Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday #17 - Or My Top Ten Books (Overall) of 2013

     Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly event hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, which allows bloggers to share lists of some of our favorite (and not-so favorite) things.  This week we’ll be highlighting the top ten books that we read this year!  I have already done a similar post for Feature & Follow with AlisonCanRead and Parajunkee.  But it was the Top Ten New to You Authors of 2013.  Coincidentally, some of the books do overlap!  Such hard choices to make this list, and leave off other favorites from it.  Can't wait to see everyone else's lists and I'm sure my TBR will be creaking from the weight by the time I'm done visiting! LOL
      As always, happy Tuesday and have fun everyone!  Also, MAKE SURE TO LEAVE A LINK TO YOUR POSTS SO I CAN VISIT YOU GUYS TOO!!!  Without further adieu, the books (it's always all about the books)!  :)  All of the books are linked to their Goodreads pages. 

Top Ten Books I Read In 2013 (No Specific Order, Except For #1)

Oh my GOD!  This book you guys!  I think by combing through I have found this year's definitive favorite.  I just absolutely fell in love with Cherry and this book.  I want everyone to read it!  But I also think that it's a little special and some people probably won't "get" it.  I did and I am so glad!

One of the best, most innovative time-travel books I have ever read.  Absolutely hanging on the edge of my seat the whole time and I fell for all the characters too!  Cannot recommend it highly enough.

A completely fitting ending for one of the best high fantasy series I've ever read!  The series stayed consistently awesome, never falling into the tropes so many others do.  Plus it has non-stop action, a kick-ass heroine and a swoony bodyguard! (Hector FTW!)

The alien civil rights movement, an evil master plan, romance, an awesome sense of humor and some masterful prose!  What's not to love about this fantasy novel involving alien exchange students coming to Earth?  Nothing, that's what!

I was unsure of this book when I first got it for review.  But I absolutely adored the main character Ezra, and his snarky, witty self!  Also, one of the best depictions of a teen in a shitty situation but trying to make the best of it.  Never phony and not always pretty, but definitely a great read!

What if Kate Middleton was ugly and lived in a trailer park?  That's basically the quick and dirty of this one, though it digs much deeper into the right reasons for love and learning to accept yourself for who you are.  Oh yeah, it also has a wickedly hilarious sense of humor! (If it seems like I'm saying that a lot, it's because it matters.)

A novel in which the heroine and every other woman in society is treated like property and less than human.  Very important things to say about our world and the independence of human beings in relation to others.  Plus, it has a really wonderfully and realistically developed romance.

All I can say is though this one is late to the party (I just finished it two days ago), it is extremely impressive in its own right.  It's the second novel in a trilogy but completely avoided the sophmore syndrome most fall into.  Not to mention that it is a chilling retelling of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but it has a pretty hot romance in it too (the love triangle was done so well I could deal with it - rare)!

Astrid is a complete and total asshole.  She's basically a truth-telling, saracastic, arrogant and power hungry bomb of a human being.  It's both shades of hilarious and heartbreaking.  This book digs deep into what it means to co-exist with other human beings - and does it with a pie in one hand (to shove in your face) and a tissue in the other hand.

This one terrified me, made me relate to it and had me bawling like a baby.  Such a personal book to read and definitely the best I've read by Matthew Quick.  He proves he can pack punches like any of the big guns in YA.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Go On Now, Take It

Published:  December 1st, 2013
Another Little Piece of My Heart
By: Tracey Martin
Harlequin Teen
ISBN-13:  9781459254749

What if your devastating break-up became this summer's hit single?  In this rock-and-roll retelling of Jane Austen's Persuasion, music can either bring you together or tear you apart.

At her dying Mother's request, Claire dumps Jared, the only boy she's ever loved.  Left with a broken family and a broken heart, Claire is furious when she discovers that her biggest regret became Jared's big break.  While Jared is catapaulted into rock-star status, another piece of Claire's heart crumbles every time his song plays on the radio.

