Wednesday, February 3, 2016

YA Wednesday: Review of Pretending To Be Erica, by Michelle Painchaud

Pretending to Be EricaPretending to Be Erica by Michelle  Painchaud

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

ARC received for honest review.

This is one of those that is so hard for me to review. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't as gripping as one might hope. Con artistry seems to be a hot little niche topic in YA lately, and this book cashes in on that. To its credit, it kept me reading to the end. I could never predict the ending well enough that I wanted to stop reading, even when I had a guess as to how it would all play out. That guess also kept changing. It is a mystery that you want to solve.

That said, despite the suspense, it wasn't what I'd call fast paced or exciting. It took me several months to finish. The characters were all a bit blah. I wasn't terribly invested in Erika/Violet, but more curious to see if I was right in my predictions. I would have liked more depth, more sympathetic characters who I love and remember and root for.

I think this author has great potential. In a few years, with a few more books under her belt and some more experience, maybe those issues will disappear. As it was, some of the writing (the overly dramatic chapter endings, awkward phrasing, etc) seemed a bit amateur, and the pacing was slow for the genre.

Overall, an interesting read from a promising debut author. Mild content, recommend for ages 14+.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Book Review: Nightbird, by Alice Hoffman

NightbirdNightbird by Alice Hoffman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Received from Netgalley for honest review.

This book was such a quick, fun read. It had a magical element, and the whole book has a cool, magical vibe. It was absorbing and I breezed through it pretty quickly in my free minutes. It's a short book, but full of wonderful, well-developed characters and a setting that comes alive. I loved Twig, our young heroine, and wanted to go along on her journey of friendship and self-acceptance. Her mother, though a bit of an antagonist, has her reasons and is not painted as the 'bad guy.' You understand her actions and her desire to protect her family. Each character is rounded and not all good or all bad. I really liked that part of the book, as well as the themes of reconciliation, acceptance, friendship, and family. Overall, this is just a great little book about a quirky town and its residents, including a family with secrets. Well worth reading.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

MG Book Review: Because of Mr. Terupt

Because of Mr. TeruptBecause of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars

This was a cute book that I got to listen to with my son, but I ended up listening to it by myself because I didn't have anything else in the car. It was a cute middle grade read with some issues discussed, though not too in depth. The kids were all very realistic. I especially liked Peter, the hyper 'troublemaker.' He wasn't a bad kid or damaged, just the class clown. He was pretty perfect. The author never goes into his home life like he does other kids' but it didn't make him any less real. I liked the 'girl wars' as well--so realistic. I see that all the time, with girls just feuding with other girls for no good reason! Anyway, overall this was a cute read for kids. It brings up some issues that would be great discussion points for kids, as well--divorce/adultery, single parents, what it means to be a family, etc. I wish I'd listened to this with my son so we could have talked about those things in relation to the book, since sometimes that makes him see things more objectively than when boring old mom says them!

Recommended for: ages 8+

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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Book Review: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, by Jesse Andrews

Me and Earl and the Dying GirlMe and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was really, really weird.

Good stuff: The main character was likeable in a nerdy way. More loveable, really. Kind of cute and cuddly but dorky, too. He was such a mess, so sloppy and real. Such a normal, kind of pathetic, guy. I really liked him. And Earl, his film-making companion. All the characters were great, really.

And it was sad.

The other stuff: It did get kind of annoying how self-deprecating Greg was. The way he talked to the reader (if you're still reading this...) was annoying.

But overall, this was a pretty great, surprisingly funny and real book.

Recommended for age 16+ due to a LOT of language and extremely crude sexual banter and graphic descriptions.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Review Wednesday: Not That Easy (Sequel to Virgin), but Radhika Sanghini

Not That EasyNot That Easy by Radhika Sanghani

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is the sequel to Virgin, which was such a hilarious read. So when the publisher asked if I wanted a shot at the sequel, of course I jumped at the chance. And I'm so glad I did. It was maybe not quite as good as the first book, but it was still well worth reading.

In this book, Ellie has shed her virginity and is ready to move a big way. Like, she decides to be a slut. She begins this quest by joining Tinder to meet men online.

Like the first book, this one has its share of gross-out moments. When Ellie kisses one of her dates and he bleeds on her face (NOT KIDDING!) I was gagging. But not all her dates are as bad as that one. The book isn't exactly a romance, though Ellie does meet a guy named Nick and date him for most of the book. At first, I thought he was a little *too* perfect, but when his ugly side comes I don't know if English people are different about their view of the word slut, but I was a lot more pissed at Nick than Ellie was. I couldn't believe her friends were telling her to give him another chance. Ugh. No matter what apology, his angry side was inexcusably ugly and misogynistic.

