You Look Different in Real Life: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

You Look Different in Real Life by Jennifer CastleJustine is used to people recognizing her, acting like they know here even if they’re strangers. That’s what happens when your childhood is filmed as part of an award-winning documentary.

It started when Justine was six. She was filmed with four other students in her kindergarten class. Then again when she turned eleven.

Justine is sixteen now and it’s time for Lance and Leslie to come back for another film. But Justine doesn’t want anything to do with it.

She can see why Lance and Leslie picked the other kids: quirky Nate, smart Keira, outgoing Felix and Rory who did whatever she wanted. Justine never saw that same spark, that piece of interesting, in herself.

Reviewers always call Justine the star, the edgy one. They expect great things from her. But now, at sixteen, Justine feels anything but as she is forced to look not just at her unamazing life but also at the friendships that have shattered since Five at 6 and Five at 11 were filmed.

Now that a new film is coming Justine isn’t sure if she should be excited or terrified. This film might be her chance to finally prove that she is as amazing as everyone thinks and maybe even fix some friendships along the way. But it also might not fix anything. It might just confirm Justine’s suspicions that she is anything but film-worthy in You Look Different in Real Life (2013) by Jennifer Castle.

Sometimes when you read a book you go in with expectations of the story you will get. And sometimes that expected story is nothing like the story the author has written. Unfortunately that was the case with You Look Different in Real Life. I went in wanting details of the previous documentaries and the current filming. Instead I got cursory flashbacks and vague references to the crew. In the second half of the novel the documentary plot became very secondary to another character’s storyline so that the whole premise began to feel more gimmicky and less vital to the story.

You Look Different in Real Life also ends just when things should be getting interesting. Justine has a breakthrough about some aspect of the filming. But we never get to know what it actually is. By the end of the book it felt like Castle was only giving readers half the story as the documentary was forgotten (having already served its purpose as an inciting incident.)

Justine should have been a sympathetic, authentic narrator. She should have had original experiences and a unique take on things thanks to being the subject of a series of documentaries. Instead Justine came across as very one-dimensional and unbearably whiny. While she does have a clear development from beginning to end, her lack of self-esteem and confidence in the beginning was overwhelming to the point that her own self criticisms began to make me feel bad about my own life. That’s completely unacceptable.

Justine’s short-comings are lessened, slightly, thanks to the supporting cast. That is until a lot of them fell into predictable character types with equally unsurprising side stories. There are a lot of near-misses and false starts at the characters try to reconnect and, ultimately, it all just felt very forced.

If you want an okay book about a girl coming into her own and discovering her own talents and strengths, You Look Different in Real Life is a decent choice. It doesn’t have the best heroine or language (Justine moved with surprising frequency between acting/sounding much younger than sixteen and acting/sounding much older) but all of the elements are there for a quick, fairly fun read. If you want a book that focuses more on the effects of being on film or performing you’ll be better served picking up something like Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg.

Possible Pairings: Keep Holding On by Susane Colasanti, Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg, Fat Kid Rules the World by K. L. Going, You Don’t Know Me by David Klass, Fly on the Wall by E. Lockhart, A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2013*

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Beginnings and Endings

Top Ten Tuesdays img by Miss Print

Best Beginnings:

  1. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater: Hands down one of my all-time favorite books.
  2. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell: I was torn about putting this one as a best beginning or ending but since Stargirl already has best ending we’ll leave it here.
  3. Heist Society by Ally Carter: All of the books in this series have great starts!
  4. All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin: Totally immersive world building.
  5. The Caged Graves by Dianne K. Salerni: The Prologue almost doesn’t relate to the story but then it all comes together and wow.

Best Endings:

  1. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine: I love everything about this book.
  2. Goliath by Scott Westerfeld: Totally satisfying ending to one of my favorite trilogies.
  3. Stargirl and Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli: Another great pair of books.
  4. The Demon’s Surrender by Sarah Rees Brennan: Alan Ryves for Life. Enough said.
  5. The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton: Great start to a trilogy but also a great stand alone ending.