The summer after her senior year, it's been months since the big break-up, and Claire is just trying to keep her head down and make it through a tense trip to the beach with her family.  But when Jared shows up, and old feelings reignite, can Claire and Jared let go of the past?  Or will they be stuck singing the same old refrain?


     Let me just tell you right now (in case for some reason, you didn't already catch on from my other ramblings and related posts: I AM A COMPLETE JANE AUSTEN-OBSESSED FREAK!  For some people this would be equivalent with Austen purism and they wouldn't touch re-tellings or posthumous sequels with a 10-foot pole!  I am not a purist and adore the chance for more of some of my favorite characters in classic literature.  What made this book doubly impossible to pass up was the fact that it was a retelling of Persuasion - my favorite of Austen's novels, now that I've grown older.  Maybe it's because I relate almost completely with poor Anne Eliot and her miserable life spent in service of others.  Not everyone can be an Elizabeth Bennet or an Elinor Dashwood.  Some of us suffer serious heartache for our happiness!  So color me excited that this was supposed to be teenaged, modern versions of Anne and Wentworth! 
     I did enjoy a lot of things about this book.  I liked the fact that it was set during the summer, in a beach town.  It was a lot easier to have it be during that season - especially in modern America, with all the restrictions on the time and energy of today's teens.  I really enjoyed seeing how Claire (Anne) handled the loss of her college fund.  At least she wasn't afraid to go out and get her hands dirty to try and save some money for school (not that her family at all encouraged her in this)!  The writing was gorgeous at certain points and the descriptions of Claire's feelings after the break up were definitely spot on - take it from someone who knows.  My biggest issue was the characters.  With the reader limited to first-person point of view (Claire's) and we don't get any insight into what Jared, her Dad, her sister or her cousins are feeling or experiencing.  As a result of how closed our window into Claire's world is, us readers really only get to know her and her side of the story.  Also, Claire makes some REALLY stupid mistakes.  She has an inability to tell anyone 'no' and it almost causes her to have a serious issue, that could completely ruin her life!  All because she can't tell someone "no" at the least, "NO FUCKING WAY" at the most!!!  
     I could understand Claire's reasons for breaking up with Jared, but I agree with some other reviewers that have stated that Claire loved to victimize herself and paint everyone else as the villains.  Jared really drew the short end of the stick in this book.  The way the reader is introduced to him is as an asshole who asked his girlfriend to choose between her dying Mom who had cancer, and him.  Then he ran away in a hissyfit when she chose her family!  Plus he wrote a bunch of songs about what a bitch she is and how materialistic she is.  I'm supposed to root for Claire to get back with this guy?  Also, Claire's cousin is interested in him and Claire says NOTHING TO HER.  She doesn't tell her he's her ex-boyfriend or what an asshole he is.  Instead she just seethes and plays the martyr of the situation.  It annoyed me quite a bit.  By the end, I was won over (mostly) by Jared.  But I spent the majority of the book NOT invested in the romance, which is a problem for a book that is completely centered around romance/romantic angst.  The songwriting and singing bits were fun and I truly enjoyed them.  However, overall this book was fun but not very substantial or anything I will reread.  More of a summer beach read than anything.  In other words, classic Harlequin (even if it is the teen imprint)! :D

VERDICT:  3.5/5  Stars

*I received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, Harlequin Teen, via NetGalley.  No money or favors were exchanged for this review.  This book was published December 1st, 2013.*

It's About To Get Personal - Or My Thoughts on Goodreads, Author Interactions, Trolls and Opinion Shaming

