around a lot, improving one restaurant at a time. As a result, Mclean doesn't make lasting friends, and has even created a temporary, disposable persona for each new school. But for some reason, she isn't able to do that in Colby. She gets attached to the town, her school, her new friends, and the boy next door.

Dessen books are heavily thematic, something I usually like, but the themes in this felt a little strained to me. There's the (obvious) parallel between Mclean's father's work in making over restaurants and Mclean's making over herself. But then there's an odd subplot about a miniature model of Colby that has to be assembled above the restaurant. There's also a sports theme, as Mclean is named after a legendary local basketball coach, a man who was replaced after retirement by Mclean's stepfather. Maybe there's some connection there I'm missing? Teamwork?

I did like the great crossover appearances in this book. My favorite -- and I only caught this because of my complete Dessen re-read -- was the appearance of Macy's brainiac boyfriend Jason in this book as a minor character. In The Truth About Forever, Jason is an overachieving high school student, while by this book, he's dropped out of Harvard and is working as a prep cook at the restaurant that Mclean's father is remaking. Auden's stepmother Heidi also makes a brief appearance as a friend of Mclean's mom.

This post is not officially part of #ReadaDessen, but be sure to enter to win the Penguin contest for a full set of Dessen books here!

The last Dessen that I'm covering as part of this series is The Moon and Morewhich I reviewed a couple years ago. You can read my review here!, which I reviewed a couple years ago. You can read my review here!

Hope you've enjoyed this Dessen-tastic journey with me!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

#ReadaDessen Along for the Ride

Along for the Ride
by Sarah Dessen

Originally published on June 16, 2009
by Viking

Source: library

Synopsis from Goodreads: It’s been so long since Auden slept at night. Ever since her parents’ divorce—or since the fighting started. Now she has the chance to spend a carefree summer with her dad and his new family in the charming beach town where they live. A job in a clothes boutique introduces Auden to the world of girls: their talk, their friendship, their crushes. She missed out on all that, too busy being the perfect daughter to her demanding mother. Then she meets Eli, an intriguing loner and a fellow insomniac who becomes her guide to the nocturnal world of the town. Together they embark on parallel quests: for Auden, to experience the carefree teenage life she’s been denied; for Eli, to come to terms with the guilt he feels for the death of a friend.
My take: Yay, we are back in Colby again. This is Dessen's second book set there, and I was glad to be back. Along for the Ride has some new themes and re-visits some old ones. Narrator Auden is an older sister for a change, as her dad and his new wife have just had a baby. When Auden is invited by them to spend the last summer before college at the beach, she decides to leave her somewhat overbearing mother and try something new.

Other themes of the book are that people are sometimes different from the way we hastily judge them, and that everyone deserves a second chance. Auden's very disappointed that her perpetually distracted and often narcissistic father is the same kind of father to baby Thisbe that he was to her. And, after a hookup with a guy she's just met on the beach, she finds herself harshly received by the local Colby girls. Plagued by insomnia, Auden begins to wander the town at night, where she meets Eli, a fellow insomniac (and -- awkward! -- the brother of her hookup.)

More crossover appearances: a visit from Isabel and Morgan from Keeping the Moon, a brief mention of Nate Cross from Lock and Key, and -- I never would have caught this if I hadn't read all these back-to-back -- a snort-inducing cameo by Jason, Macy's ex-boyfriend from The Truth About Forever. Talk about narcissists!

This book had a leisurely pace that perhaps befit a sojourn at the beach, but overall I enjoyed my second trip to Colby!

This post is not officially part of #ReadaDessen, but be sure to enter to win the Penguin contest for a full set of Dessen books here!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Hot Off the Presses: New YA Releasing May 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 May 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.

