Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Series of Unfortunate Re-Reads: Part 2

The Miserable Mill
I am absolutely flying through these books! While this isn't particularly surprising, as I'm a fast reader and these books aren't super long, I'll probably slow down a bit as the books get longer towards the end (like most children's series). My goal is to hopefully finish my complete re-read of the series by the end of the month.

The Austere AcademyThis week, I finished books 4-6, The Miserable Mill, The Austere Academy, and The Ersatz Elevator. I think these definitely mark a turn in the series, as this is when the V.F.D is introduced, as well as the Quagmire triplets, which are both important elements later in the series. Not to mention that the Quagmire triplets are the first children that we get to see the Baudelaire orphans interact with (besides Mr. Poe's children). Most of the time, we just see how they interact with the horrible adults in their lives, and their friendship with the Quagmires is a moment of happiness and hope that is well deserved. It doesn't last long--we are repeatedly warned that the Baudelaires' story is not a happy one--but the moment of happiness allows the Baudelaires to grow as characters.

Throughout this re-read, I'm also picking up on things that I didn't notice the first time them, as one does when re-reading books from childhood. For instance, I'm noticing more connections between Lemony Snicket and the Baudelaires, especially in the book I just finished,The Ersatz Elevator. Esme, the Baudelaires most recent horrible guardian who ends up being in cahoots with Count Olaf, mentions something about Beatrice, Snicket's tragic love interest. If I recall correctly, I think this gets made more prominent as we go on, and I think I'll be able to make more connections as I go forward. Plus, I think this gray area is what they played with in the Netflix series, as we get glimpses of what happens to the Baudelaire parents. I'm excited for the next season, especially since the series will now be fresh in my mind! Plus, my re-read has shown that they follow the books almost to a tee, which is an even better plus!

I'll be taking a brief pause from these books as I read something I was assigned for Booklist, but I'll be back to it shortly! And I hope to have another 3 books finished by next weekend.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Review: We Are Still Tornadoes

We Are Still Tornadoes Cover

"If you can't forgive someone you're close to for making a mistake, then why do apologies even exist?" -Michael Kun and Susan Mullen, We Are Still Tornadoes

As Cath gets ready to leave for college, she promises to stay in touch with her best friend, Scott, as she starts her new adventure. Meanwhile, Scott is trying to get his band off the ground while he stays home and works at his dad's store. Neither of them realize how difficult their first year outside of high school is going to be.

Through their letters, the two are able to support each other through annoying roommates, dumb family drama, and broken hearts; not to mention they have to figure out what they want to do for the rest of their lives. As something more slowly grows between the two friends, are they sure that it's something they want to pursue?

I read this book a few months ago, finishing most of it on the train ride back to Chicago from Michigan. The letter format really helps to bring the characters to life, through their writing quirks, letter lengths, and gaps in writing. Some of the references they use throughout, especially music, help to place the reader more squarely in the time period (the 1980s).

The romance aspect of the book is slightly predictable, but that doesn't take away from the entertainment quality of the book itself. Readers who are fans of romance, especially young adult romance, will find this book endearing. Fans of writers like Sarah Dessen will definitely enjoy Kun and Mullen's writing.

3.5/5 stars

Saturday, August 12, 2017

A Series of Unfortunate Re-reads: Part 1

Imagine this: 9-year-old Amanda, going to the library in 4th grade and picking out books. Stumbling upon the Series of Unfortunate Events and becoming curious--what kind of book openly deters you from reading it? Tells you to avoid its unfortunate misery? Cracking open the book. Following the series until the last book is published, and finishing it in her 6th grade English class. That was my introduction to Lemony Snicket's positively entertaining book series. And now, I'm revisiting the books for the first time since finishing the series in 6th grade.

After watching the Netflix show this past winter, I felt the desire to re-read these books that I loved so much in elementary school to see how they line up with the show, and if they stand the test of time. So, I headed on over to the library to check out this thirteen book series, thus embarking on an unfortunate re-reading adventure!

First thoughts, after finishing the first three books: I'm a much faster reader than I was before (to no surprise. I've read a lot more books since then). I picked up the first book on my way downtown one day, and basically finished it on the bus ride back (for perspective, the bus ride takes about 20-25 minutes). I still enjoy Lemony Snicket's writing as much as I did back when I first read the books. It's refreshing and amusing, and I found myself smiling at much of his writing.

