Lucky Caller: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“It doesn’t devalue what you had with them, the stuff you experienced, the time you spent with them. That’s still valid, even if it wasn’t built to last. It’s not any less significant.”

Lucky Caller by Emma MillsNina is fine coasting through high school. After all, it’s called the path of least resistance for a reason. Taking radio broadcasting as her elective is one more way to have an easy senior year.

Until it isn’t.

Nina’s radio team is not at all who she would have chosen. There’s Joydeep–who is happy to steer their radio show toward the easiest theme possible and steps up to host despite his obvious lack of comfort behind the mic–and Sasha–a girl who has never slacked on anything and doesn’t know what to make of this group of misfits. Then there’s Jamie, the childhood friend Nina has been actively trying to avoid since middle school.

Turns out, no one on the team knows what they’re doing with the radio show. Nina’s home life is on the verge of a big change as her mom gets ready to remarry. And Jamie, confusingly, might want to talk to her again. Then just when Sounds of the Nineties seems to be hitting its stride as a show, internet rumors and rogue fandoms threaten to ruin their fragile success.

When it starts to feel like nothing is made to last, Nina will have to decide if some things are actually worth working for in Lucky Caller (2020) by Emma Mills.

Find it on Bookshop.

Mills’ latest standalone contemporary is set in the same world as her previous novels and once again taps into themes of fandom and belonging to great effect.

Nina is a self-proclaimed passive participant in her own life. She doesn’t like to think too deeply about anything and she avoids conflict. Both of which led to her years-long avoidance of her best friend Jamie despite his living in the same apartment building.

While the plot of Lucky Caller centers Nina’s radio show and her family dynamics as she adjusts to the idea of her mom remarrying, Nina’s willful ignorance about her father’s short-comings as a long distance parent and her own potential for change add a secondary layer to this otherwise straightforward story. As Nina works through these self-delusions she, along with readers, begins to get a clearer picture of her own life compared to the performative persona Nina presents in public to make things easier.

Despite the lack of self-awareness, Nina is incredibly pragmatic and acknowledges that a lot of life is transient and changing. She knows relationships, like so many other things don’t always last, but she also learns that a set expiration date doesn’t make a friendship or any other relationship any less valuable.

Lucky Caller is a thoughtful, sentimental, laugh out loud funny story with one of my favorite plot twists of all time in the final act. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen, Now That I’ve Found You by Kristina Forest, The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo, Four Days of You and Me by Miranda Kenneally, Tweet Cute by Emma Lord, Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke, The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe, Past Perfect by Leila Sales, How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford, Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, Listen to Your Heart by Kasie West, Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee by Jeff Zentner

All the Crooked Saints: A Review

Here is a thing that draws everyone to Bicho Raro: The promise of a miracle.

Here is a thing everyone fears after their first miracle: What they’ll need to do to complete their second miracle.

The strange magic of miracles has been a part of the Soria family for generations–long before the family left Mexico for the desert of Bicho Raro, Colorado.

Now, in 1962, three cousins are at a turning point where magic and action intersect.

Joaquin wants many things. He wants his family to understand him, he wants to spend time with his cousins, most of all he wants someone to hear him DJing as Diablo Diablo on the pirate radio station he is running with Beatriz from inside a box truck.

Daniel is the current Saint of Bicho Raro. He performs the miracles and he sets the pilgrims on their paths to help themselves. Despite his saintliness he is incapable of performing the miracle he needs for himself.

Her family calls Beatriz the girl without feelings, objectively she can’t argue the point. But when unexpected misfortune befalls Bicho Raro, Beatriz will have to reconcile her feelings (or lack thereof) with the logical fact of what she has to do next.

Everyone wants a miracle but when miracles go horribly wrong the residents of Bicho Raro might have to settle for forgiveness instead in All the Crooked Saints (2017) by Maggie Stiefvater.

Find it on Bookshop.

Set in 1962 when radio waves could be stolen and miracles weren’t quite so shocking, Stiefvater’s latest standalone novel is a story of miracles and magic but also family and forgiveness. An omniscient third person narrator tells the story as Beatriz, Joaquin, and Daniel are drawn into the center of the Soria family’s tumultuous relationship to the miracles and pilgrims who shape so much of the Soria identity.

Pilgrims come to Bicho Raro hoping a miracle can change their life, or maybe their fate. The Soria family changed years ago on a lonely night when a miracle went horribly wrong. The Soria cousins–Beatriz, Joaquin, and Daniel–might be the ones to help right the wrongs of that night. But only if they’re willing to risk changing Bicho Raro and themselves forever.

All the Crooked Saints is an evocative and marvelously told story. Wry humor, unique fantasy elements, friendship, and the fierce power of hope come together here to create an unforgettable story. Not to be missed. Will hold special appeal for readers who enjoy character driven fantasy.

Possible Pairings: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert, Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson, A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi, Eventide by Sarah Goodman, All the Wind in the World by Samantha Mabry, The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore, Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor, The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth, Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher at BookExpo 2017*

How to Say Goodbye in Robot: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie StandifordIcelandic hairdressers are the happiest people in the world. Unfortunately for Beatrice Szabo, no one knows their secret. And Bea isn’t even a hairdresser, let alone living in Iceland.

Bea is used to moving a lot thanks to her father’s professional wanderlust. But moving constantly is pretty easy once you stop getting attached to things like houses and gerbils. Finding herself in the familiar position of new girl in town (Baltimore this time) is nothing to worry about, especially since Bea knows it will only be a year before college when she can finally be alone.

It’s much worse watching her mother’s slow, embarrassing, breakdown and listening to her constant accusations that Bea is a hard-hearted robot.

Robot girls still have to go to high school where the alphabet conspires to seat Bea next to Jonah Tate–known to most everyone as Ghost Boy. A loner since the third grade, Jonah lives his life apart from the usual bustle and flow of his small private high school’s social circle.

Neither Jonah nor Bea are looking very hard for a new friend. Still they somehow manage to find each other through the unlikely common ground of a late night radio talk show featuring a quirky cast of regular “Night Light” callers. It isn’t a traditional friendship or the usual romance, but it’s definitely love.

The more Bea learns about Jonah and his tragic, lonely world the more Bea knows they need each other; that scary as it seems their friendship might finally be showing her how to be a real girl instead of a robot. But will one former robot be enough to make Ghost Boy into a solid Jonah? Do robots and ghosts even speak the same language? in How to Say Goodbye in Robot (2009) by Natalie Standiford.

Find it on Bookshop.

Bea’s narration is a sharp-witted look at high school from an outsider’s perspective, but also something more. This book offers an authentic look at a type of friendshipnot often seen in young adult novels. There is a theory that in every relationship there is one person who loves a bit more–one partner who loves a little stronger. Standiford examines that kind of relationship in How to Say Goodbye in Robot.

Despite the seriousness of the core plot, this story is charming and surreal even at its grittiest moments. Like the Night Lights, Standiford creates a world here between waking and sleep where–if you believe hard enough–magic might be real and anything could be possible.

How to Say Goodbye in Robot is a beautifully written book. Standiford paints Bea’s simultaneously stifling and fantastical world with beauty and style deserving of its charming flap copy and enchanting cover.

Possible Pairings: The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson, Don’t Ever Change by M. Beth Bloom, Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron, Finding Mr. Brightside by Jay Clark, Waiting for You by Susane Colasanti, Last Night at the Circle Cinema by Emily Franklin, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart, Fly on the Wall by E. Lockhart, Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, After the Kiss by Terra Elan McVoy, Lucky Caller by Emma Mills, The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider, The Insomniacs by Marit Weisenberg, Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee by Jeff Zentner