August’s Too Few Book Reviews

As I mentioned recently, and for a variety of reasons, I’ve become interested in starting a little blog series where at the end of every month I give a few little book reviews of any books I read that that are under reviewed. In this series I want to focus on books that, for whatever reason, haven’t gotten the media attention and book buzz other more popular books did, have less than 2,000 reviews on Goodreads as of my posting, and could use a little bit of love and attention. Also, I’m adding information for each title about how I discovered that book and/author. Mostly because I think this is interesting information, but also in case it helps any authors who have under reviewed books of their own and want to think of creative new ways of reaching new readers.

Since the 48-hour reading challenge in June, I’ve read three books that qualify.

Book: The Chance You Won’t Return by Annie Cardi

Total Current Reviews on Goodreads: 414

Date Published: April 22, 2014

Publisher: Candlewick

How I Discovered this Book: I discovered Annie’s blog when trolling WordPress for young adult writers blogs years ago, started following it, and have been looking forward to the release of her first novel ever since!

Thoughts: This was, no exaggeration, the best (and most realistic) contemporary YA book I’ve read in a long time. I feel like most contemporary YA falls into one of two categories: either the characters experience something Truly Terrible and Horrifying–like a drug addiction, a violent life-changing car accident, or cancer, etc.–or the conflict of the novel is developed out of a few high-school specific obstacles like “my boyfriend dumped me,” or “I’ve lost my best friend and I don’t know why.” These, of course, are all valid plotlines that appeal to many readers. But, personally, I don’t strongly relate to these experiences and don’t enjoy reading them as a general rule; as a result, I haven’t really enjoyed that subgenre of YA for a few years now. I didn’t realize what was MISSING in my life and what I WANTED DESPERATELY from a YA novel until I finished this book and was like, YES. THIS. YES. While main character Alex deals with some normal high school troubles–liking a boy, driver’s ed (which, by the way, isn’t discussed ENOUGH in YA, learning to drive is a huge momentous moment and stresser in the teenage years), etc.–the focus of the book is on her mom’s mental break down. She thinks she’s Amelia Earhart and nothing and nobody will convince her otherwise. Alex’s home life is in shambles as the family tries to struggle through this hardship. While a common complaint I have about YA is that the parents simply disappear from the story, the family is the front and center of this book. Which is so accurate to the actual teen experience! I don’t know about you, but the drama and events of high school were a minor portion of my life during those years. I spent most of my lifetime at home with my family, on weekends, after school, during the summer. What they did and what happened at home dominated my life and colored my experiences out of the home. Family problems just don’t dissipate when you walk out the front door–my freshman year, my dad had a massive heart attack and later was diagnosed with an aggressive form of skin cancer; my concerns about his health were constant worries for me. For personal reasons, I really appreciated and related to this book. It is beautifully written, the relationships complicated and artfully drawn. It’s gritty, honest, heartbreaking, true. An absolute must read.

Book: Summerfall: A Winterspell Novela by Claire Legrand

Total Current Reviews on Goodreads: 14

Date Published: August 26th, 2014

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

How I Discovered this Book: I won an ARC of Claire’s first book, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, through YA author Nova Ren Suma’s blog a few years ago as a giveaway. I loved the book and started following Claire’s blog, and kept informed of each new book release. Her first two books were middle grade fiction, which I love, but I was particularly excited for her first YA book, Winterspell, due out September 30th, and jumped on this prequel as soon as it published.

Thoughts: I loved the world–it’s the land of Cane, where fairies, humans, and mages all coexist…though not peacefully!–and the descriptions of the fairy culture were tantalizing. The clothing, dress, hairstyles, etc….loved it. However, it seems that this prequel was the origins story, sort of, of the main character in the forthcoming Winterspell. This prequel was therefore the story of how the main character’s parents met, fell in love, etc. Personally, I didn’t really like their love story, though, so I’m glad that Winterspell will have the world I like so much but a whole new set of characters for me to meet and enjoy their new adventures. Can’t wait for the full-length novel in less than a month!

 

 

 

Book: The Cabinet of Curiosities by Stefan Bachman, Katherine Catmull, Emma Trevayne, and Claire Legrand

Total Current Reviews on Goodreads: 78

Date Published: May 27th, 2014

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

How I Discovered this Book: By following Claire Legrand’s blog, I discovered that she had started a new blog with other writers (I had read co-creator Katherine Catmull’s Summer and Bird prior to this and LOVED the writing, so was extra excited about this collaboration effort) called The Cabinet of Curiosities where they weekly post creepy little short stories. This book developed out of that.