Not my pic, but it illustrates my point/the topic of this post!
   You want to be a book blogger, huh?  I'm sure plenty of other bloggers have much advice (both good, bad and seemingly bizarre) to dole out generously.  Most of it is probably FAR more interesting than mine and more along the lines of what you would like to hear.  What prompted me to voice my thoughts on these topics (better known as rage button-issues!) would be an incident that happened last night when I was doing a status update on Goodreads for a book that I'm reading.  I won't name any names, but I noticed that the overall rating of the book had dropped dramatically in the last week since I looked at it's Goodreads page.  
     So, I started looking at reviews to see what was going on.  Apparently someone posted a review questioning a few things about the books and had a discussion going in the comments with their friends.  The author dropped themselves into the conversation and gave some unsought explanations for their questions.  I can see how this would be jarring to the reader and make them feel unsafe to express their opinion or like they were being attacked.  That said, it escalated from respectfully WTF? style dialogue to all out rage-mongering on the part of the blogger and as a result lots of people marked it DO-NOT-READ, TROLLS, and gave it one star reviews.  Here I am, weighing in on the situation (and ones like it that happen all the time) to give you my personal dos and don'ts for author interaction/opinion expression:

My Personal DOs for Respectful Opinions/Interactions on Social Media
  1. DO feel free to express your opinions.  That said, do it in a respectful and constructively critical manner.  If you have nothing to add to why you hated it, do not be surprised if someone (maybe not even the author) tries to start a dialogue with you.  Be prepared for it.  Try to be intelligent about it.
  2. DO make sure they are your opinions.  It is wonderful to stand behind your friends and take their part on things.  But if you have not read something, do not mark it as ONE STAR out of FIVE STARS.  If you have not cracked the spine, you have all the right to mark it as do-not-read for whatever reasons you fancy.  But to trash the rating of the author's hard work with no real opinions to share as to why (except for personal, rage-y ones) is just downright malicious.  You're rating the author, not the book!!!   Which is not what the forum is for.
       ***That said, if you want to add a note as to why you're forgoing the book in where the review usually 
              is, that's definitely the more mature and respectful option.  It adds reason that others can see, with 
              any malicious action behind it.

      3.  DO engage in relationships with authors and other readers.  It is really fun to meet new people 
           that share your interests.  Be they authors, or just fellow readers/bloggers it can be fun to get into 
           debates and make book suggestions to others.  Differing opinions are exciting because they can lead 
           to awesome new experiences/wisdom on both sides.  Treat the how you'd treat your real-life friends: 
           with respect and care.

My Personal DON'Ts for Respectful Opinions/Interactions (i.e. SANITY!!!) on Social Media

  1. DON'T engage.  I have been fairly lucky that the majority of my negative/critical reviews are generally not commented on by the author themselves.  I have HOWEVER, had this happen a couple of times.  Lots of times, I don't even notice because I tend to keep my book discussion to my favorite groups threads or my blog.  I always feel bad when it happens.  And yes it does feel like they invaded my personal space.  But you know the best way to get over it?  IGNORE IT.  If you don't engage people who are asking for an argument or want to start a shitstorm, they can't start one.  If they keep harassing you, while you ignore them, it's easy to prove who the malicious party was.  ENGAGING leads to hurtful comments, discussion that only becomes more hateful and less intelligent as it continues on and it angers other bloggers too.  Keep it to your reviews, private discussions and places you know you won't be interrupted.  Or just IGNORE.
  2. DON'T actively create your own shitstorm when you feel threatened or wronged.  Yes, it might get everyone else's attention and cause everyone to spotlight the author/other fan's wrongdoings.  Everyone else can see what they're doing and how wrong it is.  Freaking YAY FOR YOU.  It might satisfy you in the short run, but it will also inevitably draw negative attention to you as well.  It might even draw the attention/ire/horrible acts of OTHER rude assholes on the Internet.  Just because they know they can start something with you and get somewhere.  By just letting things go, I guarantee you can completely bypass 99.9% of any drama waiting to tag along with you.
  3. DON'T one star review books that you have never read for yourself.  This has got to be MY ABSOLUTE BIGGEST PET PEEVE.  EVER.  Especially on Goodreads, where people seem to just rate things low or the lowest possible, just for the Hell of it!  I go on there looking to find reviews or ratings of the books themselves, from others who have read them.  Didn't enjoy it, be honest.  There's nothing wrong with that! :D  Loved it?  Shout it from the hilltops!  Didn't read it, but you're pissed off about author/trolling drama?  DO NOT RATE THE BOOK ITSELF.  Shelve it accordingly, write in the review box about what is irking you, complain to all your friends, etc.  The book is not the author.  They are separate entities!  It could be a masterpiece!  It could change people's lives and the entire world (most of them probably won't, but still!) around us with its pages!!!  Do not punish the book (and the people who might love it anyways) because of the author.  Yes, they profit from it.  It might hurt your soul a little bit, but it is the honest and best way to handle the situation.  One starring a book that you have never read a word of is just as malicious as a trolling author or fan butting in on your social media life!  Don't stoop that low.

     Every single person in this world is entitled to their opinion!  Shaming someone else for their opinion is NEVER okay, even if it just means commenting on a post when you know it will make someone uncomfortable.  If they ask you to leave, then do it.  You might just be trying to make them "understand" something.  But what you're most likely to do is make yourself look like a complete ASSHOLE, no matter how polite you are about it.  They don't want your opinion, didn't ask for it and don't want any further dialogue.  ABORT NOW BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE (in most cases, it's already too late at this point in the eyes of most involved).  Well, I said what I have to say on the matter.
     As someone who has been on Facebook longer than I've been blogging, Twitter for only about six months, and Goodreads for almost three years, I find the easiest way to avoid this kind of thing is to have a life/things to keep busy with outside of social media!  Things won't sting as badly if your Goodreads/Twitter/Facebook accounts aren't the sum of your life and opinions.  They are an addition to you and yes, someone else trying to censor that is an injustice.  But be involved in real life too! :D  Go join a physical book club, hang with some friends, do something fun.  DON'T be logged in 24/7.  It will save your sanity and so will limiting your emotions to your books!  Before Goodreads, I never would have known that an author was behaving badly in regards to reviews, etc.  So I pretend like it doesn't exist now and just do my thing with the books!

P.S.  The books are what matter the most, after all.  The personal shit is secondary and either awesome or not awesome.  That's just life and that's my opinion, such as it is.  Feel free to disagree with me and start a shitstorm in the comments if you want.  Just know that you've been forewarned - I WON'T ENGAGE.

JK.  I totally lied - I engaged! LOL  Sorry, gotta love a horrible joke every now and then!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Feature & Follow #33 - Or the One Where Santa Brought Me Books!

     So, Feature & Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee and AlisonCanRead. It's where you answer the weekly question and then link yourself and you go and check out other blogs of your interest, helping to support out endeavors as a community. Also, do it just because it's fun! :)

Q:  Merry Christmas!  Happy Holidays!  What books did Santa stuff your stocking with this holiday season?  Do a holiday book haul for us!  If you don't celebrate just show off your books you got this week!  Pictures!!!

A:  Considering some people got NO books, I still got more than some.  But this was definitely not the year of the book!  The majority of what I seemed to get was movies this year.  I did get four ebooks between my three BFFs and a hardcover from my Mom, who seems to feel it's her duty to make sure one of my Christmas presents is ALWAYS a book of some sort (thanks be to everything holy for that!!!)! :)  So here is what I happened to receive:

From my friend Hannah.  I have been eyeing it FOREVER, but hate paying over a $1 for novellas, because I am a super big cheapskate.  But I finally GOTS IT!!! :D


These were both from my friend Ree, who combed my Amazon wishlist and chose them simply because she thought they looked interesting!  I am super excited to see if they're any good.  I'm always looking for really awesome, new high fantasy books!

Funnily enough, my friend Elizabeth has gifted me the last three books in this series.  I was the one who introduced her to the author (and her books) and I have falled very far behind!  I need to catch up dammit!!!

Bless her heart, this is the one that my Mom got for me.  And I tell you what, I am super excited to finally read it!  Now I just need to get a copy of The Mark of Athena, and I'll own all the Percy Jackson books in both series!  Yay!

Of course, not to be outdone by others, these are the ones I got myself:

     If you stop by and want to follow us, we prefer Facebook, Bloglovin' and Twitter follows (please and thank you)! :)  Happy visiting everyone!

Faster Than a Speeding Bullet

Published:  September 24th, 2013
Steelheart (The Reckoners #1)
By: Brandon Sanderson
ISBN-13:  9780385743563

There are no heroes.

Ten years ago, Calamity came.  It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers.  The awed public started calling them Epics.

But Epics are no friend of man.  With incredible gifts came the desire to rule.  And to rule man you must crush his wills.

Nobody fights the Epics...nobody but the Reckoners.  A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.

And David wants in.  He wants Steelheart -- the Epic who is said to be invincible.  The Epic who killed David's father.  For years, like the Reckoners, David's been studying, and planning -- and he had something they need.  Not an object, but an experience.

He's seen Steelheart bleed.  And he wants revenge.


     David still remembers every detail of the day his father died.  He was a man who believed in superheroes and the good that they could accomplish.  He was excited when people began to gain special powers.  But then Steelheart, an "Epic" in their area murdered David's Dad in cold blood - but not until after he managed to wound Steelheart.  Massacring everyone in the bank vault, except for David who escaped, Steelheart has gone on to take over the entire city and everything in it.  David has spent the last decade studying Steelheart in the hopes of revenge and when the Reckoners, a group that takes down Epics, comes to town he thinks the time has finally arrived.  But how can he figure exactly what drew Steelheart's blood the first time, get rid of all his main henchmen and fellow Epics, before finally striking the fatal blow to the man himself?  And who is the traitor amidst the Reckoners, on the verge of destroying the entire rebellion?
     I read two books by Brandon Sanderson this year: The Rithmatist and Steelheart.  The first one, Rithmatist, reminded me of Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokemon kind of, only with chalk figures/demons instead of digitized monsters and little animals to duel others with.  I appreciated a lot of things about that book, not the least of which was complex world building and some great characters.  I really appreciated and liked it, even enjoyed it, but I didn't fall in love with it.  Steelheart however, is a completely different story!  I have always had a fascination with superheroes ever since I was a child.  I was never really into the cartoons, but I did enjoy the comics and live action films.  Well, this book takes on a whole other side of the normal superhero spin.  What if the people who gained these powers didn't choose to do good things with them and instead decided to take over the world?  Thus a race of supervillains - or at the very least super-assholes - is born!
     Except if things were that easy, than war and peace would be the simplest concepts on the Earth and half the crap in our history wouldn't be as drawn out and gory as it is.  Killing a human being, even one with unnatural powers, is a slippery moral slope with very little high ground.  You are still a murderer, even if your victim is a despot responsible for the deaths of many.  Is killing Steelheart the right thing?  Many cities are in complete chaos but the one he controls is fairly well run and organized.  People have some semblance of a life outside survival in its most basic state.  So to kill, or not to kill?  That is the question.  Also, not every Epic is evil and not every Reckoner is good.  Who is what in the grand scheme of things?  This book is a complete action, thrill a minute kind of book though.  The twists and turns will keep you guessing, until the ending which leaves you with a cliffhanger that will make you want to bust down Sanderson's door for an ARC of #2!  I'm not going to say anymore so as not to spoil, but suffice it to say that this isn't your average superhero paint by numbers, adventure story.  Great characters, plot and flow.  Truly enjoyed this one and I highly recommend it too! :)

VERDICT:  5/5  Stars

**No money or favors were exchanged for this review.  This book is now available in stores, online, or maybe even at your local library.**

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Who I Am Inside

Published:  September 24th, 2013
Through the Zombie Glass (White Rabbit Chronicles #2)
By: Gena Showalter
Harlequin Teen
ISBN-13:  9780373210770

Inspired by the childhood classic Alice In Wonderland, this harrowing and romantic story features teen zombie slayer Alice Bell who has lost so much -- family, friends, her home.  After a strange new zombie attack, Alice fears she may be losing her mind as well.  A terrible darkness blooms inside her, urging her to do wicked things.  The whispers of the dead assault her ears and mirrors seem to come frighteningly to life.  She's never needed her team of zombie slayers more -- including her boyfriend Cole -- than she does now.  But as Cole strangely withdraws and the zombies gain new strength, Ali knows one false step may doom them all.


