Bookishly Ever After: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Bookishly Ever After by Isabel BandeiraPhoebe Martins is an avid reader who always has a book nearby. She is content escaping her mundane high school reality in the fantasies of her books–especially a swoony paranormal romance. She has a small, close-knit group of friends, band, archery, and knitting. She doesn’t necessarily want more than that.

Then her best friend Em tries to play matchmaker between Phoebe and dreamy fellow band geek and drama nerd Dev. Phoebe isn’t sure how to feel about Dev potentially liking her or how to navigate her own maybe-crush on him.

So she turns to the heroines in all of her favorite books, of course, for advice on how to overhaul her wardrobe, flirt, and generally be awesome.

But it turns out fictional romances don’t always translate well to reality. If Phoebe wants her own happy ending, she might have to figure out the answer herself in Bookishly Ever After (2016) by Isabel Bandeira.

Bookishly Ever After is the first book in Bandeira’s contemporary Ever After trilogy.

Bookishly Ever After is narrated by Phoebe and includes her “notes” on passages from her favorite novels complete with excerpts and Phoebe’s own underlining and commentary.

Phoebe is a realistic sixteen-year-old who is refreshingly content with her life, friends, and family at the start of the novel. Although Phoebe spends a lot of the story figuring out how to deal with Dev, she remains self-actualized and very aware that her own happiness and fulfillment comes first. She is bookish and fun without being overly precocious–in other words Phoebe sounds and acts her age which isn’t always as common as it should be.

Set over the course of several months in the school year, Phoebe and Dev have a slow courtship as they circle each other and as Phoebe tries to make sense of her own conflicted feelings. Fictional crushes were always enough for her before so the prospect of a real crush–not to mention actual dating–initially feels overwhelming.

Phoebe’s friends are all supportive and memorable with distinct personalities that Bandeira conveys expertly through brief descriptions and asides. Em initially comes across as overbearing but through Phoebe’s eyes readers soon understand the strength and importance of their friendship. It’s also great to see all of the characters have a variety of interests and refuse to be classified as any one thing.

Bookishly Ever After is a fun romance with authentic characters and delightful dialogue. This sweet story is sure to leave readers smiling. Recommended for bookish readers looking for a bubbly new contemporary.

Possible Pairings: The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things by Ann Aguirre, A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody, Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum, Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg, I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, Crow Mountain by Lucy Inglis, The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder, Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella, When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan, Between the Notes by Sharon Huss Roate, The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti, Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes

You can also check out my interview with Isabel.

*A copy of this title was acquired for review consideration from the publisher at BEA 2016*

That moment when your manicure unintentionally matches your recent read. (Main character Phoebe would probably approve.) Phoebe loves YA books and she is content to escape her mundane high school reality in the fantasies of her books–especially a swoony paranormal romance. When her best friend Em tries to play matchmaker between Phoebe and dreamy fellow band geek and drama nerd Dev. Phoebe isn't sure how to feel about Dev potentially liking her or how to navigate her own maybe-crush on him. So she turns to the heroines in all of her favorite books, of course. But it turns out fictional romances don't always translate well to reality. If Phoebe wants her own happy ending, she might have to figure out the answer herself. This is a fun romance with authentic characters and delightful dialogue. Recommended for bookish readers looking for a bubbly new contemporary. #booknerdigans #bookstagram #bookishfeatures #goodreads #bookstagramfeatures #instabook #instareads #igreads #booknerd #bibliophile #books #reading #currentlyreading #amreading #bookworm #bookish #bookgram

A post shared by Emma (@missprint_) on

Advertisements

Spontaneous: A Review

Spontaneous by Aaron StarmerMara Carlyle’s class is thrown into chaos when Katelyn Ogden explodes in the middle of third period calculus. After Katelyn’s untimely demise more seniors start blowing up. After suspecting terrorism, suicide, and other sundry conspiracies, the town of Covington soon realizes that the high school seniors are falling victim to spontaneous combustion.

No one knows why it’s happening. No one knows who might be next.