Flame in the Mist Crown's Fate Names They Gave Us Best Kind of Magic
The Flame and the Mist by Renee Ahdieh (Putnam)
The Crown's Fate (The Crown's Game #2) by Evelyn Skye (Balzer + Bray)
The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord (Bloomsbury)
The Best Kind of Magic by Crystal Cestari (Disney)

#Antisocial Love Interest Violet Grenade
Antisocial by Jillian Blake (Delacorte)
The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich (Fewer and Friends)
Violet Grenade by Victoria Scott (Entangled)

Thick as Thieves Grit Grace and the Fever
Thick as Thieves (The Queen's Thief #5) by Megan Whelan Turner (Greenwillow)
Grit by Gillian French (Harper)
Grace and the Fever by Zan Romanoff (Knopf)

Riptide Summer Crying Rocks Seeking Mansfield
Riptide Summer (Honey Girl #2) by Lisa Freeman (Sky Pony)
The Crying Rocks by Janet Taylor Lisle (Atheneum)
Seeking Mansfield by Kate Watson (Flux)

Truth About Happily Ever After Seeker Rough Patch
The Truth About Happily Ever After by Karole Cozzo (Swoon)
Seeker (Riders #2) by Veronica Rossi (Tor)
Rough Patch by Nicole Markotic (Arsenal Pulp)

A Million Junes My Fairy Godmother is a Drag Queen No Second Chances
A Million Junes by Emily Henry (Razorbill)
My Fairy Godmother is a Drag Queen by David Clawson (Sky Pony)
No Second Chances by Kate Evangelista (Swoon)

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Just Finished Reading: Antisocial

by Jillian Blake

To be published on May 16, 2017
by Delacorte

Source: eARC for review from publisher

Synopsis from Goodreads: Senior spring at Alexandria Prep was supposed to be for sleeping through class and partying with friends. But for Anna Soler, it’s going to be a lonely road. She’s just been dumped by her gorgeous basketball star boyfriend—with no explanation. Anna’s closest friends, the real ones she abandoned while dating him, are ignoring her. The endearing boy she’s always had a complicated friendship with is almost too sympathetic. But suddenly Anna isn’t the only one whose life has been upended. Someone is determined to knock the kings and queens of the school off their thrones: one by one, their phones get hacked and their personal messages and photos are leaked. At first it’s funny—people love watching the dirty private lives of those they envy become all too public. Then the hacks escalate. Dark secrets are exposed, and lives are shattered. Chaos erupts at school. As Anna tries to save those she cares about most and to protect her own secrets, she begins to understand the reality of our always-connected lives: sometimes we share too much.
My take:  This is a book about students at a tony private high school being terrorized by a teenage hacktivist who has infiltrated their phones and is spilling all their darkest secrets. (Hello, Pretty Little Liars!) The book's protagonist, Anna, also suffers from social anxiety. I thought it was interesting that the story was told through that lens -- from the point of view of someone to whom social interaction in general and social media in particular feels fraught with peril. The depiction of social anxiety in the story felt a bit uneven. Yes, Anna was seeing a therapist and taking medication, but at times her anxiety felt more like a convenient plot device meant to up the stakes.

I also felt that at times the book relied on stale stereotypes of high school life. The way Anna describes all the groups in her school feels ripped from Clueless circa 1995: jocks, cheerleaders, drama kids, student council, techies, etc. There's also an inherent pitfall in using texting slang -- or any kind of slang -- which is that even before the book is published, the words feel out of date.

As the story opens, Anna has crossed social lines by dating a basketball player. The two have already broken up, but she's not completely over him. Then she secretly hooks up with a friend of hers, an event that gave the book a slightly triangle-y feel. Yes, she and the new guy have a lot in common, but she also worries that he's a rebound fling.

When the book finally got going, it got much more interesting. As mentioned above, someone starts hacking the students' phones and spilling their darkest secrets. This causes Anna's social anxiety to ratchet up at a time when her romantic life is complicated. She has two best friends and the hacking also puts a huge strain on their relationship.

In the end, this was a fun page-turner -- give it a try if you are a PLL fan!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Freebie Friday: Happy May!

Happy Friday!

Today I'm giving away an ARC of a much-anticipated YA. Not sure if it's appropriate or awkward that I'm giving this away over Mother's Day weekend, but Happy Mother's Day anyway to all the moms out there :)

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