     I was a bit wary about reading this after the first one, especially considering that the series is being marketed as a modern take on Alice In Wonderland.  This synopsis is a bit more honest, claiming 'inspired by' instead.  I did enjoy the first, but I'm generally not a very big fan of zombies to begin with.  That said, I truly enjoyed this book even if it did have some imperfections along the way!  It starts off with Alice, Cole and the others still riding the victory from the last book.  But Ali still has the zombie toxin in her system and it refuses to leave.  It's taking hold of her and splitting off into it's own personality, one Ali names 'Zombie Ali' and it's urges are almost becoming too much for her to control.  Constant use of the antidote is the only thing even keeping Alice's sanity intact whatsoever.  Also, when Ali starts having visions with someone other than Cole, a slayer named Gavin, he ends up breaking things off.  There was a SERIOUS amount of romantic angst in this book!!!  Ali and Cole spend almost the entire time broken up, with him trying to fight off his ex-girlfriend Veronica and her trying to not get taken in by Gavin who she does feel something for.
     I enjoyed the fact that Ali didn't pull a Bella and turn catatonic because she lost her boyfriend.  Sure, she was heartbroken, but Ali still managed to carry on with her life and focus on trying to solve her other problems.  Anima is after Ali again, she has a craving for human flesh and her own reflection (Z.A.) is slowly destroying the human part of her.  I enjoyed the interactions with Kat, Frosty, Bronx and her Grandma (who is just as unintentionally funny as in the first book).  The scenes with her dead little sister Emma were just as sad, especially because Emma seems to be losing her ability to connect with Ali from the afterlife.  The whole thing with the mirrors and the evil reflection did tie in a bit more with the original Alice stories that a lot of stuff in the first book did.  
     Probably my main complaints are the romantic angst and the fact that Cole supposedley loved Allie, but didn't bother fighting for her!  He just gave up as soon as he had any competition at all.  The action resolved itself too easily and I really was NOT surprised by who the traitor was (easy to see from a mile off - for everyone except Ali and Cole apparently, that is!).  The whole throwdown with Veronica over Cole, who was acting like a complete douchebag by that point, was also annoying and distasteful.  At that point I was surprised that either girl wanted him honestly.  He treated them like dirt and Ali, especially, got the brunt of his insecurities/trust issues.  I did enjoy the action, but I felt like a lot of this one was unneccessary romantic angst/drama and most of it could have been axed completely.  It would have made the plot move along a lot faster.  That said, I did enjoy it and I will be reading the last book in the series when it comes out! :)

VERDICT:  3.5/5  Stars

**No money or favors were exchanged for this review.  This book is now available in stores, online, or maybe even at your local library.**

Top Ten Tuesday #16 - Or the Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing Me

      Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly event hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, which allows bloggers to share lists of some of our favorite (and not-so favorite) things.  This week we’ll be highlighting the top ten books we wouldn't mind Santa bringing in his sleigh!!!  So, I might be cheating just a little bit on this one!  A couple of the books on here are ones actually on my "Santa" (i.e. parents') list!  I can't wait to see what books I can take from your to-buy or get lists and add to my own!  And as always, happy Tuesday and have fun everyone!  Also, MAKE SURE TO LEAVE A LINK TO YOUR POSTS SO I CAN VISIT YOU GUYS TOO!!!  Without further adieu, the books (it's always all about the books)!  :)  All of the books are linked to their Goodreads pages.  P.S.  The only one of these I've actually read yet is The Mark of Athena.  Yes, I know I'm pathetic!!! :p

Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Getting From Santa

Friday, December 20, 2013

Feature and Follow #32 - Or My Favorite Book for Reluctant Readers

     So, Feature & Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee and AlisonCanRead. It's where you answer the weekly question and then link yourself and you go and check out other blogs of your interest, helping to support out endeavors as a community. Also, do it just because it's fun! :)

Q:  Pick a book in your favorite genre that you'd recommend to  a reluctant reader.