All Mara and her best friend Tess want to do is make it to graduation in one piece. But that might be harder than they think as students keep popping with no obvious pattern or warning. Mara’s senior year is going to have love, friendship, drugs, and even more explosions than the usual high school drama would suggest in Spontaneous (2016) by Aaron Starmer.

Mara’s first-person narration is dark, no-nonsense, and sometimes blatantly insensitive as she tries to make sense of her friends and classmates blowing up. She deals with the stress and the possibility of her own eventual demise with humor and avoidance.

Starmer’s prose is snappy and substantive. Like many critically acclaimed novels, Spontaneous strikes a good balance between philosophical and absurd. Unfortunately, much of the story also feels like it is being spoon-fed to readers with heavy-handed descriptions and plotting.

Spontaneous isn’t the first quasi-literary YA novel to be written by a male author with a female protagonist. It also won’t be the last. Unfortunately, and this speaks to a number of potential flaws in the text, nothing about this book makes it matter that Mara is a girl. She could be anyone from any background. Nothing about her feels distinct or unique, begging the question why is this her story and not the story of one of the other unlucky seniors at Covington High School?

Throughout the novel, Mara keeps readers at a remove both from herself and from the other characters who populate the novel. While possibly a deliberate decision by Starmer, it does little to endear Mara to readers or generate much interest in her story.

Unfortunately an interesting premise and strong writing are not enough to make Spontaneous a compelling story. Spontaneous is a wacky, macabre novel sure to appeal to fans of Grasshopper Jungle.

Possible Pairings: Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes, Going Bovine by Libba Bray, Deadline by Chris Crutcher, Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend by Alan Cumyn, Hellhole by Gina Damico, We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson, Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith, We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

*An advance copy of this title was acquired from the publisher at BEA 2016*

The Devil and Winnie Flynn: A Review

The Devil and Winnie Flynn by Micol Ostow and David OstowSeventeen-year-old Winnie Flynn doesn’t know why her mother killed herself. All she knows is that her dad said yes when Winnie’s estranged aunt Maggie proposed that Winnie spend the summer with her. Now Winnie is working as a production assistant on Fantastic Fearsome, the reality TV show Maggie produces and hosts.

This season the show has fresh, young talent (including one Devil Hunter named Seth who is as earnest as he is cute) and big plans to track down the famous Jersey Devil.

As much as she loves horror movies, Winnie doesn’t believe in ghosts–or the Devil. But as she gets to know the Hunters and learns more about the Devil’s strange history, Winnie begins to wonder if there might be some fact to the fantastic here.

Soon, Winnie realizes her family may have a stronger connection to the Devil than she could have imagined. But even Winnie’s firm skepticism and calm might not be enough to keep her safe in The Devil and Winnie Flynn (2015) by Micol Ostow with illustration by David Ostow.

The Devil and Winnie Flynn is the second collaboration from the Ostow siblings.

Written as a scrapbook-style letter for Winnie’s friend Lucia, The Devil and Winnie Flynn is a mixed media adventure filled with illustrations, shooting scripts, and other ephemera beyond the traditional narrative including appropriately eerie depictions of choice Jersey locations.

Winnie’s dry humor and skepticism throughout the narrative keeps this novel firmly grounded even as the story moves into decidedly “fantastic” territory complete with magical powers, mysterious guardians and other psychic phenomena.

A quick finish and unanswered questions about Winnie’s mother will leave readers hoping that The Devil and Winnie Flynn is the start to a series. The Devil and Winnie Flynn is a fun and campy horror novel filled with real details about the Devil and evocative New Jersey locations sure to have high appeal for horror fans.

Possible Pairings: Enchanted Ivy by Sarah Beth Durst, Ghost Huntress by Marley Gibson, Bad Kitty by Michele Jaffe, The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson, The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos, It Wasn’t Always Like This by Joy Preble, Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan, I Woke Up Dead at the Mall by Judy Sheehan, Veronica Mars

*A more condensed version of this review appeared in the 2015 issue of School Library Journal from which it can be seen on various sites online*

Roomies: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara AltebrandoElizabeth is counting the days until her freshman year of college starts. She is more than ready to leave her small life in New Jersey behind and start fresh and new in California even if her friends don’t quite understand her need for distance. After years and years as an only child with a single mother, Elizabeth is thrilled at the prospect of meeting–or more accurately emailing–her new roommate Lauren.

