Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday-- Books I Read Because....

Top Ten Tuesday is a really cool original feature/weekly meme now hosted over at That Artsy Reader Girl. Each week they post a new Top Ten List that bloggers join in on answering... and today (April 7th) I'm one of them :)

Today's Topic

Top Ten Books I Read Because Book Club Made Me

  • I decided to do book club books because my book club is sort of defunct now and I miss it.
  • These are the most memorable of the books I've discovered because either it was a book club book, or it was highly recommended by one of the girls in my book club.
  • Also, RIP FYAPGH.  I joined this awesome group of ladies in 2013 and have had some of the best times of my life with them.  Life ended up getting in the way of our regular get-togethers, but I know we'll always be close friends and see each other when we can.

1.  The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton- This book I actually just read in February.  My book club friend Kristen had read a book that I loved, so I wanted to read one that she did.  This is one of those books that I was always curious about because people talked about it a lot when it came out.  I'm glad I took a recommendation and read it even if I didn't end up loving it.

2.  My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix- I read this last year because my book club friend (and podcast partner) Mia loves this author and had been telling me that I should try it.  80's + horror is usually always a win for me.

3.  Slayer (#1) by Kiersten White- This was a group book club read.  There are a bunch of Buffy fans in our club and since we weren't meeting regularly anymore, a few of them decided to see if anyone wanted to buddy read it.  I think there were 4 or 5 of us who did.

4.  The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater- I read this because my whole book club loved this book.

5.  Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl- Cassi lent me this book, and I LOVED IT.

6.  My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, & Brodi Ashton- I read this for regular book club and I think it was universally well liked (that's rare in our club).  Of course, I had to be the black sheep and not love it :)

7.  Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig- This is another Cassi recommendation.  We met Caleb during the Fierce Reads tour of this book and she told me that I should definitely read it.

8.  The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron- Another Cassi book.  And another one that I loved.  She's good at telling people good books to read.

9.  Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer- HA!!  This book stands out for me as the one book that everyone in our club actually read-- and it's one that every single one of us hated.  Sorry, but this book was SO FRUSTRATING!

10.  The Diviners by Libba Bray- This was the book of my very first meeting with my book club.  AND it also happened to be a book that I would have never picked up for myself.... AND I loved it.  That instantly made me feel like I was doing the right thing by joining.

I so miss being in a book club.  There's a new group of people doing a FYA club in my city, but I also kind of feel like it's for the next generation.  I guess I'll just keep on keeping in touch with my former club members and talking books with you guys!

Have you read any of these??  Thoughts?

Monday, April 6, 2020

Sensational (Spectacle #2) by Jodie Lynn Zdrok-- Welcome Interview


(Spectacle #2)
by Jodie Lynn Zdrok
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: February 11, 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
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Jodie Lynn Zdrok's Sensational is the thrilling follow-up to Spectacle in which a killer haunts the Paris World's Fair of 1889.

The 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris is full of innovations, cultural displays, and inventions. Millions of visitors attend over the course of several months...so no one would notice if a few were missing, right? Maybe—but someone is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the guillotine with a display of their own: beheaded victims in some of the Exposition's most popular exhibits.

Nathalie Baudin’s ability to see murder scenes should help, but she's suffering the effects of her magic more than ever before. Fortunately she has other Insightfuls to team up with—if they can be trusted.

Book 1

Spectacle (#1)

by Jodie Lynn Zdrok
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: February 12, 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
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A YA murder mystery in which a young reporter must use her supernatural visions to help track down a killer targeting the young women of Paris.

Paris, 1887.

Sixteen-year-old Nathalie Baudin writes the daily morgue column for Le Petit Journal. Her job is to summarize each day's new arrivals, a task she finds both fascinating and routine. That is, until the day she has a vision of the newest body, a young woman, being murdered--from the perspective of the murderer himself.

When the body of another woman is retrieved from the Seine days later, Paris begins to buzz with rumors that this victim may not be the last. Nathalie's search for answers sends her down a long, twisty road involving her mentally ill aunt, a brilliant but deluded scientist, and eventually into the Parisian Catacombs. As the killer continues to haunt the streets of Paris, it becomes clear that Nathalie's strange new ability may make her the only one who can discover the killer's identity--and she'll have to do it before she becomes a target herself.

Interview w/ Jodie Lynn Zdrok

Welcome Interview

Hi Jodie!!  Welcome to the FFBC-- We're so happy to have you!!
Thank you for having me! 😊

Can you briefly describe SENSATIONAL and the main characters?