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

(Image made by me.)

Linktastic: Quizzes and fun edition!

  • Leila at Bookshelves of Doom recently brought a delightful Jane Austen quiz to my attention: Which Jane Austen Character are You?I was, perhaps unsurprisingly, Emma Woodhouse. And I’m okay with that because she is awesome.austenquiz
    Just need to work on the rich part.
    Tell me who YOU are in the comments.
  • From Sarah Jamila Stevenson I have a Scripps Vocabulary Quiz. I got 80% (12/15) because I don’t always read all of the answers before clicking through (shameful, I know). Did you do better?
  • Next an older post from one of my favorite fellow bloggers, Step at Steph Su Reads. In it, she asks: If you were stuck in the last book you read, how screwed would you be? I love this question and want to make it a meme one day. For now, I can tell you I am reading Proxy by Alex London and I’m pretty sure I’d be in even worse debt than poor Syd AKA in pretty bad trouble.
  • Via lovely author/twitter-er Elizabeth Eulberg I have this News IQ Quiz from Pew. I, along with 12% of respondents 10/13 questions right (which, as a non-news watcher, I’ll happily take). How did you do?
  • This isn’t a quiz but new Catching Fire movie posters have been released and I am alternating between being obsessed with them and sobbing every time I look at Finnick or Mags.

Eleanor & Park: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow RowellWhen Park sees Eleanor walk onto the bus, he can’t look away. She’s like some kind of elaborately decorated train wreck. Park has a very tenuous, very small bit of social status. He certainly doesn’t have any to waste on the crazy looking new girl.

Eleanor doesn’t want to be on the bus sitting next to the weird Asian kid even if he is the only one who will give her a seat. She doesn’t want to be at a new school. She definitely doesn’t want to be in the same house as Richie even if her mom swears things will be different this time. Eleanor doesn’t believe anything can really be different. Not for her. Not anymore.

At least they don’t have to talk to each other.

Reading the same comic doesn’t count as actually being friends. Neither does wanting to hold hands. Or sharing mix tapes and batteries. Eleanor and Park both remember that first moment on the bus. What they don’t understand is how they got from that first moment to a very different moment where no one else matters in Eleanor & Park (2012) by Rainbow Rowell.

Eleanor & Park is Rowell’s second novel. It is preceded by her adult debut The Attachments.

Set in Omaha in 1986, Eleanor & Park is technically a historical novel. I have wondered about the choice of time period,* and how it will appeal to actual teen readers, but at the end of the day it works. Rowell includes numerous references to the time including bands Eleanor and Park listen to, comics they read and more passing references to pop culture of the era.** I was born in 1986 and I caught about 98% of the references in this book. I’m not sure how younger readers would fair or if it would even be an issue to the overall reading experience.

Eleanor & Park is written in third person but it alternates between both Eleanor and Park’s point of view allowing readers to understand their changing relationship even faster than the characters themselves. Eleanor & Park is one of the most romantic books ever–without, I might add, really being a romance. Instead this book shares a snapshot of Park and Eleanor’s lives.

I’ve heard people call this book sad or even heartbreaking. And there are some terrible moments, especially with Eleanor’s circumstances becoming increasingly terrible. But there is also more than that as the story showcases smaller moments of happiness and hope. Ultimately, in addition to being a favorite read, Eleanor & Park is one of the most optimistic and hopeful books I’ve read this year.***

Rowell’s writing in Eleanor & Park is seamless as she weaves together the stories of an incredibly unlikely pair that is somehow incredibly right. If this book doesn’t get some attention during awards season I (along with most of the reading public) will be incredibly surprised.

*Rowell has a thoughtful post on her blog called “Why is Park Korean?” I never thought Park’s ethnicity was a big question–or something that should be questioned at all really–but that post does offer some insight into the choice of setting.