There were some big laughs, too. I was thoroughly absorbed, though it took a few days to get there this time, so I stayed up late reading one night. Ellie and Nick were hooking up, and in the midst of it, they had a disastrous 69 attempt that left me in tears of laughter. I couldn't stop laughing for so long I thought they neighbors might come check on me to see if I'd completely lost my mind. So if you were a fan of the first book and its humor, you will probably like this one as well. Not quite as good, but a strong sophomore effort from Sanghini. I will be waiting patiently for more from this author.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Review Wednesday: Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

Circling the SunCircling the Sun by Paula McLain

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Received from NetGalley for honest review.

I love this author so much. The Paris Wife was one of my favorite books I've read this decade. This one was also good, but I wouldn't say it's quite as good as McLain's first. But considering how much I loved The Paris Wife, it's a small miracle that this one didn't disappoint me in every way. But it didn't. It was good enough that I loved reading it, but it was also so dense that it took me FOREVER to finish. It's definitely one of those books that people call 'an epic saga' even if it's not. Because it is just so long, and covers such a long time, a huge span of this woman's life and a lot of things that happen during it.

I loved all the descriptions of Kenya the most. They were so lovely, as were some of McLain's observations about humans and human nature. It's hard for me to describe such a dense book in a little review. In summary: I love this book, it's beautiful, and you should read it!

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Guest Post: The Inspiration of Famous Authors, by Hilda Simpson

 Hi, all!
Today I have the privilege of sharing with you a post by a fellow author about fellow authors. Take it away, Hilda!

Hemingway wrote standing, Nabokov used the index cards, Vonnegut recharged with scotch and Murakami with sports. We bring you the most interesting evidence of outstanding writers, on how they created a working day that inspired them.

Ernest Hemingway: wrote standing on the skin of the African antelope

The typewriter was at the level of his chest, a stack of paper was located on the left, he took a sheet, put it on the board and started writing by hand. His handwriting was becoming larger and more boyish over the years and he started neglecting punctuation and capital letters. At the same time he had a schedule of productivity - every day the writer pointed out how many words he had written (the figure varied from 450 to 1250). Hemingway treated his craft with the same share of poetry and pragmatism.

“When working on a book or a story I start every morning with the first rays of sun. No one can bother me, it is cold or even cool, you sit down to work and write until warmed. You read what you’ve written and start from the episode, when you know what happens next. You write until you have the strength and yet know what will happen after, then stop and try to survive until the next day. Suppose you start at 6 a.m. and work until noon or finished earlier. When you finish, you're so devastated and at the same time filled as if you were making love to your loved one. Nothing can hurt you, nothing can happen, nothing matters until the next day when you start again”.

Ray Bradbury: great dreamer

Ray Bradbury, a science fiction classic, told the Paris Review in an interview that loves his favorite genre for ideas that have not yet been implemented but will be in the near future, for the “art of the possible”. He compared such literature with the myth of Perseus and Medusa: rather than facing it, you look at her over your shoulder and through a mirror (though science fiction looks into the future, but reflects the urgency). It is no wonder that with such a love for fiction Bradbury also insisted on the principle of working with pleasure.

“I can work anywhere. I wrote in the bedrooms and living rooms when I lived with my parents and brother in a small house in Los Angeles. I typed in the living room to the sound of the radio and parents talking with my brother. Later, when I worked on “Fahrenheit 451”, I came to the University of California, Los Angeles and found the print room in the basement. If you insert 10 cents into the machine, you can buy a half-hour of the printing time”.

Mark Twain: a talented smoker

Few people know that Twain wrote poems and fairy tales for children, rather he is known as the author of witty responses to readers (his comments to their letter was published as a book). Also the writer was famous for aphorisms, which eloquently show his attitude to work: “Let us be grateful to Adam, our benefactor. He took the “blessing” of idleness away from us and gained the “curse” of labor”.

He walked into the office in the morning after a good breakfast and remained there until dinner, i.e, to 5 p.m. Since he missed lunch and the family did not dare to disturb him - they used the horn, if they needed him – he was able to work for several hours in a row. After the dinner he read what he has written for the whole family. He liked to be listened to. On Sundays he didn’t work and had a rest with his wife and children, read and slept during the day somewhere in a shady spot near their house. Regardless of whether he worked or not, he always smoked cigars.

By Hilda Simpson
freelance writer for