Fangirl: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Fangirl by Rainbow RowellCath isn’t exactly ready for college. She isn’t even looking forward to much except the advanced level English class she talked her way into during registration.

College itself is daunting enough. Then Cath’s sister, Wren, announces that she doesn’t want to be roommates on campus. Suddenly the entire prospect has gone from horrible to possibly unbearable.

Cath’s roommate is loud and scary. She’s also kind of mean. And her boyfriend is around All. The. Time.

The dining hall is too horrible to even contemplate.

She’s worried about her dad who is going to be living alone for the first time in years.

And Cath doesn’t know what to expect from her classes.

In the midst of so much unwelcome change, Cath does have one constant: Simon and Baz.

Cath, like most everyone, is a Simon Snow fan. She knows the community. She goes to the release parties. She also writes fan fiction about Simon and his nemesis Baz.

The only problem is that Cath isn’t sure fan fiction alone is going to be enough to get her through a turbulent freshman year in Fangirl (2013) by Rainbow Rowell.

Find it on Bookshop.

Fangirl is a meandering journey through Cath’s first year of college as she adjusts to dorm life, college classes and even the nuances of dating and friend politics. (Not to mention all of her family drama.)

Epigraphs accompany each chapter with relevant excerpts either from the Simon Snow books or from Cath’s fan fic about the characters. The technique works surprisingly well as readers are drawn into the world of Simon Snow and come to care about him (and Baz) as much as Cath does.

One of the best things about Fangirl is that all of the characters are very well developed. Although the novel focuses on Cath it feels like any of the characters could be the star here–they all have their own stories.

Rowell’s writing is as excellent as fans would expect. She also unpacks complicated topics such as the line between fan fiction and plagiarism. Cath is a strong, neurotic heroine who is far from perfect but also very, very real. Fangirl also summoned all sorts of nostalgia about the college experience and friendships.

Because this book covers a large range of time some matters are addressed more than others; some things are tied up more than others. There are questions at the end of Fangirl but there is also enough room for readers to imagine their own endings.

Possible Pairings: The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando, Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant, Take Me There by Susane Colasanti, Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley, The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen, Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg, Just One Day by Gayle Forman, Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson, The Secrets We Keep by Trisha Leaver, Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan, Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith, Pivot Point by Kasie West, Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld, Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

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

The Moon and More: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Moon and More by Sarah DessenEmaline’s family has always been complicated with volatile arguments between her and her two older sisters and her mother who has always wanted to give Emaline the moon and more. That isn’t even considering her dad and her biological father. Or the younger brother she barely knows.

Emaline has enough to worry about the summer before college without thinking about her relatives. Her job at the family real estate business means that she is busy checking in renters and catering to the whims of high-maintenance clients like the filmmaker who plans on filming a documentary about a local artist during the summer. Never mind that the artist in question wants nothing to do with the project.

With college just around the corner, Emaline knew this summer would be different. She didn’t expect troubles with her boyfriend. She couldn’t have guessed that her father would make a sudden appearance in Colby. And at the start of the summer, she certainly had no idea how everything would come together–not to give her the moon but some things that are just as valuable in The Moon and More (2013) by Sarah Dessen.

Set in the beach town of Colby, The Moon and More perfectly captures the breezy, aimless feel of a quiet summer. With evocative settings and an equally strong cast of characters, Dessen aptly portrays the mixed feelings that come with a summer that starts full of promise and turns into something entirely unexpected.

At over four hundred pages (hardcover), The Moon and More has a plot that meanders across an entire summer to show readers an entire family as well as a picturesque town. Although the book felt a bit long at times, all of the pieces come together in the end to create a full picture. Emaline is a great narrator; she knows exactly who she is and exactly what she wants. Although she occasionally loses her way, Dessen navigates Emaline’s complicated choices with skill and grace.

The family dynamics in The Moon and More are fascinating as Emaline tries to figure out what a relationship with the father she barely knows would even look like. With half-siblings and step-parents it was also nice to see Emaline’s family was just that–a family without any complicated labels.