**My most favorite was an early reference to the Clint Eastwood movie Any Which Way But Loose. And of course Park’s dad looking like my favorite 1980s private investigator was excellent.

***Everyone has a different idea about three certain words at the end of the story. Personally, I am completely confident everything works out as it should.

Possible Pairings: Strings Attached by Judy Blundell, The Secret Life of Prince Charming by Deb Caletti, The Last True Love Story by Brendan Kiely, Stealing Henry by Carolyn MacCullough, This Raging Light by Estelle Laure, The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta, Watchmen by Alan Moore, Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins, The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

A Truth and a Dare for the Truth or Dare Blog Tour

Greetings, dear readers!

I am one of the July 23 stop for the Truth or Dare Blog Tour that Paper Lantern Lit has put together to celebrate Truth or Dare by Jacqueline Green.

As part of the blog tour all of the participating bloggers have to complete one truth and one dare. (I have heard rumors of one blogger needing to write a love letter so I think I came off pretty easy!) We even have a creepy conscientious anonymous twitter account to make sure we stay on track (and give other–more annoying challenging dares on Twitter).

My DARE is to: rename Truth or Dare as if it were a Pretty Little Liars book.*

But I am tricky! So I am renaming it as if it were the first book which means I can use more than one word.

Obviously the original title is best but I’d re-title this book as . . .


. . . Dirty Little Secrets

You’ll have to take my word for it if you haven’t read the book yet, but trust me, there are a lot of dirty secrets and ugly reveals in this book!

My TRUTH is: What is your biggest book sin dirty little book secret?

Here it is: Sometimes I read books backwards.

In some cases that means I skim to the end and read the last page or so. I can’t tell you how many times I have done that only to completely ruin a book for myself. It’s an illness, to be sure. Generally when I jump to the last page it’s because I’m so invested in a book that I MUST know what happens right away.

In other cases, when I am not enjoying a book, I will jump ahead to the last chapter and read that. If the chapter makes sense, I’m done. Onto the next book. If it doesn’t I’ll read the penultimate chapter and so on until everything does make sense and I have a clear picture of the plot and of how things wrap up in the story.

Here is the tour schedule so now that you’re done here be sure to check out the other stops!

July 18th: Fiction Freak
July 19th: The Reading Lark
July 20th: Queen Ella Bee Reads
July 21st: —
July 22nd: The Starry-Eyed Revue
July 23rd: The Compulsive Reader + Miss Print
July 24th: Chick Loves Lit + Tiger Lily Rachel
July 25th: Boekie’s Book Reviews + Read My Breath Away
July 26th: Anna Reads

You can also head over to Paper Lantern Lit’s blog to enter to win a signed copy of Truth or Dare if you’re into that sort of thing.

Truth or Dare by Jacqueline Green

*This is funny because I keep typing Pretty Little Liars when I want to type Paper Lantern Lit!

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Words/Topics That Will Make You NOT pick up a book

Top Ten Tuesdays img by Miss Print

  1. Amputations/deformities: Some personal reasons, some practical reasons, and I’m squeamish. Also, any limitations like,say, having one hand will always put me on high alert for blocking and how a character does things. And I will notice when a character is doing something that should be physically possible. Also, having an amputation and not mentioned phantom pain is just sloppy. I won’t get into specific titles but this is always a hard one for me despite The Queen of Attolia being one of my most favorite books.
  2. Unequal power dynamics: If a book has a romance predicated on one character being a jerk/exploitative/abusive there is a problem. And I won’t read it. It’s one of the reasons I gave up even trying to read contemporary romances because things like that come up a lot.
  3. Course language: Everything has a place and, if done well, cursing is the same. If a book just has it for the sake of being edgy, I will be skipping it.
  4. Anything too steamy: It’s just embarrassing. I don’t like overly-long love scenes in movies and they’re even worse in books. Just pass.
  5. Weird names: If you are naming your characters things like Tenley and Guinness I am going to have a problem taking them seriously.
  6. Weird nicknames: If you are going to have characters with nicknames like Angel, Dice or Sin I am going to have a problem taking them seriously.
  7. Books written in the vernacular: I don’t care if it’s a classic or a modern masterpiece. I don’t want to read books where everything is spelled wrong so that it “sounds” right.
  8. Books with poor little rich kids: I used to be more tolerant of this but I get really tired of books with privileged kids who are completely miserable . . . because they are privileged.
  9. Books without strong female characters: This will occasionally get a pass but if a book has female characters who are only there as window dressing or otherwise underutilized it’s unlikely I’ll continue reading that series/author.
  10. Insta-love: I don’t care how beautiful his amber eyes are or how good she smells. This premise will never make sense. At least one character needs to have some kind of evolution in their feelings for a romantic plot line to work.

