Friday, January 30, 2015

For Your TBR Pile - Kissing Ted Callahan (and other guys)

Kissind Ted Callahan (And Other Guys)
By Amy Spalding
Published: April 14th, Poppy/Little, Brown For Young Readers

From GoodReads: After catching their bandmates in a compromising position, sixteen-year-old Los Angelenos Riley and Reid become painfully aware of the romance missing from their own lives. And so a pact is formed: they'll both try to make something happen with their respective crushes and document the experiences in a shared notebook.

While Reid struggles with the moral dilemma of adopting a dog to win over someone's heart, Riley tries to make progress with Ted Callahan, who she's been obsessed with forever-His floppy hair! His undeniable intelligence! But suddenly cute guys are popping up everywhere. How did she never notice them before?! With their love lives going from 0 to 60 in the blink of an eye, Riley and Reid realize the results of their pact may be more than they bargained for.

Thank you NetGalley and LBKids for the eARC!

My Thoughts:

Kissing Ted Callahan was my first Amy Spalding novel--and I am a complete fan. Amy's characters came across real and hip and so, so funny. Can I be friends with these kids, please?

I love stories about pacts, and what made this story unique was the platonic friendship between Riley and Reid. What I found super interesting was how different their approaches were to dating. Riley ran into relationships without hesitation and with one thing on most teenage girls' minds (making out!). Reid, on the other hand, listed and plotted each relationship. I really enjoyed the non-stereotypical role reversal here.

As for Ted Callahan, I found him to be a little shy in the beginning, especially when paired with loud and colorful Riley. He was more of --what I like to call-- a come around character, who opens up and lets you in slowly, rather than throwing themselves at you from the beginning (like Riley). I found his home situation really fascinating, and actually wished there was just a bit more there so Riley's realization that maybe perfect Ted Callahan didn't have everything so wonderful was a little bigger and more powerful.

I also really enjoyed the friendship between Riley and Lucy, who have been friends forever and feeling the strain of what happens when one friend's relationship wedges between them. In this case, Riley felt inferior to Lucy, which isn't typically addressed in YA books. It usually comes across as bitterness or embarrassment. Riley's reaction was more realistic. She chose to avoid her friend and cut her off with no explanation.

Also, I thought Amy Spalding did a really nice job incorporating school, family, extra curricular activities, jobs, and all the things that fill a teen's life into this book. It reminded me how much teens have going on and how the pressure of grades and getting into programs and being on time to work is prominent in their lives. Best of all, all of these things weaved around the story to add a nice balance of chaos and missed encounters.

Overall, I really liked this book and I would definitely pass it on to my younger niece who loves realistic contemporary fiction.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

For Your TBR Pile - The Walls Around Us

The Walls Around Us
By Nova Ren Suma
Published: March 25th, Algonquin Young Readers

From GoodReads
: The Walls Around Us is a ghostly story of suspense told in two voices—one still living and one long dead. On the outside, there’s Violet, an eighteen-year-old dancer days away from the life of her dreams when something threatens to expose the shocking truth of her achievement. On the inside, within the walls of a girls’ juvenile detention center, there’s Amber, locked up for so long she can’t imagine freedom. Tying these two worlds together is Orianna, who holds the key to unlocking all the girls’ darkest mysteries.
We hear Amber’s story and Violet’s, and through them Orianna’s, first from one angle, then from another, until gradually we begin to get the whole picture—which is not necessarily the one that either Amber or Violet wants us to see.

Thank you Edelweiss and Algonquin for the eARC!

My Thoughts:

I read The Walls Around Us in one sitting, and the whole time I thought about how much I missed a Nova Ren Suma book and how the wait for this one was so worth it.

The Walls Around Us splits how Amber and Violet know Ori, the infamous ballerina killer, accused of murdering two fellow dancers. Each girl reveals a fuller picture of Ori than a guilty verdict. What I loved most about this book was how it questioned regret, and asked, not was your biggest regret, but what was your earliest?

Nova did a great job showing a slice of prison life, and the complicated relationships within the juvenile correctional system. This isn't a book that places blame on a broken system or unloving parents, but instead asks the girls to look within themselves for the responsibility of their crimes.

**SPOILER** I do wish there was a little more grounding toward the end. I found the climax to be tense and suspenseful, but was confused as to how all the poisoning happened. Especially how Amber was poisoned. Did she eat the food she prepared? How did the poisonous flower get into the kitchen? If an entire wing was in solitary, how would everyone be poisoned at the same exact time? **SPOILER END**

Those who loved the sisterly relationship of Imaginary Girls and the ghostly voice of 17 & Gone, will love The Walls Around Us.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What's Up Wednesday - 1.14.15

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch
base with blog friends and let them know what's up.

You can participate by going to Jaime's blog here. Or Erin's blog there.

How's everyone doing? I hope your New Year has kicked off excellently and you are keeping to all your reading/writing/exercise goals! <3

What I'm Reading

I am completely in love with Caitlin Moran's HOW TO BUILD A GIRL. Teenage Valerie would've been great friends with Johanna AKA Dolly Wilde. We would've listened to Hole cranked up loud and worn preppy private school girl skirts with ripped tights and combat boots and smoked cigarettes where we'd known we'd get caught.

But seriously, I love this book. It's completely how I remember being a teenager. The story captures the stagnant simplicity of living in a boring town and only having your music to push back that overwhelming feeling of I HAVE TO LEAVE AND BE WHERE THE PEOPLE ARE. For Dolly, it's London. For me, it was New York.

Stay strong, Dollys of the world. You'll get out. <3
Also, read this book.
What I'm Writing 

A whole lotta nothing! I'm taking a small time out while I collect some feedback on a manuscript. It's always strange at first, having nothing to do or write. It reminds me of how when I was in college, once I finished my last final, there was that strange limbo where my body was still running on pure adrenaline and also crashing because it was forced to stop. Either way, I've slowed down and am enjoying it.

What Else I'm Up To

Cross stitching! After being in awe of Leigh Ann Kopans' adorable sassy cross stitches, I made my reward for finishing my MS to learn how to cross stitch. Be prepared, my friends. I plan to stitch the word "bitch" on everything!

For now, I'm learning on these hummingbirds.

Have an awesome week! <3

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Writers Like Us - Jennifer Niven

I got a chance to read Jennifer Niven's All The Bright Places a few months ago and it was sooo good! I absolutely loved this one and am so excited that today is the lunch day for AtBP! Make sure you check it out and fall in love with Fitch and Violet.

Say hi to Jennifer Niven, she's the newest addition to Writers Like Us!

Jennifer on Writing
  • I've written eight books, and eight have seen the light of day. (Not counting the books I wrote before the age of ten, which included a partially finished novel about Vietnam, a memoir about my life in Indiana, and a series of prison mysteries.)
  • My favorite type of scene/character/setting to write is something dark and real with lots of dialogue. I love dialogue. I think this comes from my days as a screenwriting student at the American Film Institute.
  • No matter how long I've been writing, I still have issues with the middles of things. I love writing beginnings, I especially love writing endings, but there is always that dreaded, vast middle part in between.
  • A typical comment from my critique partner is “We need to tighten up the middle!” When I was first starting out, I overwrote everything. My favorite high school English teacher once scribbled “pure economy of word” at the top of one of my essays, and I’ve never forgotten it. I’ve since learned to write succinctly, but my middles are always too long.
  • The book I wished I wrote is In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. I love this book so much it makes me simultaneously want to throw it at the wall and hide it from the world and memorize it and force it on everyone to read.

Jennifer on Getting Published
  • When I was querying, I felt nervous and excited, like it was Christmas Eve. I’ve queried twice in my life, once when I was just starting out with my first book, The Ice Master, and then in the summer of 2013 after my agent died very unexpectedly. The second time querying was much more anxiety-inducing than the first because I was taken completely by surprise, was in the midst of finishing a book for Penguin, and had to very quickly decide what I wanted to write next. That book became All the Bright Places. 
  • The biggest mistake I ever made querying was pitching a book that had yet to be written! I actually did this twice. You would have thought I would have learned my lesson the first time, when I sent out query letters for a book idea that, it turned out, many agents wanted to read—only that book didn’t yet exist! But when I was querying in the summer of 2013, I did the exact same thing again—and then had to write something very fast to send to the interested agents!
  • The craziest thought I've ever had while being published is What if my mind stops working and I’m unable to write another book? It doesn’t matter how many books I’ve written and published, this is the thought that plagues me at the start of each new project.
  • When I got "The Call," my first thought was AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!! (Followed by celebratory dancing.)
  • When I saw my book sale in Publishers Marketplace, I started crying and then called my mom so that she could look and cry too.

Jennifer on Life Outside Writing
  • If I weren't a writer, I'd probably be an international rock star detective, my dream job from childhood. I don’t know that this profession actually exists, but it should. It really should.
  • Secretly, I'm terrified of skunks. In fact, I have recurring nightmares that I’m being chased by skunks or that I’m locked in a house and they are trying to get in. 
  • My secret boyfriend is Jared Padalecki/Sam Winchester. I’ve had many secret boyfriends over the years, but he is, by far, the longest lasting.
  • Sometimes, when no one is around, I sing along to One Direction at the top of my lungs. And maybe dance a little too.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Currently Reading - January 2015


I hope everyone had an awesome New Year! I was in NYC again hanging out with BFF Kelly. We fondued and watched Dick Clark's Rocking New Years Eve on her couch. It's kinda crazy to watch everything going on in Times Square on TV from a few streets away. (Seriously, though. How was Taylor not cold as hell in that outfit? Also, did that make me sound old to ask that?)

On New Year's Eve, I got up early to finish my last book of 2014 (Deerskin by Robin McKinley, which was fantastic), which put my total at 130.

Since I'm spending the first part of 2015 finishing up a manuscript, I set my goal for 100 this year. I figured I'd slow my reading roll down so that I can tackle a new challenge. I'd love to read more non-fic, historical fic, and basically anything non-YA this year. So I have a few different titles lined up for January.

I also made a rule that I am NOT buying any new books until I get through my insane TBR pile. That means 2015 reads are going to be on the back burner for me (for a little while). I had the opportunity to read a lot of titles I was dying for this year (All The Bright Places, Under A Painted Sky, The Last Time We Say Goodbye), and am so grateful for the friends and publishers who allowed me access to their ARCs.

So this is how I'm starting off my New Year in reading. How about you?

2015 Reading Challenge

2015 Reading Challenge
Valerie has read 2 books toward her goal of 100 books.
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