Sensational is a historical thriller with a touch of magic set during the 1889 Exposition Universelle (World’s Fair) in Paris. This was a tremendous event that spanned several months and drew millions of visitors  (think about that, and the travel logistics, in the late 19th century). The Exposition was an international showcase of culture and innovation…and in the novel, a series of beheadings. *cue the Scream emoji* Let the public morgue displays begin!

Nathalie Baudin, still writing the Paris Morgue report for the newspaper and still having supernatural visions at the morgue, is clever and curious—and maybe a little too sure of herself at times. She’s also adventurous, which is one of several bonds she shares with her best friend, Simone, and Simone’s beau, Louis, a pair of independent creatives who don’t shy away from the city’s nightlife. Nathalie has a beau as well this time, Jules, a fellow Insightful. And of course Christophe, whom Nathalie had a crush on in Spectacle, is back, as is the troubled Aunt Brigitte. 

Could you tell our readers a little bit about the overall series?

Lots of Ms! Murder, magic, mystery, and my favorite M, the Paris Morgue. It’s an atmospheric, slow burn series with (I think) good payoffs at the end. Spectacle has a Jack the Ripper-style mystery at its core, but it’s also a coming-of-age story as Nathalie discovers her new power and its tie to some generational secrets. Sensational has a new set of murders sweeping the city and several new characters, and it also depicts Nathalie’s journey in the aftermath of the events in Spectacle The books are ideally read in order, but you can read the second one first (though there will be book 1 spoilers). They are paired standalones set two years apart. 

What made you interested in the setting & time period?

In graduate school, I studied modern cultural and intellectual European history. When I learned that people went to the Paris Morgue as an attraction as much as for its intended purpose (identifying bodies found in the public domain), I knew there was a story there somewhere!

The late 19th century was an exciting time for grand cities. Changes in transportation, communication, electricity, and infrastructure saw people coming together in new ways. They could experience Paris in public spaces—the theater, a museum, the morgue, cafés—and feel like they were part of something bigger, completely alienated, or at times, both. It represented a tremendous cultural shift and was, I imagine, a fascinating time to be alive.

Can you tell us one interesting fact about the Exposition Universelle that you discovered while researching this book?

The now-iconic Eiffel Tower, built for the Exposition, was supposed to be a temporary structure. The plan was for it to be dismantled in 1909. Can you imagine?

What were your favorite books in elementary/middle school?

In elementary school, the Sweet Valley Kids series. A little older, the Bunnicula books and The Babysitters Club series. A few years later my tastes drifted to where they are now: supernatural, mysteries, thrillers, and the occasional fantasy or magical realism novel.  

If you could go back and tell your YA self one thing, what would it be?

None of it will play out like you think or could even imagine. But it all works out in the end. 

What are your 3 favorite books that you read in the past year? 

Shoutout to some of my fellow 19s! The Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees, The Virtue of Sin by Shannon Schuren, and Within and Without by Deb Maroulis. 

If you could choose one song to describe your book, which one would it be?

Danse Macabre by French composer Camille Saint-Saëns. It’s a fun, spooky classical piece that I can completely envision as a background score.

What 3 hashtags would you most associate with your book? (Could be a word or phrase or anything that would instantly make you think of SENSATIONAL or the series in general.)

#ParisMorgue #worldsfairbeheadings #pseudosciencemagic

Are there any recommendations you could give your readers to be in the “perfect mood” to read SENSATIONAL (specific music, snacks…)? 

I highly recommend pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant) to jog your memory of Spectacle. (I just ate one myself!) Nathalie gets to try a lot of new food and drink at the Exposition Universelle, so Sensational has a nod to dulce de leche, tea with jam, and Turkish coffee. There’s also vin de coca…it’s not available and even if it was, I definitely would not recommend it! But the setting is the world’s fair, so any international food you might find at an Epcot-style showcase should do the trick.  

What’s next for you?

Ghost stories! I found while writing Spectacle and Sensational that I really enjoyed writing the darker elements and suspenseful scenes, so I’m running with it. I have a boarding school ghost story set in 1925 that’s on submission now, I’m working on a contemporary ghost story set at the North Carolina shore. Fingers crossed one of them sells!

Thanks so much for this!!  We’re really excited to have you in our tours!

Jodie Lynn Zdrok holds two MAs in European History and an MBA. She enjoys rooting for Boston sports teams, traveling, doing races (to offset being a foodie), and posting cat photos to Instagram. She works in technology and lives in North Carolina by way of Massachusetts.

April 6th

Pink Polka Dot Books- Welcome Post
Bookish Looks- Spotlight
Back Shelf Books- Review & Favorite Quotes

April 7th

Bookishly Nerdy- Review & Favorite Quotes

April 8th

Kait Plus Books- Interview

April 9th

Grownup Fangirl- Spotlight
Ya It’s Lit- Mood Board

April 10th

The Reading Corner for All- Review & Favorite Quotes
The Reading Life- Spotlight

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Our Year in Love and Parties by Karen Hattrup-- Fun Concept, Lackluster Characters

Our Year in Love and Parties

One school year... many parties.

Tucker & Erika find themselves running in to each other at many parties throughout the year.  Tucker is a few years younger than Erika, but always had a crush on her.  Erika has been through a lot and has trouble trusting the opposite sex, but Tucker seems like he could be someone safe for her....

Through misunderstandings, parent problems, friend problems, and distance, Tucker and Erika have a long way to go before they can figure out what their relationship will ultimately be.

From the jump I want to say the concept of this book is very cool.  I love that we as readers get to go along with a High School Senior & a College Sophomore to parties throughout one school year.

I think a Pros and Cons list is applicable for this book:

  • There were some really cool party ideas in here.  I loved the over-the-top Christmas house party.  It had it all.... and then some.  There was a Harry Potter Great Hall room!!  Then in the Spring, they went to a party in townhomes where each home was a different decade!  I loved that!!  I went to a club once where each level played music from a different decade, and it's by far one of the best times I've ever had at a club!
  • Tucker started out so interesting.  I liked that he was sensitive and unsure.  As the book begins, he's having a "friends with benefits" relationship with a girl and it was interesting seeing how that sputtered out and how he dealt with it.
  • I think the family problems are going to be super-relatable for a lot of teens.  I thought Tucker's relationship with his father explained SO much of why he was the way he was.  Erika's family dynamic was also a bit complicated and it showed another side of what she was all about.
  • Bobby.  Tucker's best friend, Bobby, is just cool.  I loved that we got to see his growth and journey throughout the year.  And I loved how Tucker cared about Bobby and maintaining their friendship.
  • Well..... I didn't love Tucker or Erika all that much.  I was totally TEAM TUCKER in the beginning, but he developed in a way that made me feel very blah about him in the end.
  • I think the author wanted to write a guy that had feelings and shared them even if he was scared to do so.  I totally admire that-- but I think this author went too far.  Tucker ended up feeling so weak to me.  He was all about the word vomit-- blurting out things that were SUPER embarrassing about himself-- and it made me feel the type of secondhand embarrassment that I dread.
  • Erika.... I didn't feel like I got to know her very well.  I get that she was hard-edges on the outside, but I didn't feel like I got to know who she really was beyond slightly damaged and untrusting.
  • I think I would've like this book a whole lot better if the meetings between Tucker and Erika kept happening by chance.  By midway through the book, they start texting and the rest of the book is all stuff they plan to do together-- which kind of brought the level of "will they/won't they-- fate" tensions down.
I think the bottom line is that if I loved these characters, I would've loved this book because it was fun and unique-- and full of stuff that I usually 100% go for (teenage drama, parties, prom-ish, college, issues galore).

OVERALL: Good effort, but I didn't love the 2 main characters.  I would totally recommend it though because it really does have so many elements I love in a book (parties, teen drama, issues, friendships)-- but I would definitely not put it with my all-time faves because of the characters.

Date Published: 10/8/2019
How I got this book: It was a gift from my amazing Secret Santa
Publisher: HarperTeen

My Rating: 3/5

Character: Erika Green
Book: Thousand Words by Jennifer Brown

  • Erika can 100% relate to what Ashleigh is going through with the revenge sext sent all over school.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

A Good Girl's Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson-- Unpopular Opinion Club Again

A Good Girl's Guide to Murder

5 years ago, Fairview was rocked by the disappearance of high school senior, Andie Bell-- and the subsequent suicide of her boyfriend when everything started pointing towards him.  Case closed.  Right??

Enter Pippa.  The summer before her senior year, she decides to do her capstone project on analyzing the case (at least that's what she tells her teachers).  What she's really doing is teaming up with Sal's brother to prove his innocence.  Pippa knows Sal couldn't be involved in Andie's disappearance, or likely death, even in the face of overwhelming evidence.

The closer she gets to the case, the more SOMEONE doesn't want her poking around.  She starts getting threats, and it soon becomes clear that she's risking her life in the quest for answers.

I'm always looking for interesting YA Mystery/Thrillers, and this one totally caught my eye.  I love a good Nancy Drew story-- and this threw in some of those epistolary elements that I love, so I had high hopes.

Unfortunately, this just didn't go the distance for me.  Maybe it was the characters, maybe it was the pacing??  It was readable, but it's not going to be one that I remember or think about long-term.

The premise was interesting: A girl chooses to devote her senior project to solving a murder/mystery that is beyond cold and closed.  5 years ago, Andie Bell went missing, and her boyfriend committed suicide after texting a confession.  It was all wrapped up, except Pippa doesn't think they got it right and she decides to do her own investigation for a school project.

Some Bullet Point Thoughts:

  • I read an advanced copy of this book, but I couldn't help but notice how very British this book is.  This version of the book is supposed to be set in Connecticut, so it really pulled me out of the story when the characters busted out with British Slang.
  • Pippa was definitely a know-it-all-- okay, I can get beyond that.  The thing that bothered me about her was the simplistic way she thought about things.  She basically decided to look into this case because Sal was generally nice to her once???  He offered her a piece of candy while he was hanging out with a friend's older sister.  I don't think that's deep enough to know whether someone is capable of violence.
  • Also, who was Pippa??  The only thing I knew about her was that she was studious and a devoted friend/sister/daughter.  That is so surface-level for me.  There's so much more to people than just "I like school".
  • The first twist is kind of obvious.  I knew part of this mystery's end pretty much right away.  The second part was a little more veiled and I thought it wrapped it up well.
  • A dog dies.  I thought we stopped doing that in books??  Or maybe that was just me wishing that...
  • Ughhh. There was romance where none was needed.... again.
  • People in this book were WAY too easy to confess to things when Pippa confronted them.  I'm sorry, but it was super hard to believe people would just blurt out their sins just because Pippa guessed them.
  • I loved how Pippa had a running list of suspects, and the way it almost felt like the reader was involved in the investigation.  The way she's like: here are my notes, here is my list of suspects-- it felt like I was being asked to help solve it.  I loved that part of it.

Look, I think this book is definitely one high school kids will like.  I would 100% recommend it to teens who like to listed to True-Crime podcasts.  It's not that I don't think it's good, it's that I think it could've been so much better.  For me, the characters are just too flat and the story didn't get more thrilling as it went on.  There were times that I was just BORED.  It would definitely pick up and become page-turning towards the end, or in certain parts, but the down-times were just not interesting enough.

OVERALL: Unpopular Opinion Alert.  I didn't love this book.  I had high hopes (which may be a factor in my feelings), but ended up disappointed.  I hear this is a series-- and weirdly, I wouldn't say no to trying out a second book, but I would hope that the second book gives me more depth of characters.

Date Published: 2/4/2020
How I got this book: Thanks to Delacorte Press & PRH for providing me with an advanced copy to read and honestly review.
Publisher: Delacorte Press

Add it to your To-Read List!!

My Rating: 2.5/5

Character: Pippa
Book: People Like Us by Dana Mele

  • I think Pippa would like trying to unravel the scavenger hunt that Kay is confronted with to find a murderer.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday-- Spring 2020

Top Ten Tuesday is a really cool original feature/weekly meme now hosted over at That Artsy Reader Girl. Each week they post a new Top Ten List that bloggers join in on answering... and today (March 17th) I'm one of them :)

Today's Topic

Top Ten Books On My Spring TBR

1.  Goodbye from Nowhere by Sara Zarr- I can't believe this is coming out in April!!  I just found out about it in January, so it snuck up on me.  I'm a big Sara Zarr fan & am excited to read this!

2.  What Kind of Girl by Alyssa B. Sheinmel- I read the first part of this book last night and it's GOOD.  I'm excited to really get into it.

3.  I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick- I love a good mystery/thriller.  And this is a Pittsburgh author :)

4.  A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight- I loved Reconstructing Amelia and Where They Found Her (not so much her try at YA), so I'm happy there's another Adult Mystery from her to read!

5.  We Are the Wildcats by Siobhan Vivian- I love this author and I like 24 hour books, so I'm down for this.

6.  All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban- I am excited to read this and hopefully it will hold up to my high expectations.

7.  The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix- YESSSS!!  I can't wait to see Grady's take on vampires!!!

8.  Clique Bait by Ann Valett- This sounds like SUCH a "me" book.

9.  The Night of Your Life by Lydia Sharp- I need a Prom book in my life right now.

10.  The Whisper Man by Alex North- I know this is a book from last year, but my audio hold is due to come in in 2 weeks-- so I'm definitely reading it this Spring.

What books are on your Spring TBR??