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

(Image made by me.)

Author Interview: Emma Trevayne on Coda

Emma Trevayne author photoEmma Trevayne is here today to talk about her debut novel Coda–a futuristic, sci-fi read where music a a controlled substance and being in a band could get you arrested. Or worse.

Miss Print (MP): Can you tell us a bit about your path as a writer? How did you get to this point?

Emma Trevayne (ET): I’ve spent years writing various things – a few attempts at books that never got finished, plays that never saw the light of day outside workshops. Coda was the first project I really completed.

MP: What was the inspiration for Coda?

ET: I’m not sure that it had any one thing I can say “that was the inspiration.” I wanted to write the kind of book I’d like to read. Several things–movies (The Matrix and Hackers) and a few particular songs were influential. It started to feel like a real thing when Anthem, the main character, popped into my head. He was such a complete person to me so quickly, within a matter of minutes of me first thinking of him, that I knew I had to tell his story.

MP: Coda has a very strong atmosphere with the Web and the world Anthem calls home. Did any real locations help you conjure Anthem’s world? Did you vision for this world start with any particular place?

ET: It was always–and still is–a slightly skewed version of Manhattan. Why I always pictured it there, I don’t know. Maybe because I love the city, maybe because it was easy to isolate and that was necessary for the plot. In terms of making it look the way I did for the book, it was just always the look in my head.

Reality sometimes imitates art, though. Not long after I finished writing Coda I was in Manhattan during a hurricane and seeing the streets gray and deserted was pretty eerie and very, very close to a lot of scenes I’d written months before.

MP: In Coda music is a tightly controlled drug and your narrator, Anthem, is in an illegal band. Were these plot aspects inspired by your own love of music? Do you play any instruments?

ET: The whole book is definitely inspired by my love of music, but I have no special talent at playing any instruments. I’m just an avid researcher and listener. I did, however, deliberately have to have Anthem make mistakes in his composition and terminology so that he didn’t appear more perfect, talented, or knowledgeable than he should.

MP: One of the cool things about Anthem’s sometimes scary world is that people get something called chrome work—metal adornments on their body kind of like tattoos. One character has chrome eyebrows. If you had the chance would you get chrome work done? If so, what kind?

ET: I would! Though I’m not sure what I’d get. A design on my back, maybe, or intricate armbands of some kind.

MP: Another cool thing: Everyone in Coda is known by a citizen code. But they also have handles which are names of their own choosing. If you could pick your own handle, what would it be?

ET: OH MAN. Believe it or not, you are the first person who has ever asked me this and I have no idea. I think I actually gave mine to one of the characters in the second book: Lynx.

MP: Coda has a diverse cast of characters. Is there any character that was especially fun to write? Any character you’re really excited for readers to meet?

ET: They were all fun to write, in their own ways, even the “bad” ones. But if I had to pick a favorite, I’d say Scope was the most fun. I loved his humor and attitude, and that was all him, very little to do with me. These characters really took on lives of their own while I was writing them.

MP: There is a sequel to Coda, called Chorus, set to release in 2014. Can you tell us anything about it? When you were writing Coda did you know that you would be returning to this world with a sequel?