A:  This is such a tough one to answer!  But I guess that if I had to choose a book to recommend to a reluctant reader, it would have to be from the fantasy genre (if I had to pick a favorite genre, it would be that one).  And narrowing it down from there, I would have to say Mistwood by Leah Cypess.  I feel like I am recommending this book constantly in every Top Ten Tuesday and FF!  But I feel like reluctant readers, especially ones you're trying to introduce to fantasy books, would really get into this one.  It immediately draws the reader in, making them want to keep going to discover the truth behind all the court intrigues, the shapeshifter's duties and who Isobel really is.  I cannot say enough to recommend this book!  Everyone go read it, as quick as you can! :)  If you stop by and want to follow us, we prefer Facebook, Bloglovin' and Twitter follows (please and thank you)! :)  Happy visiting everyone!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Make Way for Abby Spencer!

Expected Publication:  March 1st, 2014
Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood
By: Varsha Bajaj
Albert Whitman & Company
ISBN-13:  9780807563632

What thirteen-year-old Abby wants most is to meet her father.  She just never imagined he would be a huge film star -- in Bollywood!  Now she's travelling to Mumbai to get to know her famous father.  Abby is overwhelmed by the culture clash, the pressures of being the daughter of India's most famous celebrity, and the burden of keeping her identity a secret.  But as she learns to navigate her new surroundings, she just might discover where she really belongs.


     Abby Tara Spencer has spent her whole thirteen years wondering what her Dad was like - and most of all why he wasn't part of her life.  When a severe allergic reaction to coconut topping on her frozen yogurt sends Abby to the hospital, her Mom decides it's time to tell her the whole story of what happened with her Dad all those years ago.  They also decide to try and contact him for a full medical history, for Abby's sake.  When they find him, things turn out more different than any of them expected.  Especially Abby's Dad, who is a huge Bollywood movie star in India and didn't know she existed!  Going to India to meet him and her ailing Grandmother is more than Abby ever imagined.  But can they really fit into one another's lives after all these years?  And what happens when the paparazzi catches wind of things?  Is Abby's new-found relationship with her Dad over before it even begins?
     I usually steer clear of middle grade novels.  Not out of any serious dislike or aversion, but because I sometimes find myself struggling to sympathize with or remember those in-between years as I'm reading about characters in that age group.  It's uncomfortable for me, makes me feel old, and causes me to give lukewarm reviews to match my feelings (in all but a few special cases usually).  I'd rather avoid the whole process if at all possible.  Occasionally one still manages to get into my to-read pile, when the synopsis interests me enough to overlook the classification and main character's age.  This is one that managed to slip through.  May I also just say how seriously impressed I am that Albert Whitman & Company put a cover on this that represents the true heritage of the main character and didn't whitewash it!!!  That fact I have to say this and be surprised by it (pleasantly) is sad in today's world.  But many characters/books aren't represented accurately by their covers.  Thank you to the publisher for doing right by this one!
     I must say that I really enjoyed this one!  Abby was portrayed extremely realistically for a thirteen year old girl, with a close and happy family.  Her friends were supportive and happy when she found her Dad, but also voices of reason.  I particularly love Abby's relationship with her Mom for not being the single Mom, Gilmore Girls stereotype of a relationship.  I loved that they were close, but her Mom was without a doubt the parent in that family.  Her Grandparents were also very supportive and sweet, even when Abby went to visit her Dad.  I loved the glimpses into Mumbai that we got once Abby was there, and seeing the culture of everyday India juxtaposed with the excesses of Bollywood, through the eyes of a sheltered American girl.  Yet we also got to see the fun side of things, with Abby making friends with a boy named Shaan and them being tagged as extras on her Dad's movie set.  
     Probably the only reason I can't say this book is perfect is the cliche way that Abby's existence got into the media and the crappy way her Dad handled it at first.  Although I seriously loved the ending, which made up for that almost completely.  Also, the truth about why the letter Abby's Mom sent never got to her Dad was well-handled too.  It didn't make her Grandpa into a villain, just a man who made a mistake.  This is where I'll leave things so I don't give any major spoilers, but it was a wonderful book and I highly recommend this even if middle-grade isn't normally your thing.  This one was worth stepping out of my comfort zone! :)