At its start, The Moon and More is a story of summer love. By the end, this book becomes a lot more as Emaline begins to understand who she is and, more importantly, who she wants to be.

Possible Pairings: The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando, How to Love by Katie Cotugno, A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley, Just One Day by Gayle Forman, Moonglass by Jessi Kirby, Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta, The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen, Unbreak My Heart by Melissa C. Walker, Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee

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

All I Need: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

All I Need by Susane ColasantiSkye has great parents, good friends, and even a summer friend near her family’s summer house on the Jersey Shore. Still, Skye knows something is missing. She’s still waiting to find the right guy–the one that will make her feel complete and be the icing on the proverbial cake. That’s all Skye needs for her life to really be perfect.

Every summer Skye and her friend Adrienne joke that the summer will be different; something exciting will finally happen. Usually that isn’t the case. Then Skye sees him at the party and she knows, at last, that something big really is going to happen.

Seth didn’t want to join his friend at the beach party. His family doesn’t rent a house on the shore–his dad owns a roller rink there. Totally not the same. But then Seth sees her and he knows he was wrong and coming to the party was the exactly right thing to do.

After one magical night Skye and Seth know they’re meant to be. But before they get to a happy future they’ll have to deal with a present filled with missed connections, worried parents, troublesome friends, and the difficult realities of college (and long distances) in All I Need (2013) by Susane Colasanti.

All I Need is Colasanti’s sixth novel. Like her other books it is a standalone (though attentive readers might spot a cameo or two).

All I Need is written in the first person with dual narrations by Skye and Seth. Between the two narrators, Colasanti offers a nuanced story about the starts and stops of Skye and Seth’s fledgling relationship. Although the novel spans a wide space of time, this story is very grounded in the distinctive sense of possibility that summer brings. Colasanti expertly opens up both Skye and Seth’s futures as together (and apart) they realize the world has a lot to offer.

With a frothy blend of romance and fate Colasanti plays with the ideas of serendipity and inevitability as Seth and Skye work to find each other after their first fateful meeting. The two narratives cleverly overlap and intertwine throughout All I Need to create a delightfully romantic and thoughtful story.

Possible Pairings:Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley, What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen, Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg, Just One Day by Gayle Forman, Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins, The Statistical Probability of True Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

You can also read my exclusive interview with Susane Colasanti.

Just One Day: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Just One Day by Gayle FormanAfter a whirlwind tour through Europe, Allyson is looking forward to returning home and starting college in the fall. Even if it means missing Paris and even if the tour wasn’t everything Allyson thought it would be.

Two days before she is set to return home, Allyson sees an underground production of Twelfth Night that unexpectedly changes everything.

Accompanied by a laid-back Dutch actor named Willem as her guide, Allyson spends a whirlwind day in Paris where, finally, Allyson understands what her European tour was meant to feel like. As she and Willem grow closer, Allyson starts to understand what a lot of things are supposed to feel like.

At least, she thought she did.

When Allyson wakes up the next day to find Willem already gone, Allyson’s previous certainty shatters.

Starting college in the wake of Willem’s abrupt departure, Allyson starts to fall apart. She knows what is expected of her. She even knows most of what’s wrong. But she has no idea what she wants. No idea how to fix anything.

One day gave Allyson the chance to change everything even if it meant losing Willem. With one year, Allyson might be able to finally find herself in Just One Day (2013) by Gayle Forman.

Just One Day is the first novel in a duet. Willem’s story, Just One Year is set to publish in fall 2013.

Forman expertly chronicles Allyson’s self-destruction during her first semester of college as well as her efforts to start fresh (with a tabula rasa, if you will) in the following term. Allyson’s changing relationships with her family and friends are also handled well in the story.

Filled with travel and a variety of settings, Just One Day is a vivid trip through Europe filled with descriptions of all of the sights Allyson takes in over the course of her story. I also loved the inclusion of so many Shakespeare references as counterpoints to Allyson’s experiences. The underlying buoyancy and serendipity of the story is refreshing as (after the obligatory wallowing) Allyson works on moving forward.

Told over the course of one whirlwind day and the subsequently turbulent year, Just One Day is ostensibly a love story–or at least a story of lost love. Except it’s also a more than that. Knowing that the book is part of a duet, there will of course be answers about Willem’s disappearance and his own feelings about Allyson. However, by the end of the story, that’s very secondary to the story of Allyson finding herself and figuring out what she wants.

Possible Pairings: The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando, City Love by Susane Colasanti, Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley, In a Perfect World by Trish Doller, Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo, Stranger in the Forest by Eric Hansen, Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes and The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson, Summer in the Invisible City by Juliana Romano, Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris, As You Like It by William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare, The Statistical Probability of True Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith, How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr, Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando, Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin

Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick: A Review

Au Revoir Crazy European Chick by Joe SchreiberPerry Stormaire had no intention whatsoever of attending his senior prom. Not when his band had their first ever actual gig in an actual club in New York City.

Unfortunately his parents have other ideas when the foreign exchange student staying with Perry’s family expresses her wish to attend prom before going home to Lithuania.

Why Gobija Zaksauskas wants to attend prom is anyone’s guess. Frumpy, quiet, not to mention epileptic it seems like Gobi’s entire mission as a foreign exchange student was to blend into the background.

All of that changes on prom night.

As Gobi embarks on a night-long mission of vengeance, Perry is dragged along–sometimes literally–for the ride. A week ago Perry’s biggest problems were choosing a college and working up the nerve to defy his father. Now, Perry isn’t even sure if he’ll make it through his prom night in one piece in Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick (2011) by Joe Schreiber.

Though completely improbable and often needing a lot of suspension of disbelief, Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick remains a fast exciting read of pure escapism with refreshing humor and oddly authentic characters for such an outlandish story.

Schreiber has created a fun blend of unlikely adventure and the more usual coming-of-age story. Structured with college essay question at the start of each chapter, Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick perfectly captures the panic and scrambling so often associated with the college search and application process.

Enchanted Ivy: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Enchanted Ivy by Sarah Beth DurstLily Carter’s future is at Princeton University. Her grandfather went to Princeton. Going to Princeton would allow Lily to move away from home without feeling guilt about not taking care of her mother. It’s the perfect school. Most importantly, Lily desperately wants to follow in Grandpa’s footsteps to make him and her mother proud.

Turns out her chance at Princeton might come sooner than she thinks when Lily accompanies her grandfather and mother to Princeton Reunions weekend where, thanks to Grandpa’s connections, Lily has a chance to take the top secret, super exclusive, Legacy Test. Passing the test means claiming what Grandpa calls her destiny. Oh, and it also means automatic acceptance to Princeton.

The only problem is that instead of filling in multiple choice bubbles or writing an essay, Lily has to find the Ivy Key. She has no idea what it looks like or even what it is. She has no idea where to start.

Still, Lily starts on the path to the Ivy Key. A path that leads Lily to talking gargoyles, a mysterious boy with orange and black striped hair, demonic library shelves, and magic. Lots of magic. Because Princeton isn’t a normal school and Lily might not be a normal girl.

If Lily can get to the bottom of Princeton’s secrets, she might also find answers about her mother’s illness and her family’s hazy past, she might even find her own place at Princeton in Enchanted Ivy (2010) by Sarah Beth Durst.

Find it on Bookshop.

I loved Enchanted Ivy. Truly loved it. It’s a perfect fantasy with an original premise, a great plot and top notch world building. As a girl who once asked for a gargoyle for Christmas I especially loved the gargoyles in the story which, according to Durst herself, are all really at Princeton–how cool is that?

Gargoyles aside Enchanted Ivy is a strong story with appealing fantasy elements and truly delightful characters on every page. Lily is an authentic and likable heroine at every stage of her journey. To call Tye** a wonderful addition to the story is a vast understatement. Durst’s writing is complex, subtle and a real pleasure to read.

In addition to being a fun fantasy, Enchanted Ivy is a clever spin on the usual college admission woes seen in realistic YA novels. At the same time it has elements of mystery and action. The narrative asks hard questions with wit and aplomb. And there’s a whole section that takes place in a library. Seriously, what more do you want? Go, read this book, right now!

**Tye may or may not be the aforementioned mysterious boy with orange and black striped hair. . . . Okay, I lied, Tye is totally the aforementioned mysterious boy with orange and black striped hair.

You can also read my exclusive interview with Sarah Beth Durst.

Possible Pairings: White Cat by Holly Black, Compulsion by Martina Boone, City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, The Devil and Winnie Flynn by Micol Ostow and David Ostow, It Wasn’t Always Like This by Joy Preble, Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel

Exclusive Bonus Content: Another reviewer raised the issue that the Princeton library in the book uses the Dewey Decimal classification system instead of Library of Congress. (The actual Princeton seems to use an amalgam of Library of Congress and classification systems made specifically for the Princeton libraries.) This change did not bother me for several reasons: first it’s a fantasy, second LoC is way hard to navigate, and third I just like Dewey better. It is a superior system. If you don’t think agree at least now you’ve been warned.

The Alpha Bet: A Review

The Alpha Bet by Stephanie HaleSixteen-year-old Grace Kelly Cook is so ready to start college where she can ditch her geeky high school image and finally get away from her overbearing, overprotective, over the top mother. After graduating early and earning a free ride to her dream college, it seems like all of Grace Kelly’s dreams are coming true.

But starting fresh is going to take a lot more than some strategic online searches.

At the behest of her breezy, free spirit roommate, Grace Kelly agrees to rush the Alphas–the elite, friendly sorority that values academics more than good looks. It sounds like a match made in heaven and, much to her surprise, Grace Kelly finds that she’s prepared to do anything it takes to become an Alpha–even if it means telling a major lie and jeopardizing her other friendships.

On top of all that, Grace Kelly will have to complete the Alpha Bet–a secret set of alphabetical tasks–to prove her loyalty to the sisters and her dedication to the sorority. Between being a pledge, college classes, and navigating the murky waters of her first college crush Grace Kelly is in for quite a year in The Alpha Bet (2010) by Stephanie Hale.

The Alpha Bet is a cute book about a girl facing the triple threat of college life, growing up, and understanding her family. All at the same time. While she’s sixteen. That might sound like an unlikely scenario which, basically, sums up the overall feel of the book: improbable.

While Grace Kelly was an adorable heroine, a lot of her personality never felt real. Even the fact that she went by the name “Grace Kelly” seemed odd–why not Grace? Why not Kelly? Why is her nickname when she gets one GK? (The names in the book in general were over the top for reasons that remain unknown.)

The premise was interesting, but a lot of the actual Alpha Bet tasks were glossed over in favor of other aspects of the plot. It would have been fun to know more about all of the tasks, but it was not meant to be. The book also makes a big production of Grace Kelly’s being a science geek only to unceremoniously drop that thread by the end of the story.

While everyone loves a light read with a happy ending, The Alpha Bet was too saccharin and too simple; the “nice” characters were unerringly sweet and could do no wrong while the “bad” characters were awful. Although it was often overly simplified, Hale has created an interesting story that will pique the interest of any readers who find Greek life intriguing.

Exclusive Bonus Content: I entered a sweepstakes on goodreads to win this book not thinking much about it. Much to my surprise, I received an email a few weeks later telling me I had won a copy of the book. It was a lot of fun to win it and receive it in the mail even it, to be fair, I really did not need another book. In the spirit of that moment, I am now giving away the signed copy I received. Visit my post about the giveaway to enter for your chance to win (if I haven’t already scared you off with my middling review).