ET: I’d actually pretty much intended not to write a sequel; I was determined that it would be a stand-alone book. Just after I signed with my first agent (who sold Coda for me) I got the idea for Chorus in the middle of the night and had to say to her the next day, “So, uh, you know how I said I didn’t want to write a sequel? Well…” Later on in the process, my editor decided she wanted me to write it, so I did.

MP: You have a few projects on deck, besides the sequel to Coda, can you tell us anything about them?

ET: I have a book for younger (middle grade) readers coming out next year, which is a really classic kind of fairytale with a steampunk twist. It’s about a young boy named Jack who accidentally (though not really accidentally) goes through a magical doorway and winds up in a strange, steam-powered London. He makes some strange friends and gets caught up in the legend of a clockwork bird.

I also have an anthology of short stories coming out next summer for which I’m one of four contributors. The stories are all for middle grade readers and are all dark, spooky, or creepy in some way. Masters of that particular genre–Stefan Bachmann, Claire Legrand, and Katherine Catmull–are the other three writers. We started a blog to share the stories for fun and were later offered a chance to publish them as a physical book.

MP: Do you have any advice to offer aspiring authors?

ET: Turn off the internet when you want to work. Seriously. Other than that, just write what makes you happy, write what you love, write what you would read if you saw it in a bookstore. That’s what you’re passionate about and that passion will show through in your voice on the page. After the first book deal, it gets harder and harder to hang onto the idea that you’re writing for yourself, so enjoy it for as long as you possible can. Once you do get that first book deal, try to remember that you’re doing what you love.

Thanks again to Emma Trevayne for answering some of my questions! You can read more about her and her books on her website.

You can also read my review of Coda here on the blog.

Author/Book inspired Haiku

I’m participating in a blog tour for Truth or Dare this month. One of the dares I had to complete on Twitter was a haiku for my favorite book.

This was a no brainer: Gabrielle Zevin’s Birthright Series.

All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle ZevinBecause It Is My Blood by Gabrielle Zevin

Here’s the as yet untitled haiku:

A distant future

with flaws, grey areas and

chocolate danger

Zevin saw it online and gave it her stamp of approval. (We also had a nice chat because she is the absolute best.)

Anyway, I propose a challenge for you, dear readers:

What author or book would warrant a haiku tribute from you?

To go a step further: Why not write it up and share it in the comments?

Coda: A Review

Coda by Emma TrevayneMusic is a highly regulated device in the distant future of the Web. The Corp uses it as an opiate for the masses to keep the public under control.

In a world where music is a drug, playing music is illegal. But it’s also the only thing that keeps Anthem sane as he struggles to navigate the Corp’s authoritarian regime while supporting his family and caring for his dying father and his younger twin brother and sister.

Eventually, music kills everyone. Overdoses are common. Certain tracks can relieve pain or destroy your eardrums. But usually death from drugged music is a waiting game–a wasting illness. It isn’t supposed to be sudden or unexpected.

Until it is.

Everything is changing. As Anthem learns more about the Web and the Corp he’ll have to decide what he stands for and who he wants to be in Coda (2013) by Emma Trevayne.

Coda is Trevayne’s first novel. It will be followed in 2014 by a sequel/companion called Chorus.

Trevayne has created a compelling and fascinating world in Coda. She also asks hard questions about revolution and the price of freedom making some parts of Coda especially heavy.

With so many details and terms to build this new world, the beginning of the novel can be confusing as readers have a lot of details to parse and absorb. While Anthem is a great narrator and a strong character, his treatment of his friend Haven (the girl he loves) during the story was incredibly frustrating. As Anthem becomes embroiled in a plot to bring down the Corp, he inexplicably shuts Haven out in order to protect her. Aside from being completely counterintuitive given Haven’s personality, it was deeply problematic that the only well-developed female character in the novel* needed to be shielded for most of the story.