San Francisco native Lauren is much less excited to be sharing yet another room after years and years of sharing a room and a too-small house with her too many siblings. She wanted a single and she is counting days for a very different reason as she tries to imagine life when she is no longer a daily fixture in her own family.

What starts as an innocuous email about whether to buy a microwave or a mini-fridge turns into a series of emails that might lead to friendship and a few other insights during a summer filled with possibility in Roomies (2013) by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando.

Altebrando and Zarr wrote this novel together, emailing each other chapters without any discussion of an overarching plot. Altebrando wrote Elizabeth’s chapters while Zarr wrote Lauren’s.

I commuted through college and I’ve never had a roommate. This book was very low on my radar despite the high profile authors. I hate to admit but I wouldn’t have even read it except Nicole needed a wingman for a signing. Then it become our second Synchronized Read. And I kind of loved it.

Roomies is a very alien world me–a story of people with siblings and plans to move away and lots of other things I did not do as a high school senior looking toward college. That said, it’s still totally evocative with a perfect balance of fun and depth.

Lauren and Elizabeth are two very different girls with different priorities yet their friendship that evolves through a series of emails is organic and ultimately completely believable. Although much of the novel involves emails it is also worth noting that this is not an epistolary novel. Each girl narrates a chapter where they happen to write an email (and read an email at some point).

The plot here isn’t action-packed or overly shocking. Roomies is very much grounded in the themes you would expect: moving forward, end-of-something-nostalgia, family. Happily instead of moving into the territory of melodrama or superficiality, Roomies remains a very down to earth read and a story with heart.

What really sets Roomies apart is the writing. Altebrando and Zarr’s styles mesh perfectly to create a seamless narrative with two unique but complementary stories. Both Elizabeth and Lauren are refreshingly frank and honest with themselves as much as with each other. While Lauren and Elizabeth aren’t always certain they want to be friends (or even roommates), they are definitely two heroines that readers are sure to love.

Possible Pairings: Don’t Ever Change by M. Beth Bloom, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, City Love by Susane Colasanti, Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley, Just One Day by Gayle Forman, The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson, The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta, After the Kiss by Terra Elan McVoy, The Miles Between by Mary E. Pearson, Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell, The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith, Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee

The Secret Side of Empty: A Review

The Secret Side of Empty by Maria E. AndreuM. T. should be living a fairy tale story of a life. To everyone else it probably seems like she is with her good grades that can make her Valedictorian, the trip she is organizing for the National Honor Society, and her picture perfect best friend with her good looks and fancy house.

M. T. even looks the part with her blonde hair and light complexion.

The only problem is that the story is a lie.

M. T. is an undocumented immigrant–the same as her mother and father. It was easy to blend in before. But now the future is uncertain. M. T. isn’t sure what happens next except that it probably won’t include college or anything resembling a happy family.

With everything starting to unravel M. T. is lost and unsure how to find her way back in The Secret Side of Empty (2014) by Maria E. Andreu.

The Secret Side of Empty is Andreu’s first novel. It draws on her own experiences growing up as an undocumented immigrant in America.

This debut is an important novel that shines a light on an aspect of American life that few people rarely see. M. T. is in a desperate position caught between the country where she legally belongs and the country that has been home for most of her life.

Andreu expertly captures the push and pull M. T. feels between thinking of herself as an American and the underlying reason she knows she is nothing like her American friends. This already multi-layered story is further complicated with M. T.’s troubled home life and her own drastic plan for coping.

The Secret Side of Empty is a compelling and timely read as well as a much needed addition to the larger conversation about the immigrant experience.

Possible Pairings: Drown by Junot Diaz, The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga, Stealing Henry by Carolyn MacCullough, Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta, Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt, A Step From Heaven by An Na, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales, Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher*

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.