All tagged Lyla Garrity

When Bad Marketing Happens to Good Books: Just One Year by Gayle Forman

 Sometimes the wind blows you places you weren't expecting: sometimes it blows you away from those places, too.

When I found an early copy of Just One Year on the shelf at University Bookstore in Seattle last week, I could not have been more thrilled. The sequel to Just One Day (which I loved) was hands-down one of my my anticipated novels of the season. I couldn't wait to see where Allyson and Willem's story went, since Just One Year promised to "pick up where Just One Day ended.


Except that's a lie. Just One Year doesn't pick up where Just One Day, the book, ended. Instead, it begins as just one day, the day Allyson and Willem spent together, ends. If you've read Just One Day, you know that it spans the year following that day, so Just One Year effectively hits rewind on the timeline for the thing that happens on the final page of Just One Day.

It's important to understand that how the Just One Year has been marketed and the actual story between the covers are two entirely different things.

Read the rest--> 

Review: He's Gone by Deb Caletti

The clanging sailboats and the wind in the trees and the groaning dock and that wide, wide night sky say only one thing back. He’s gone, they say. He’s gone, the darkness and the empty street say, too.

I've read and enjoyed several novels for teens written by Deb Caletti, most memorably The Nature of Jade and The Story of Us (invest in some Kleenex before reading that one). What consistently struck me most about Caletti's novels is that she develops backstory with a slow-burn reveal. It's subtle and effective.

When I learned last year that she was publishing an adult novel, He's Gone, it quickly became one of my much-anticipated 2013 reads, as I was certain Caletti's style which I knew from her young adult fiction would likely translate well to a novel dealing with adult issues. 

He's Gone did not disappoint in terms of twisty backstory, and while it definitely heads in a darker direction than fans of Caletti's YA novels may be accustomed to,  this unusual journey into the secrets of a marriage is both fascinating and mysterious.

Memory is such a sadistic, temperamental little beast.

He's Gone unfolds from the first-person perspective of Dani Keller, who wakes up after a night out at a part with her husband, Ian, only to find that he's disappeared. Dani doesn't know what happened, as she unwisely combined painkillers and booze in order to cope with the stress of attending a party at Ian's company.

The novel focuses on the aftermath of Ian's disappearance and Dani's struggle to figure where he went and why he disappeared. Did he leave? Was he having an affair? Is Dani responsible? Was their marriage in jeopardy? Was nothing of Dani and Ian's life together as it seemed?

There is that dream, and that memory, and those damn pills. A black hole of forgetting and remembering. Is there a secret self I am not willing to see? If it was me, if I have done something … Please, let it not be so. I need to stop this mad, pointless unraveling, this panicked fluttering. I am making fools of the good people around me. 


Review: Send Me a Sign by Tiffany Schmidt

I’ve held off on reviewing Tiffany Schmidt’s debut young adult novel, Send Me a Sign for some time now, because the farther away I get from the immediacy of reading this book, the more mixed my feelings become. 

On one hand, Schmidt has written a story that is hard to put down—the narrator is not an easy character to like or feel compassionate toward, despite that she’s battling an illness, yet I found myself rooting for her. On the other hand, I keep finding myself not lingering on the quality of the story, but on my discomfort with the main character, her relationships and her motivation, as well as a very uncomfortable feeling about a plot device near the end of the book [spoiler discussion is here] that’s truly one of my book dealbreakers

When I finished reading Send Me a Sign, initially I enjoyed it, having read the book in a single sitting. This is fairly remarkable, as I generally avoid 1) cancer books and 2) books about popular girls—especially from new-to-me authors. And Send Me a Sign has both. The writing was fresh and Send Me a Sign is an emotional novel that surprised me. 

Mia is a popular cheerleader with a perfect life, leading me to think while reading the first few chapters,

“I’m not sure I can spend 300+ pages with a super popular cheerleader, those girls hated me in high school.”

Her friends have the perfect summer before their senior year planned. Except Mia is diagnosed with leukemia. But, she doesn’t tell anyone.

Was it even possible to keep my cancer a secret? I needed a sign.

Actually, she does tell someone: her neighbor Gyver (yes, like MacGyver), who’s a childhood friend. He’s there for her during her stay in the hospital for treatment and is all around wonderful. 

After she returns home following a month in the hospital and having successfully concealed her illness from nearly everyone who cares about her (egged on by her mother in a sadly realistic case of WTF denial), she continues her deception, while being pursued by The Jock aka Ryan. There are many complications in their relationship, and even though Ryan wasn’t the guy that I wanted for Mia (obviously her sweetie pie musician neighbor Gyver is the boy you’ve got to root for), I really applaud Schmidt for never portraying Ryan as a bad guy for the sake of Gyver being the right boy for Mia. Both boys’ reactions to dealing with Mia’s illness rang authentic and it made me care about and sympathize with each of them.

Joint Review: Ride With Me by Ruthie Knox

Ride With Me by Ruthie Knoxa joint review by Sarah & Rebeca aka Renegade

After Rebeca discovered Ruthie Knox with About That Night, which charmed us both, Racquel from The Book Barbies insisted that we read Ruthie’s other book, Ride With Me. Our arms were twisted, so we had a little Clear Eyes, Full Shelves readalong. 

Ride With Me is, in a lot of ways, a classic road trip/oil and water type of book, except it’s set against the backdrop of an epic bike ride across the U.S. Lexie places an ad for someone to cycle with her, and winds up with Tom, whose sister answered her ad on his behalf, unbeknownst to him. The two clash, as Lexie’s by-the-rules personality and Tom’s laissez faire approach make for amusing cycling companions against the backdrop of their cross-country cycling tour.

On the Plot

Sarah: I love that this is a road trip novel. I mean, they’re on bikes, which doesn’t sound too fun to me because of the whole sore ass thing, but hell, yeah roadtrips. Throw in the bonus of the opposites-attract trope, and I’m sold. I don’t know how creative Ride With Me’s plot is at its core (there are a lot of tried and true plot devices), but it feels fresh and fun regardless. And, I thought the bike ride made for a great backdrop—there’s something about the pursuit of something physically challenging that works for me when it’s done well. Yay sports and all that. 

Rebeca: I’m not a big biking fan either, but reading this book made me want to try this route out myself. Knox does a good job of conveying the feel of the country. Hillsborough even made an appearance for one of the best scenes, the hot-sauce challenge. I bought the need for these two clashing personalities to stick together despite their disagreements. Sparks were a natural result of this forced intimacy, setting the stage for a really fun story.

Sarah: I am, however, not convinced as to how realistic Tom’s, uh, “prowess,” would be after all that bike riding. Yeah, I’m talking about this.

Rebeca: The first time you shared that article I had to leave the room. My DAD rides his bike to-and-from work every day. Eww.

Series Review: The "Summer Series" by Jenny Han

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny HanIn my post yesterday, I mentioned that I’ve been reading as many summery novels as I can find. Naturally, I had to check out Jenny Han’s popular “Summer” books about three teenagers who spend each summer together at a beach house. 

I realize I’m probably the last person on the planet to read this series, and I blew through all three books in 24 hours, so I understand why people find them so unputdownable—there’s just something about these books that make you want to keep on reading. 

(Incidentally, since this is a series review, I’m going to be intentionally vague, so as to not ruin the books.)

In the first book, The Summer I Turned Pretty, Belly (Isabelle) returns with her mother and brother to Cousins Beach, where their family friends own a beach house. Now that she’s older, and as the title implies, prettier, she’s hoping to capture the attention of her long-term crush, Conrad, the eldest son of her mom’s best friend, Susannah. She’s also excited to reconnect with her good friend, Conrad’s younger brother, Jeremiah. 

I’d nursed a crush on Conrad for whole school years. I could survive for months, years, on a crush. It was like food. It could sustain me. If Conrad was mine, there was no way I’d break up with him over a summer—or a school year, for that matter.

The Summer I Turned Pretty is the novel in the series I connected with the most.

One of the wonderful things about the Summer books is that they feel very timeless. A lot of books featuring teen characters read in a way that I often wonder if they’ll be dated rather quickly. These books, and particularly the first one, made me feel nostalgic for summer fun as a teenager (and I hated being a teenager!). While I never was so lucky as to spend entire summers at the beach (that’s pretty much my dream), the sense of summer, where the days drift away amidst sun and sand was really wonderful. 

I was sitting on the La-Z-Boy reading Emma—mostly because I thought it made me look smart, not really because I enjoyed it. If I was reading for real, I would be locked in my room with Flowers in the Attic or something and not Jane Austen.

One of my favorite aspects of The Summer I Turned Pretty are the flashbacks relating the backstory and dynamics between the characters. We see them as kids each summer and how the dynamics between these “summer friends” evolved. Being the youngest, Belly is always hoping to be included with the boys, but often finding herself left out, pining away for Conrad. 

And this is the point at which I’m morally obligated to disclose something about the Summer books: there’s a love triangle.