More frustrating is that despite Haven’s complete loyalty, Anthem soon doubts and distrusts her. This trend comes up a lot in books since it’s an effective plot device and a good way to keep things moving. At the same time–when so often in real life trust is a tangible, immovable thing–it’s incredibly annoying to meet a character that is so easily swayed by circumstance.

Eventually all of the frustrating things do resolve themselves to make Coda a decent if not completely satisfying read. (Trevayne’s ending is very well-handled and very realistic but not always very uplifting. You have been warned.) Music lovers and musicians will definitely enjoy this clever premise. Similarly, readers looking for a fresh dystopia to get lost in or a thoughtful meditation on revolution and rebellion will find a lot to enjoy here.

*To be fair Anthem has a sister but she is a child with a marginal role and we learn very little about her or the other female characters in Coda. This might change in the sequel, Chorus, since Anthem’s little sister is the protagonist.

Possible Pairings: Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix, The Archived by Victoria Schwab, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

You can also read my exclusive interview with Emma Trevayne starting Monday.

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher*

The Beautiful and the Cursed: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Beautiful and the Cursed by Page Morgan1899: Ingrid Waverly is ruined in London, her reputation in tatters and her friendships irrevocably broken. In the wake of a disastrous summer, Ingrid can hardly bring herself to care when her mother uproots the family to open an art gallery in a Paris abbey.

Both Ingrid and her younger sister, Gabriella, are horrified by the sorry state of the abbey and the prospect of actually living in it. Worse, upon arriving in Paris the family soon learns that Ingrid’s twin brother Grayson is missing.

As Ingrid struggles to find some trace of Grayson she is drawn into a strange underworld of Paris filled with demons and monsters that boggle the mind. But not all of the grotesques Ingrid encounters will lurk in shadows. Some will be closer than she could ever imagine in The Beautiful and the Cursed (2013) by Page Morgan.

The Beautiful and the Cursed is Morgan’s first novel and the beginning of a series. It also started life with the much fiercer title of Grotesque.

A combination of a picturesque setting, an impossible romance and living gargoyles guarantees that The Beautiful and the Cursed will be wildly appealing to many readers. Particularly to readers who enjoy paranormal romances.

Unfortunately other pieces of this novel do not come as smoothly together.

Many aspects of the story do not make sense ranging from unlikely names* to poor plotting. The incident surrounding Ingrid’s departure from England seemed particularly unconvincing to the point of either being contrived or completely fabricated by an unreliable character.**

These problems could have been forgiven and the story truly has potential. The real problem, the one that became impossible to ignore, was how the romance aspect of the story progressed. Ingrid is immediately drawn to one of the abbey’s surly servants–a young man named Luc. While (rightly) Gabriella notices something with Luc, all Ingrid sees are his vivid green eyes. He is at times dismissive, arrogant, rude and brash in his interactions with Ingrid.*** There is absolutely no reason to believe Ingrid would ever be attracted to someone beneath her (albeit sullied) social station and given her supposed independent and pragmatic nature there is even less reason to believe that person would be Luc if such a thing were to happen. Readers who enjoy an unlikely romantic pairing and instantaneous attraction may still find redeeming qualities in Luc (much as Ingrid herself does).

Although the romance is fraught with problems and numerous narrators add unnecessary complications (and repeated information reveals) to the story, The Beautiful and the Cursed is an interesting historical fantasy romance. The story has suspense, drama and even some swoon-worthy moments. Morgan also does an admirable job creating a mythology for gargoyles that is all her own.

*Calling proper English girls Gabriella and Ingrid seemed strange to me. Perhaps with a French mother Gabriella makes sense, but Ingrid? Really?

**She started a fire. By accident. Really?

***I don’t care how tragic the backstory. Luc is a jerk. Really.

Possible Pairings: A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray, Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick, Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel, Greta and the Goblin King by Chloe Jacobs, The Iron King by Julie Kagawa, These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor