Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

The Smell Of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock (review) // Alaska + diversity + family, friendship, love

19370304In Alaska, 1970, being a teenager here isn’t like being a teenager anywhere else. Ruth has a secret that she can’t hide forever. Dora wonders if she can ever truly escape where she comes from, even when good luck strikes. Alyce is trying to reconcile her desire to dance, with the life she’s always known on her family’s fishing boat. Hank and his brothers decide it’s safer to run away than to stay home—until one of them ends up in terrible danger.

Four very different lives are about to become entangled.

The Smell Of Other People’s Houses follows a formula that many authors don’t particularly explore. It’s set in an unconventional setting, Alaska, and follows the perspectives of four different teenagers living across the state. Their individual stories coincide in interesting ways, and each character goes through experiences involving the craziness of family, friendship, and love.

I have to say, for a debut author, Hitchcock has an amazing way with words. I adored the writing in this book, there were lyrical and descriptive statements and mostly blunt ones, but both types contained an immeasurable amount of honesty and emotion. It wasn’t unnecessarily heavy, Hitchcock expressed the overwhelming emotions running through most of the characters in a very raw way. This definitely helps when it comes to expressing the numerous themes of love, acceptance, friendship, and family running through this book.

I’ve never read a book set in Alaska, and while I do like the unconventionality of this setting, I wish the atmosphere was a bit more … conveyed. There were several descriptions of the several fishing trips the characters took and progressing seasons definitely contributed, but I never really experienced the 70’s vibe the same way I experienced the 60’s in All The Crooked Saints. I really hate to compare it to Maggie Stiefvater’s work, but the premise of this book really gave me the same vibe.

I really liked the foundations of each of the characters. Ruth, Dora, Alyce, and Hank all dealt with ordinary and not-so-ordinary family issues and inner conflicts in different ways, and I liked how each of their personalities shines through easily through their narrations. However, it wasn’t enough to make me fully invested in these characters and their entanglements. I suppose the biggest reason for that has nothing to do with the characters themselves, but the fact that the book is simply too short. I love short books (All The Crooked Saints, anyone?) but I feel like The Smell Of Other People’s Houses and its length is a hindrance to the layered foundations created for the characters.

The Smell Of Other People’s House is a very ‘meh’ book in a few aspects but I love that it attempts to do something different in the midst of angsty contemporaries marked by romance. I’d say to read it for the gorgeous writing itself.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Thanks for viewing, guys! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below! 🙂

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Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

They Both Die At The End by Adam Silvera (review)

33385229Adam Silvera reminds us that there’s no life without death and no love without loss in this devastating yet uplifting story about two people whose lives change over the course of one unforgettable day.

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today.

Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure—to live a lifetime in a single day.

Adam Silvera is one of those talented authors that doesn’t need to do much to create a lasting, emotional impact that leaves you feeling hollow and sad yet strangely happy at the same time. His previous two novels, More Happy Than Not and History Is All You Left Me, carried grand emotional themes that were overwhelming yet perfectly contained at the same time, and that aspect is what I specifically looked for in They Both Die At The End, among other elements that Silvera excels at. I think my rating speaks for itself: I didn’t get it. Ha!

This story is essentially set in an alternate world where a company named Death-Cast lets people know when they will die, on the day that they will die. Those who are experiencing their Last Day, called Deckers, are allowed to live to the fullest through several technological services available. Last Friend, an app that connects Deckers who are looking for a friend to spend their last day with, is how Rufus and Mateo come together. It’s a pretty fascinating concept, but hardly fleshed out at the same time. The atmosphere of this world did not feel as concrete or palpable as Silvera’s previous novels, and while it’s primarily a contemporary and not a sci-fi novel, some world-building could have helped enhance the characters, themes, and writing, which definitely needed some enhancing.

I appreciate the crazy amount of diversity between Rufus and Mateo, but they still fell incredibly flat to me, which is something I’m not used to at all, because hello! We are talking about Adam Silvera here, right? Unfortunately, Rufus and Mateo had extensive but ordinarily tragic backstories that failed to conjure any emotion in me other than disinterest. I couldn’t hold any interest in their personalities, and the realization of their feelings for each other was written so abruptly even when I knew it was going to happen all along. I suppose ‘falling in love in one day’ stories are simply not for me (I’ve disliked nearly every romance that took place like that besides a select few), but if any author was going to make them work for me, I would bet on Adam freaking Silvera. *sighs* Life is full of disappointments indeed.

The worst part is the fact that I could have gotten past all the disappointments, or least have finished the book in less time, if it was the tiniest bit engaging. For the most part, the only feeling I felt toward the plot was one of extreme boredom, because my god, it dragged. Dragged me straight to hell with Rufus and Mateo’s monotone adventures and musings and unneeded subplots. The writing concentrated way too much on forcing the emotional impact instead of letting it come naturally, which is something that Silvera doesn’t even need to do! His previous books weren’t so unsubtle in the delivery of their messages, and I don’t know what happened with this one.

On a more positive note (take the word ‘positive’ lightly), I really liked the inclusion of various POVs from several minor characters. These characters are all connected in some way to Rufus and Mateo, but we are also allowed to see how they cope with their Last Days or the lives they are living in this crazy alternate world. All of their backgrounds are different, and it’s interesting to explore how they are involved in this mess. It really extenuated the theme of living a lifetime in a day much more subtly and less cliched than Rufus and Mateo’s story had.

I will admit the ending was definitely very powerful, but the emotional impact (or lack thereof, rather) the rest of the book carried was not enough to impress me. Really upsetting, considering my love for Silvera’s other two contemporaries, but I haven’t lost hope.

Rating: 2.5 stars

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

The Careful Undressing of Love by Corey Ann Haydu (review)

30201161Everyone who really knows Brooklyn knows Devonairre Street girls are different. They’re the ones you shouldn’t fall in love with. The ones with the curse. The ones who can get you killed.

Lorna Ryder is a Devonairre Street girl, and for years, paying lip service to the curse has been the small price of living in a neighborhood full of memories of her father, one of the thousands killed five years earlier in the 2001 Times Square Bombing. Then her best friend’s boyfriend is killed, and suddenly a city paralyzed by dread of another terrorist attack is obsessed with Devonairre Street and the price of falling in love.

Set in an America where recent history has followed a different path.

The Careful Undressing Of Love is one strange, strange book. I’m actually not well acquainted with the magical realism genre, but my curiosity in it has definitely increased after finishing this bizarre yet beautiful story. Interestingly, the book is not plot-lead (some might even say there is no plot, ha) or character-lead, but the themes of first love, freedom, and finding one’s identity carry the book into something that leaves a strong impression.

To start off, I have to say that I adore this book’s aesthetic. I’m huge on stories that can convey an atmosphere simply through great writing, and the whimsical, magical, and strange vibe of Devonairre Street was nearly palpable. The writing was gorgeous without trying too hard, especially when describing Lorna’s grief, confusion, and anger. Trudging through the book may take some effort, because it is easy to notice that the plot is quite thin, and often, missing. I finished the book in one day, mainly because it was short and I didn’t have anything else to do (winter break whoop whoop! let the boredom fun begin!!), but also because the writing was so well-done.

As stated in summary, this story is set in an alternate version of our world, in which sadness and mourning and moments of silence are all part of the peoples’ daily thoughts and routines. A bombing in Times Square claims the lives of thousands, including Lorna’s father, and the stories and names of those affected are memorized so they are never forgotten. Haydu raises some interesting points while using the both the intricacies and chaos of this altered world marked by tragedy. Society’s tendency to unknowingly ostracize those who are different, as well as the way we all limit ourselves to perceiving others one-dimensionally are explored through how the Devonairre Street girls are treated because of the superstition surrounding them. I love how human nature is assessed in this book while incorporating the many themes encompassing love and growing up.

Like I said, the themes carry more importance than the characters in this book, but the characters are indeed written well enough to leave a solid impression. Lorna, Delilah, Charlotte, Cruz, and Isla are all fully developed personalities, and it’s intriguing, heartbreaking, and straight-up anxiety-inducing to see how they individually deal with all the tragedies happening around them, as well as being subject to the limitations and expectations set by the Curse. Lorna deals with the prospect of defining what love actually is, and struggles to find herself in the midst of the hysteria and superstition. I certainly enjoyed reading about her struggle, and I loved it for making me uncomfortable at times because it fully peeled back the layers of what makes us human in such a poignant manner. A literal undressing of love.

I would definitely recommend The Careful Undressing Of Love to those already a fan of the magical realism genre, and to those that are new to it, don’t be afraid to jump in and give it a try. It might weird you out a bit, but it’s definitely worth it.

Rating: 4 stars

 

What are your thoughts on this book if you’ve read it before? Thoughts on magical realism? Let me know in the comments 🙂

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

Seven Days Of You by Cecilia Vinesse (review)

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2.25 stars

Sophia has seven days left in Tokyo before she moves back to the States. Seven days to say good-bye to the electric city, her wild best friend, and the boy she’s harbored a semi-secret crush on for years. Seven perfect days…until Jamie Foster-Collins moves back to Japan and ruins everything.

Jamie and Sophia have a history of heartbreak, and the last thing Sophia wants is for him to steal her leaving thunder with his stupid arriving thunder. Yet as the week counts down, the relationships she thought were stable begin to explode around her. And Jamie is the one who helps her pick up the pieces. Sophia is forced to admit she may have misjudged Jamie, but can their seven short days of Tokyo adventures end in anything but good-bye?

The first thought that came to mind when reading the premise of Seven Days Of You was its similarity to Anna And The French Kiss: both take place in a foreign country, explores the dynamics of a group of friends attending an international school, and of course, the main character falls in love with a shit load of drama ensuing. And while each book has its pros and cons, its similarities and differences, I have to say Anna And The French Kiss was infinitely better while Seven Days Of You was infinitely worse. Care to stick around to find out why?

This story is set in Tokyo, Japan — and the author makes it clear the minute we scan our eyes over the page. The book is brimming with descriptions of neon lights, Japanese cuisine, and the hints of culture Sophia sees every day. I could definitely feel the colorfulness pop off the page immediately, but my interest died down quickly because of how hard it tried. The sprinkling of Japanese words here and there and the repetitive descriptions of Tokyo night life showed me nothing about the vibrancy of the setting, it was prime example of telling, not showing. Unfortunately, the pacing and plot didn’t do wonders for me either. The story takes place in the span of 7 days, and while I liked running motif of the countdown to when Sophia leaves for New Jersey on the top of each chapter, the pacing of the characters’ interactions and dynamics felt altogether rushed and unrealistic. It is difficult to tell a story that takes place over a week, but the romance and character development felt too dramatic and simply did not give me a sense of understanding and feeling for whatever Sophia was going through.

I can say with the utmost certainty that the characters were the worst part of this book, which does not bode well for a character-based reader like me. I can deal with an annoying, flawed cast, but these characters were simply created to start drama, angst, and be immature for the sake of being immature. Sophia was incredibly flawed and had inner conflicts, but her narration was one of a 7 year old. Her childishness, selfishness, and overall naivete made it so difficult to take her seriously. She actually reminded me of Isla from Isla And The Happily Ever After but far more annoying because everyone seemed to pine after her anyway, even when she made the stupidest, more illogical decisions.

Damn, if you thought Sophia was irritating, you’ve got a whole storm coming with the side characters. Mika, David, Jamie, and Caroline only exist to angst and start the most unnecessary shit. Mika and David was such assholes, but it isn’t even them, it’s the way their characters are handled in relation to Sophia. The way this supposedly tight-knit group of friends unraveled so swiftly within a week due to their own irrationality was laughable and so, so forced. The relationships between each of the characters were a colossal mess, complicated and dramatic for the sake of entertainment. Nothing felt real or organic, especially the ‘friendship’ between Sophia and Mika and Sophia’s relationship with her crush David.

I like how Vinesse tried to make the romance slow and just as awkward as falling in love for the first time, and while there were a plethora of awkward moments, it was told in a cute and relatable way. Unfortunately, my heart was not in it because it felt, again, too forced and unnatural. To start off, Sophia and Jamie aren’t the most interesting, fleshed out characters, so it was difficult to stay invested in them throughout. Also, Sophia and Jamie’s ‘damaged’ relationship in the beginning already felt very petty and over dramatic, more so when you find out what actually drove them apart. Their romantic progression from there went far too fast for me, within a week Sophia goes from avoiding Jamie at all costs to wanting to kiss him. The aspect of resolving their relationship and re-starting it fell completely flat for me.

If you’re a contemporary fan looking for a mature romance taking place in a unique setting, look elsewhere than Seven Days Of You. It has its mature moments here and there, but they aren’t worth sticking around the drama for. Anna And The French Kiss is much more entertaining in my opinion.

Books, New Releases, Original Post, YA Fiction

Anticipated releases: December 2017

Guys, can you believe it’s December already???

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It’s been a crazy and stressful year (in nearly every aspect) and I honestly can’t wait for these December contemporaries to close the year out in their lighthearted fashion. Yes, my anticipated releases this month are all indeed contemporary novels (surprise surprise!).

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Three Sides Of A Heart: Stories About Love Triangles – Coming December 19th

You may think you know the love triangle, but you’ve never seen love triangles like these.
These top YA authors tackle the much-debated trope of the love triangle, and the result is sixteen fresh, diverse, and romantic stories you don’t want to miss.
This collection, edited by Natalie C. Parker, contains stories written by Renee Ahdieh, Rae Carson, Brandy Colbert, Katie Cotugno, Lamar Giles, Tessa Gratton, Bethany Hagan, Justina Ireland, Alaya Dawn Johnson, EK Johnston, Julie Murphy, Garth Nix, Natalie C. Parker, Veronica Roth, Sabaa Tahir, and Brenna Yovanoff.
A teen girl who offers kissing lessons. Zombies in the Civil War South. The girl next door, the boy who loves her, and the girl who loves them both. Vampires at a boarding school. Three teens fighting monsters in an abandoned video rental store. Literally the last three people on the planet.
What do all these stories have in common?
The love triangle.

Never have I been so happy about love triangles! This sounds like a highly ambitious anthology and if there’s anyone who can turn the love triangle trope upside down, it’s definitely these authors. HYPEEEEImage result for page breaker
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Love, Life, and the List by Kasie West – Coming December 26th

Everyone knows Abby Turner is in love with her best friend, Cooper Wells. Including Cooper Wells. But despite what people tell her, it doesn’t affect their friendship. And she’s practically over it, anyway. What she really can’t get over is when her boss at the local museum tells her that her paintings lack heart. 
Art is Abby’s passion and she hopes her future as well. She is determined to change his mind and earn her way into the upcoming exhibit at the gallery. So along with her family’s help, she compiles “The Heart List,” a series of soulstretching experiences that are sure to make her a deeper person and better artist in six weeks or less. When Cooper decides to complete the list along with her, she realizes this list is expanding her heart in more ways than one. Maybe she needs to start another project.
Love, Life, and the List is about a girl who, in an effort to bring more emotional depth to her art, compiles a list of soul-stretching experiences to complete with her best friend—a boy she also happens to be in love with. 
This is the first in a set of three standalone books with crossover characters.