Review: Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker

Small Town Sinners by Melissa WalkerI have recently been reading through a number of young adult novels recommended to me by Sarah dealing with challenging, contemporary issues.

Among these have been Sara Zarr’s incredible Story of a Girl, Siobhan Vivian’s brilliant The List and Small Town Sinners, Melissa Walker’s difficult, yet sensitive 2011 release about a small town evangelical community.

Each of these has been quite moving in very different ways, and each has been equally memorable, addressing issues and making me think without being “problem novels.” I love seeing this level of innovation of depth from today’s YA writers. 

I grew up in a small town, taught in a small town and currently live in one. There are many wonderful aspects of this experience and just as many not-so-great ones. Small towns are sometimes tempting to stereotype but also defy classification. Melissa Walker skillfully captures the complexity of a small town, walking a line in which she peels back the layers of small town life and the influence of strong Evangelical fervor.

Small Town Sinners is told from the point-of-view of Lacey Anne Byer, the daughter of the children’s pastor for the House of Enlightenment, her town’s evangelical church, who says,

I’m just trying to figure out what truth really is for me.


Review: Cinnamon Rain by Emma Cameron

Cinnamon Rain by Emma Cameron

It stings—
sulphur tears
in cinnamon rain.

Emma Cameron’s Cinnamon Rain embodies the Trifecta of Awesome in my reading heart: a contemporary older YA, Novel in Verse, from Australia.

Fortunately, after a long (very, very long) wait for my order of this book from Fishpond, the Trifecta of Awesome didn’t disappoint—Cinnamon Rain is one of my stand out reads of the year. 

Cinnamon Rain interweaves the stories of three friends: Luke, Casey and Bongo (yes, Bongo—his real name is David). They live in a rural town in Australia, each hoping to escape their lives. Luke plays cricket, hangs out at the beach and pines away for Casey. Casey’s dream is to escape their town and everyone she knows, while Bongo drinks to avoid his abusive stepfather and the memories of his little brother taken away by social services. 

The whole group seems lifted
by one small success. 

Each character narrates a third of Cinnamon Rain (this seems like a more common narrative style in Australia than in the U.S. or U.K., am I right?), painting a rich picture of three lives in transition. We follow them separately out of their hometown in their first steps into adulthood. 

But somewhere in the mix,
I realise that
she’s not just running away.
Her life has focus.
I’ve got nothing.

{Review} The Wicked and The Just by J. Anderson Coats

The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats

“To the Victor Belong the Spoils” and “Winner Takes All” are common sayings. It makes sense on some levels. Someone wins, someone loses. Winner takes, loser gives.

In the context of Monopoly, it’s all fun and games. But what about when it comes to occupying someone’s land in real life? Or taking over their culture? Stripping them or their home? And what about their livelihood? Or their mere survival? 

J. Anderson Coats thoughtfully navigates these thorny questions in her thoroughly-researched historical novel, The Wicked and the Just, which is told from the eyes of two girls on opposites ends of the English occupation of Wales during the late 13th century. 

Cecily, an English girl, has long fantasized about the day when she would become the Lady of Edgely Manor. But when a court rules in favor of her uncle Robert, she and her father are left landless.

Facing the choice of being steward of the manor of which he was formerly the master and becoming a burgess in Wales, with none of the financial and military obligations of a manor lord, Cecily’s father chooses the latter. He packs up their belongings in Coventry, where he and Cecily have been living while awaiting the verdict on Edgely manor, and they begin their life in Caernarvon, the heart of occupied Wales. 

I liked, but didn’t love Robin LaFevers’ debut novel, Grave Mercy.

(Similar to how I liked, but never loved Lyla Garrity, and often found certain aspects of her personality annoying—hence the FNL Character rating below.)

First of all, this book is erroneously being marketed as Young Adult.

The main character and narrator, Ismae Rienne, is a young adult. That’s the only element of this book that strikes me as YA. (Sandra, a retired English teacher and therefore someone who knows what she’s talking about when it comes to literary genres, thoroughly agrees that this book does not have the attitude of a YA book.) A large part of that is due to the Ismae’s voice, which never quite struck me convincingly as that of a seventeen year old girl. This book should be categorized as historical fiction/romance with a touch of the supernatural.

Just keep that in mind if you decide to read this.

Now, the premise of Grave Mercy is Assassin Nuns + Medieval Court Intrigue, which sounds like it would = Badass Fun. However, Grave Mercy ends up going light on the badass, middling on the intrigue, and heavy on the non-smutty romance.

If that doesn’t sound interesting to you, don’t read this book. 

Now, my favorite part of Grave Mercy is the setting.