Friday, July 21, 2017

Geekerella by Ashley Poston

"Look to the stars. Aim. Ignite."

Geekerella, to no one's surprise, is an adaptation of the beloved fairy tale Puss in Boots. I kid, I kid, it's Cinderella. Oh, we have such fun at my blog!* Anyways, in all seriousness, this is such a fun book. I love how nerd culture has become more mainstream, and I love how there are so many great YA books celebrating it. And I really loved Geekerella, even though the name is silly.**

 Our Cinderella is named Danielle, or Elle. She is forced to deal with a bitchy stepmother, Catherine, and two evil stepsisters, Calliope and Chloe, after her father's death. Elle works at the Magic Pumpkin, a vegan food truck, with green-haired Sage. Her life is somewhat awful, between being forced to do chores at home, being mocked by the twins' country club friends at school, and basically ignored by Sage at work. Her one safe place is Starfield.

Starfield was a television show Elle used to watch with her father. She is so involved in the show that she runs a blog called Rebelgunner. Starfield is set for a movie reboot, and Elle tunes in for a big announcement on a morning talk show. To her disappointment, the lead role of Prince Carmindor goes to teen heartthrob Darien Freeman. She writes a fairly scathing review of the casting, and it even gets picked up by national publications.

Meanwhile, Darien is a famous actor, but also a giant nerd at heart. Prince Carmindor is his dream role, he has loved Starfield long before he was famous. His manager/father Mark, schedules him for an appearance at ExcelsiCon, thinking that he will enjoy it. Darien hasn't enjoyed cons since his ex-best friend betrayed him, so he decides to text someone from the con to cancel.

 Elle's dad actually created ExcelsiCon. His number is still listed on the website, and Elle has his phone because Catherine refuses to get her a new one. When Darien texts her, she gives him a hard time about cancelling, and he decides to attend after all. The two end up texting back and forth about Starfield and life and stuff. They start to fall in like, maybe even love. The only issue is that they don't actually know who they're texting. She has no idea he is Darien, and he has no idea she is the critic from Rebelgunner.

ExcelsiCon has a cosplay contest where first prize is a trip to the premier of Starfield in Los Angeles, and Elle has her eye on it. Her dream is to pack up the neighbor's neglected dachshund and drive far away from Catherine. While cleaning the attic, she finds a trunk with her parents' old cosplay costumes, and she decides to alter her father's old Carmindor uniform to fit her. Sage is an aspiring fashion designer, and agrees to serve as fairy godmother by altering the costume. The girls also start to become friends, and Elle introduces her to Starfield.

Everything comes together at ExcelsiCon. It's pretty amazing, actually. The book isn't perfect, but it's pretty darn adorable. Elle and Darien were pretty squee-inducing. What can I say, I'm a sucker for nerd love. My only problem is that I really wish that Starfield was a real show, because I kinda want to watch it.

* Please don't judge me too harshly. I know, it's kind of obnoxious and dumb, I'm sorry. Pretend it never happened.
** Seriously, this is one of those titles where I dreaded someone asking what I was reading. I would just cringe. I loved the book, but would rather die than have to say that title out loud.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies by Lindsay Ribar

"But I figure, hey, it's magic. It's a magic cliff. It can do what it wants, I guess..."

When we first meet Aspen Quick, he has just stolen the feelings that the girl of his dreams had for his best friend. They break up, which leaves her free to date Aspen. Any time she misses her ex, Aspen steals those feelings. He has absolutely no remorse for this. He's a real gem, obviously.

The Quicks have the ability to steal from people, things like feelings, emotions, even physical characteristics. They perform a ritual where they take something from someone who leaves an item under an ancient tree. Sometimes they take minor things, like a scar or beauty mark, and sometimes big things, such as the ability to see. The ritual is to preserve the giant cliff outside of town. If they don't perform the ritual, the cliff will collapse. Rocks fall, everyone dies. The one rule is that the Quicks don't steal from family.

Aspen encounters a girl, Leah, who used to be friends with his cousin Heather, who died recently. Leah has no idea that Heather died, but she knows about the Quicks' powers. For some reason, Aspen can't steal from her. Soon, Aspen uncovers secrets and lies that make it hard for him to know who to trust.

I was excited to read Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies, and it did not disappoint. Aspen was a giant jerk, but so were the other Quicks. I think it might be a side effect of their magic. There were some pretty good twists to the book, and I liked the unique storyline.

I received my copy of Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies from Edelweiss, courtesy of Kathy Dawson Books. It's available for purchase now.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

"Life isn't always written in the stars. Fate is mine to pen. I choose guys. I choose girls. I choose people. But most of all: I choose..."

Ramona is tall. Ramona has blue hair. Ramona likes girls. These are the truths that make up Ramona Leroux's life.

The Leroux family lives in a trailer after Hurricane Katrina messed up their lives. Their mom left shortly afterwards. Their dad works too hard as a handyman at a fancy hotel. Sister Hattie is pregnant and desperately trying to create a family with boyfriend Tyler. Ramona works a paper route in the mornings and shifts at a restaurant with her sister. She can't even think about a future for herself after her senior year. Her main concern is being there for her sister and future niece, because she is so certain that Tyler won't be.