God, I really need to catch up on Kasie West. It’s amazing how this woman puts out several books in a year when I take months to get a task done. Definitely looking forward to this one!

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33413929The Love Letters Of Abelard and Lily by Laura Creedle – Coming December 26th

When Lily Michaels-Ryan ditches her ADHD meds and lands in detention with Abelard, who has Asperger’s, she’s intrigued—Abelard seems thirty seconds behind, while she feels thirty seconds ahead. It doesn’t hurt that he’s brilliant and beautiful.

When Abelard posts a quote from The Letters of Abelard and Heloise online, their mutual affinity for ancient love letters connects them. The two fall for each other. Hard. But is it enough to bridge their differences in person?

This hilarious, heartbreaking story of human connection between two neurodivergent teens creates characters that will stay with you long after you finish reading.

This sounds like such a sweet and diverse read. I’m glad mental illness is being represented more and more in YA literature and I hope this book doesn’t disappoint!

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Thanks for viewing guys! What are your upcoming December releases? Let me know in the comments 😀

 

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

November mini-reviews

Hey peeps! I’ve decided to ‘mini-review’ a couple of shorter books I’ve read this month. This is probably a good idea because I don’t want to talk on endlessly about books that I don’t have much to say about.

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Gem & Dixie by Sara Zarr (2.5 stars)

Gem & Dixie explores the story of two sisters living in a dysfunctional and financially disadvantaged household with their unstable mother. After their dad comes back into their life, the sisters unexpectedly embark on a journey across Seattle that sheds light on their family and their complicated relationship. I found this book to be simply average in all aspects. While it did have its moments, the writing and story felt flat most of the time and it was a chore to drag myself through it because I was disinterested most of the time. Gem and Dixie themselves aren’t incredibly fascinating individually, but I did appreciate how their relationship was written. However, it wasn’t enough to make me enjoy this book fully.

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18075234Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman (2.25 stars)

Challenger Deep follows the story of Caden Bosch, a boy suffering from mental illness and how it affects his delusions and what he experiences in the real world. The story is told from two narratives, one being real life and the other being a delusion of Caden, in which he is a part of a ship and crew that are traveling to the deepest part of the Earth, Challenger Deep. I feel sort of guilty for disliking this book, because Neal Shusterman (one of my favorite authors ever) is writing about a very serious and relevant topic. While I commend that aspect, the execution of it was simply not my thing. I normally don’t enjoy books told so abstractly which is why it was difficult to engage myself into the dual narratives. But, Shusterman’s ability to create something so different and though-provoking is always amazing.

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32860355Alex & Eliza by Melissa De La Cruz (3.75 stars)

Alex and Eliza follows the love story of Alexander Hamilton and Eliza Schuyler in the midst of the American Revolution. It seems that many have been attracted to this book because of Hamilton, the play but I’ve actually never seen it or listened to the songs (a grave sin, I know). I picked it up on a whim because I wanted a cute romance and I actually ended up liking the romance and many more elements. While the writing was a bit difficult to get into, I loved the atmosphere it evoked. The commentary and humor concerning the war and the social issues of the time was also entertaining. And of course, Alex and Eliza themselves were just lovable and their love story was swoon-worthy. I don’t use that word often but I can’t find a more accurate description than that.

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17623975Just One Day by Gayle Forman (3.75 stars)

Just One Day follows the story of Allyson Healy, as she meets Dutch actor Willem on a post-graduaction European tour before traveling with him to Paris on an impromptu trip. One day of freedom, risk, and getting lost on purpose with Willem changes Allyson’s life, and when she wakes up the next day to find him suddenly gone, she is shattered. The second half of the novel follows Allyson as she goes to college, creates new memories, and tries to find herself while searching for Willem. This book came as a pleasant surprise, and I loved how while it was marketed as a romance, it was actually about Allyson desperately trying to tap into the girl she was on that one day in Paris. It’s about her journey to self-discovery and I thought her character, and the rest of the characters and their relationships with one another, was very well-written.