Thoughts: A collection of short stories for a middle grade audience, this collection appealed to me right away because I like short stories, but there are almost never collections of them focused on a YA audience, let alone a middle grade one. The book ended up being a fun collection of a huge variety of story ideas, full of an impressive amount of imagination, a variety of monsters, unpleasant magic, and horrible things, perfect for readers who like stories that don’t end happily ever after!

 

48 Hour Reading Challenge Finish Line

Start Time: 9:30 am, Friday, June 6th

Finish Time: 9:30 am, Sunday, June 9th

Hour Breakdown: 

Friday: 9:30-10:30 am: (1 hour); 1:15-2:15 pm: (1 hour)

Saturday: 12:45-1:15 am: (1/2 hour); 12:15-1:15 pm: (1 hour); 1:30-4:30 pm: (3 hours); 5:50-10:10 pm (4 hours, 20 minutes)

Sunday: 7:30-9:30 am: (2 hours)

 Total Hours: 12 hours, 50 minutes

Total Books Read: 2.5

Total Pages Read: ~700

REVIEWS!

Book: Girl Parts by John M. Cusick

Total Current Reviews on Goodreads: 1,234

Date Published: August 10, 2010

Publisher: Candlewick

Format: Audiobook

This is probably going to be the strangest sentence I ever typed, but this book was a cross between Feed by M.T. Anderson and the movies Failure to Launch and Pretty Woman. Set in a not too faraway future, where teenagers use the internet so much that they’re starting to suffer from “dissociative disorder,” robot female companions have been invented to help the boys develop “real” relationships and reconnect with reality and, hopefully, their moral consciousnesses. It was an interesting idea–I was still thinking about the plot line days afterwards–but not really my cup of tea, mostly I believe because of how similar the futuristic setting was to Feed, another good book (for others) but set in a world I didn’t really enjoy visiting.

Book: The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes

Total Current Reviews on Goodreads: 593

Date Published: May 20, 2014

Publisher: HarperTeen

There’s that argument that there are only a few stories that can be told and we retell them over and over again. From the first page, it was clear that this book was one of the “boyfriend breaks up with me, I want him back, but by the end of the book I’m going to realize he was wrong for me and fall in love with the right boy,” variety. The title is a spin off of The Art of War, the summer reading title that Lainey ends up pulling advice from to fight for her boyfriend back (cute and clever, no?) But this book was so much more than a standard YA romance. It was so detail-rich–the setting in a suburb of St. Louis, the goth/rock subculture, the really fleshed-out relationships with best friends–that it was full of plot twists, turns, and surprises that I totally wasn’t expecting from what I never anticipated. Mizz Creant’s House of Torture (and Pancakes) for example? With tons of torture-themed breakfast options? With probably one of the “baddest” and dearest “bad boy” character I’ve read in a long time, I was really impressed by how complicated the emotions and world building was. Besides the slight technicality of the main character’s age (she’s a rising high school senior) which actually didn’t affect the plot or characterization in any meaningful way, I would actually say that this doesn’t feel like YA, but New Adult. Personally, I imagined all of the summer shenanigans that went on to be more believable for characters just finishing their freshman year of college, or even older. (Perhaps this is based off personal experience, as I wouldn’t have really been able to relate to many of the things that happened in the book–drinking parties, dance clubs, etc.–until I was a more mature and experienced college student.) I actually think this is a selling point for this book, though, for those readers who desperate for some YA books with older themes, as there isn’t much out there on the New Adult market yet.

Book: The Chance You Won’t Return by Annie Cardi

Total Current Reviews on Goodreads: 188

Date Published: April 22, 2014

Publisher: Candlewick

I actually started this challenge mostly to read this book, but, as I often do, I kept putting off the book I most wanted to read because I wanted to save the most guaranteed feeling of book-enjoyment until the end. As a result, I only got 50% through, though! Annie Cardi is a lovely writer whose blog I’ve followed for years, all the way back before this book was a book and the WIP title was still Queen of Glass, I believe. I’ve enjoyed her blog and her short fiction and as a result I was eagerly anticipating this book for years! Annie was also the one who introduced me to the 48-hour reading challenge, so I thought it would be a fitting tribute to read during the event. So far, the book is lovely. I’m in love. But I’ll have to save the review for my next post.

I think I’m going to keep reading the stack of under-reviewed books I have set aside for the next few weeks. I’m itching to read them all and am a little disappointed that I didn’t make it through more books this weekend or get more reading time in. I ended up having a busier weekend–and probably the most perfect summer weekend–than I expected. A beach day with my best friend, who I haven’t spent time with in too long. A backyard projected screening of Up with my sister and friends. A flea market adventure, some time spent at the pool, and the release of the third season of Sherlock all combined in the same 48 hour period! It’s hard to regret not reading more, with so many amazing things happening.

It was a great weekend, for both adventures and reading, and I’m so glad I participated. Until next year!