VERDICT:  4/5  Stars

*I received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, Albert Whitman & Company, via NetGalley.  No money or favors were exchanged for this review.  This book's expected publication date is March 1st, 2014.*

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday #15 - Or Top Ten New To Me Authors of 2013

     Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly event hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, which allows bloggers to share lists of some of our favorite (and not-so favorite) things.  This week we’ll be highlighting the top ten authors that are new (to us) that we've read in 2013.  I have read so many new authors this year, and it has been such fun going back through them to decide who my favorites have been.  This is just a list thus far, as I'm sure I might still change my mind in the two and a half-ish weeks we have left in December!  I can't wait to see what authors we might be discovering together - and which ones you can introduce me to!  And as always, happy Tuesday and have fun everyone!  Also, MAKE SURE TO LEAVE A LINK TO YOUR POSTS SO I CAN VISIT YOU GUYS TOO!!! Without further adieu, the books (it's always all about the books)! :)  And the only books pictured by the authors are the ones that I read this year (all of them linked to their Goodreads pages).

Top Ten Best Authors New To Me I Read In 2013 (No Particular Order)

1.  Denise Deegan - I'm still not exactly sure how I discovered her, but let me just tell you how freaking glad I am that it happened!  Her books are so well-written and full of feels.  Great discovery!

2.  Jane George - I went searching for circus oriented books and was lucky enough to stumble across Jane's entirely magical Mumbo Jumbo Circus series.  I am truly excited to see where she goes next! :)

3.  Rachel Alpine - She wrote an extremely important book about speaking up for yourself and the price of popularity with the cost being your individuality - sometimes even more than that.  It was gut-wrenching and beautiful, a truly special debut.  Can't wait to see where she goes!

4.  Robyn Schneider - She has written some other books (I personally have not read them yet though).  This year I was introduced to her through a book called Severed Heads, Broken Hearts.  One of the funniest, most moving books I read this year.  Definitely will be adding her past books onto my to-read list.

5.  Leila Howland - I did not think it was possible for me to surprised and taken in by a book that is the quintessential "summer romance" book, but Leila's debut was so much more than that!  I think that as long as she stays true to the emotions and realities of her first book, I'll definitely stay a fan.

6.  John M. Cusick - Once again, an author that has a couple of other books floating around in the YA world already.  I just had never found myself with one of them in my hands before this year.  And I'll tell you what, Cherry Money Baby was the best introduction possible to Cusick's unique style!

7.  Melissa Landers - Her teen debut is actually not released until February of next year!  But I had the chance to read it and I am truly grateful that I did.  Intergalactic exchange students, romance, political intrigues and civil rights struggles.  And she has a great sense of humor!  I only wish I was able to put this in the hands of my friends immediately after I finished it!

8.  Cristin Terrill - Time travel is always a difficult concept to carry off!  Terrill managed it in her debut novel with grace, and some entirely awesome plot twists.  Plus, she wrote better characters (even with some of them being the "same" person) than most YA novels have nowadays.  Originality, in a word.

9.  Wendy Knight -  Battle Unicorns!  Those are really the only words I need to describe this tour de force of fantasy fiction for young adults.  I will definitely enjoy reading more by her in the future!

10.  Ripley Patton - I just finished one of Ripley's books in her PSS Chronicles series in the last couple of days and it was one of the freshest, interesting concepts for a book that I've read in a great while.  She has an interesting way with words and the entire story flowed so realistically that I had trouble putting it down.  Now I'm jonesing for the next one something fierce!