Thanks for reading, guys! Leave a comment below with your thoughts 🙂

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

This Is What Happy Looks Like, by Jennifer E. Smith (review)

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2 1/2 stars

If fate sent you an email, would you answer?

When teenage movie star Graham Larkin accidentally sends small town girl Ellie O’Neill an email about his pet pig, the two seventeen-year-olds strike up a witty and unforgettable correspondence, discussing everything under the sun, except for their names or backgrounds.

Then Graham finds out that Ellie’s Maine hometown is the perfect location for his latest film, and he decides to take their relationship from online to in-person. But can a star as famous as Graham really start a relationship with an ordinary girl like Ellie? And why does Ellie want to avoid the media’s spotlight at all costs?

This Is What Happy Looks Like is my fourth Jennifer E. Smith novel and my last attempt to salvage my rocky relationship with her style. I’ve never strongly disliked Smith’s books but most of them have been deemed as ‘meh’ novels, which is much worse to me because I hate being in a limbo, not liking but not hating it either. I looked to This Is What Happy Looks Like to change that, but all it did was add to it. While I definitely liked the writing better this time around, the characters, pacing, and overall plot still fell glaringly flat.

Smith’s writing was always a sore point for me, while I did like her way with words, they didn’t keep me engaged and actually bored me to an extent. But, I was definitely more entertained by the writing in this novel, It felt much more defined and stable, contrary to the directionless and vague prose of The Geography Of You And Me and Hello, Goodbye, And Everything In Between. However, the writing couldn’t save the utter mind-numbing boredom the story gave me. Smith’s novels all have very different concepts but there’s always something missing that ties them together, and I just felt like I wasn’t reading anything new. While I appreciate the fact that the movie-star story line wasn’t campy and cliche, the pacing and plot were so stale and far too quick.

Also, unresolved plot points?? Ellie and her best friend Quinn end up in an ‘argument’ over freaking nothing at the beginning of the book and they don’t talk for most of the book until Quinn suddenly shows up again towards the end? What about Quinn and Devon? Where did that come from? What about Ellie and her dad? Graham and his parents? What about the emails? We were shown 5 of the emails and then … no more. These are important questions, people! There are so many subplots involved but they all either build to nothing or are completely ignored. I feel so unsatisfied by this, because these plot points seemed added in just for the hell of it but they aren’t correctly paced or told about at all.

The characters, save for Graham, couldn’t seem to characterize themselves as anything else than cardboard cutouts. Ellie has everything set up for a typical contemporary female lead: a single parent, some secret concerning her family, a relationship with a best friend that somehow loses its way throughout the story (usually due to ‘trust issues’ or some shit like that). While I liked her enough toward the beginning, I slowly started to lose interest as the story progressed because her characterization didn’t progress along with it. Again, nothing new. Graham, on the other hand, surprised me immensely and is actually my favorite part of the book. He felt human and totally real from page 1, and I love how Smith didn’t try to overemphasize his ‘regular’ side and ‘perfect celebrity’ side.

The romance was another element of the book that completely took me by surprise, and not in a good way. Ellie and Graham’s in-person meet took place early in the book, which ruled out any possibility for the tension building up to a possible relationship. There weren’t nearly enough emails showed to display their previous connection, and when they made the jump to form an in-person romantic relationship, it just felt too fast and unnatural. Plus, when they were together, Graham and Ellie had no chemistry! I didn’t find their romance to be believable at all, Hadley and Oliver from The Statistical Probability Of Love At First Sight were more believable together, which is saying something because I wasn’t the biggest fan of those two either.

I wish I liked this concept’s execution just as much as the concept itself, and while this pretty much marks the end of my complex relationship with Smith’s writing, I still have some hope remaining. Would recommend if you’re looking for a quick read and are a fan of Smith’s previous novels.