Another factor that I noted while reading is that the Netflix show basically follows the books almost to a tee. The extra story line about the Baudelaire's parents is just an added bonus, in my opinion. It rounds out the Baudelaire's story, and I'm excited to see where they take it.

Re-reading the books, I can see why some people might be turned off by Snicket's writing style. The entire series is him breaking the fourth wall, which bothers some people, and sometimes becomes a bit repetitive in warning readers against the unfortunate events that befall the Baudelaires. I, however, find it an excellent device to keep readers going. If the events of this book were so terrible, how could their lives possibly get any worse? And there lies the plot device to get you to keep reading--and keep reading I shall!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Review: True Letters from a Fictional Life

"I've always wanted to wake up one day in a world where I liked the right people, and they liked me in return. I worry it'll never happen." --Kenneth Logan, True Letters from a Fictional Life

James Liddell's written and actual live are two very different things. To anyone who knows him, James is a well-rounded, well liked athlete, dating the equally well liked Theresa. But when he's alone, he tells a different story--he fills his drawers with letters to people that he never intends to send, about things that he could never say aloud. When these letters mysteriously start getting sent, he grows worried that everyone will find out his darkest secret: that he likes boys. Will James ever get to escape his life of fiction?

This book is much more lighthearted than most LGBTQ fiction that I've read, especially recently. I liked the concept of the story, as using fiction as an escape is a familiar notion for a fellow writer. James uses his letters to say things that he never thought he'd be able to say aloud--but, when they actually get out, they allow him to fully accept who he is.

Though he was the protagonist, James wasn't my favorite character in the book. At times, he felt a little flat to me, despite his vivid inner life shown through his writing. Some of the side characters, like James's love interest (the name is escaping me), I found to be more interesting, adding intrigue to the story.

Overall, I think this is a story that many teens will relate to, with heart-melting romantic moments that will please romance fans.

4/5 stars

Monday, August 7, 2017

Character Playlist: Wade Watts

Wade Watts Ready Player One

It's music Monday! At least, that's the goal I'm working toward: a new playlist every Monday. This week, given that we just got a trailer for the much anticipated movie coming out next year, my playlist is dedicated to Wade Watts. Get prepared for lots of 80s music!

"Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" by Wham!
We begin Wade's obsession with the 80s with an upbeat song, to match his optimism (kind of) at the beginning of the novel.

"Dancing With Myself" by Billy Idol
Though often used in reference to James Halliday, this song also fits Wade's predicament. And pretty much the rest of society in this time period, as everyone sits in their house playing Oasis.

"Star Wars Theme" by John Williams
There can't be a bunch of 80s references without referencing Star Wars, am I right?

"Dead Man's Party" by Oingo Boingo
James Halliday opens his last will and testament video with this song, which could be considered Wade's introduction to the 80s. And the rest of the future's obsession with the 80s.

"Wild Boys" by Duran Duran
With no parents, and growing up in virtual reality, I think this describes Wade's situation quite well.

"Star Trek Theme" by Alexander Courage
Wade has a particular connection to Star Trek within the book, the original series of course. Though, all of his obsessions pretty much come from the 80s due to James Halliday.

"Ladyhawke Main Theme" by Andrew Powell
In addition to being one of Wade's favorite movies, this is also an important clue to figuring out one of the keys in the novel.

"Three is a Magic Number" by Schoolhouse Rock
An important clue in Wade figuring out how to get to the last key, and eventually figuring out James Halliday's whole scavenger hunt.

"Monty Python and the Holy Grail Ending Music" 
Another one of Wade's favorite movies, again due to James Halliday's influence.

"Invincible" by Pat Benatar
By the end of the book, Wade feels pretty invincible and able to take on anything in the Oasis. And in real life, too.

Friday, August 4, 2017

My Anticipated YA August Releases

It seems like 2017 has been killing it so far in the young adult department, with releases like The Hate U Give, History is All You Left Me, and Goodbye Days, and by the looks of it, it's just going to keep getting better. Not only do we have a new John Green novel coming this October (woo!), we'll also get new books by Kristin Cashore and Adam Silvera.

While there's a lot to look forward to this fall, there are also a lot of books coming out this August that should definitely be on your TBR list before school starts back up in September. Here are 5 of my most anticipated books for the month of August.

1. A Map for Wrecked Girls by Jessica Taylor

Sisters Emma and Henri had always been best friends--until an accident strands them on a desert island, with a companion (Alex) who has just as many secrets as they do. As Emma and Alex spark a relationship, Henri and Emma's relationship falls apart. 

I remember getting this book while cataloging books at Booklist, and I'm super excited to get to read it!

2. This Is Not the End by Chandler Baker

Lake Devereaux lost the two people she loved most in a car crash--her best friend and her boyfriend. However, new technology has granted people one resurrection to be used or given up by their 18th birthday. Lake has to make an impossible choice, one complicated by the fact that she already promised her resurrection to someone who isn't even dead yet.

This book also came in while I was interning at Booklist, and the premise sounds so intriguing.

3. Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moira Fowley-Doyle

Olive and her best friend Rose suddenly begin to lose things one night. It begins with small items, but it quickly becomes apparent that Rose has lost something bigger, something she doesn't want to talk about. After discovering an ancient spellbook that will help to bring back lost things, they think that this can set things right. But it might also bring out secrets that would have been best left alone.

Moira Fowley-Doyle also wrote The Accident Season, which I absolutely loved. This one sounds just as creepy and magic infused.

4. All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis

In the future, once you turn 15, you must pay for everything you say. Even every gesture, every scream, costs money. And falling into debt has dire consequences. Instead of adding to her family's debt, Speth decides to take an oath of silence at her 15th birthday; one that sends the world into a frenzy. 

If you know me, you know I'm all about dystopias, and this one sounds different and awesome. I hope it lives up to its unique premise!

5. The Secret History of Us by Jessi Kirby

After a car crash, Olivia wakes up in a hospital bed thinking she just lost her memory of the past few weeks. But as she begins to recover, she quickly realizes she's lost years of memories, making it difficult to navigate as her friends and family try to fill in the gaps. The only person that seems to help is Walker--but as she grows closer to him, tensions grow between her friends and her family.

Memory loss tends to be a popular topic in young adult lit, but this one sounds promising! 

I hope to get my hands on these sometime in August, but at least sometime in the future. What August releases are you looking forward to?

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Review: The Female of the Species

"You see it in all animals - the female of the species is more deadly than the male." 
-Mindy McGinnis, The Female of the Species

When Alex's older sister, Anna, was murdered, Alex unleashed what she knows best: violence. She knows how to kill someone. And though she doesn't feel bad about it, as her crime goes unpunished, she quickly folds into the shadows, hiding from her fellow classmates.

At least, so she thinks. Jack and Peekay see her. Jack, the star athlete, the jock that everyone wants, in the running for valedictorian. But all Jack wants is to know Alex. Peekay is the preacher's daughter, which doesn't stop her from acting out once in a while. Peekay and Alex begin working together at the animal shelter, where Peekay sees Alex's protective nature.

Brought together through unlikely circumstances, Alex, Jack, and Peekay navigate the waters of their senior year. Until Alex's true nature breaks out at a party one night, sending the three on a path that's going to change their lives forever.

Though probably not for the squeamish or sensitive, this book is an absolutely important read. Mindy McGinnis exposes rape culture through the story of Alex and her desire to get revenge for her sister. Alex's character in particular points out the flaws of our society when it comes to dealing with rape, especially in the way that we help to perpetuate it with things like "boys will be boys," as Alex points out:

"But boys will be boys, our favorite phrase that excuses so many things, while the only thing we have for the opposite gender is women, said with disdain and punctuated with an eye roll."

These kinds of statements punctuate the novel, forcing the reader to think about rape culture and gender and how they might contribute to that.

In addition to the morally grey center of the novel, McGinnis also creates realistically complex characters that aid in the exploration of important themes. Told in alternating perspectives from Alex, Jack, and Peekay, the reader gets a glimpse into each one of their characters, each one as complex as the next. The three main characters as supported by an almost equally complex supporting cast, expertly destroying the stereotype that teenagers can't be complex.

Overall, if you can get past some of the descriptions and violence against animals (which I'll admit was difficult for me), this is definitely a must-read. Add it to your TBR shelf immediately.

5/5 Stars