While working her route one morning, Ramona runs into Agnes. Agnes had been a family friend from years earlier, and Ramona and Hattie had played with her grandson Freddie. Ramona and Freddie start to hang out again with her group of friends. Ramona is still hung up on a girl she was seeing over the summer, Grace, and Freddie is still focused on his long distance girlfriend.

Freddie decides to visit his girlfriend for her birthday. She's having a party, and he brings along Ramona for the long trip. Ramona brings along Grace. The entire trip is a disaster. Freddie's girlfriend hadn't wanted him to come, and they end up breaking up. Grace feels pressured by Ramona to come out and break up with her boyfriend, she gets drunk, and they also break up. Both Freddie and Ramona decide to swear off girls for the rest of senior year.

The pair start to grow closer. Freddie used to be on the swim team, but gave it up because he wasn't as good as the others and wasn't receiving any scholarships. He goes to the Y with Agnes and swims laps in the mornings, and he invites Ramona along. She isn't great, but she enjoys the activity (This makes me jealous, because I miss swimming laps in our pool). Every day, she encounters an older woman who critiques her form but is impressed by her speed and strength.

The woman finally introduces herself as Prudence Whitmire, a former coach at Delgado Community College. She thinks that she can use her ties to get Ramona on the swim team, that she could even earn a scholarship. At first, Ramona dismisses the entire concept. After a while, it starts to seem possible that she could do something only for herself. Then something happens with Hattie and she realizes how stupid she was being.

Meanwhile, as Ramona and Freddie spend more time together, Ramona starts to like him as more than a friend. One of the truths was that Ramona liked girls, but she starts to realize that it might be more complicated than that. They start dating, which culminates in a perfect night in New Orleans. After Hattie's setback, Ramona also breaks things off with Freddie to focus on work and taking care of Hattie.

I liked Murphy's Dumplin', but had a couple issues with the book that kept me from loving it. I loved this book. Ramona Blue was absolutely fantastic. It's a beautifully written story on a complicated subject, or rather two complicated subjects. First, Ramona's family is very poor, despite the fact that they all work constantly. They show through Ramona how hopeless poverty can make you feel. Second, the book shows how fluid sexuality can be. Ramona herself eventually realizes that she might not just like girls. She didn't automatically become straight even though she liked Freddie, she just wasn't completely gay. I like seeing books deal with more realistic, complicated issues, and I definitely recommend that you read Ramona Blue

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

I will admit that I wasn't quite sure what to expect with The Walled City. I guess I didn't read the description very well because I was expecting some sort of Maze Runner situation. You know, monsters and dystopia and all that newfangled mishmash. As much as I like a good dystopia, part of me does tire of the multitudes of similar stories. This book contains no supernatural monsters, just real ones.

The Walled City was originally a military fort, but years later the lack of police made it a haven of gambling, drugs, and prostitution. Three characters narrate the story, and eventually interact with each other.

Jin is a young girl who is searching for her older sister, who has been sold into prostitution by their father. She disguises herself as a boy for protection. Her plan is to become a drug runner and search the brothels for her sister.

Dai is a young man who encounters Jin. They team up after Dai realizes how fast Jin is. He is in the city to amend for some crime he committed. Now he works for the police, finding evidence to convict the drug dealers before the Walled City is demolished. He gets a beautiful girl in the brothel to help him and ends up falling in love with her.

Mei Yee is that girl, and also Jin's sister. She is lucky, or so she is told. Her rich client pays extra for exclusive rights to her, and he will likely end up buying her way out of the brothel. Still, Mei is unsatisfied with her life, with the possibility of leaving the brothel for a hotel room, one prison for another. She wants to be free, wants to see the ocean with Dai.

The Walled City was an exciting and action-packed book. It stands out from most action books I've seen, which are more supernatural/dystopian. Actually, it's based on a real place called Kowloon Walled City. It's a very good book full of sympathetic, brave characters, and I very much recommend it.  

I received my copy of The Walled City from the Goodreads First Reads program, as well as from Edelweiss, courtesy of Little, Brown. It's available for purchase now.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Season by Jonah Lisa Dyer and Stephen Dyer

Pride and Prejudice is one of those stories that I know backwards and forwards by now. I've read the book, seen the movies, even read/seen some of the updates with zombies/Hugh Grants.

The Season is loosely based on P&P, set in present day Texas. Our Lizzie Bennett is now Megan. She aspires to be a professional soccer player. Soccer is the center of her life, but she doesn't have much time left to earn a spot on a professional team. Of course, Megan is surprised, in a bad way, to find out that her mother signed her up for the Bluebonnet Debutante Season. This is something that her girly twin sister Julia would be good at, not Megan. Because their family is a legacy, they both made it into the season's debs.

At the very first Bluebonnet meeting, Megan makes a terrible impression by arriving 20 minutes late. Their debutante coach basically tells her to throw in the towel. There is no way she will make it as a Bluebonnet. As much as Megan didn't want to participate, she asks to stay because her father asked her to do it for her mother. She is allowed to stay, but she only has a month to improve.

The Bluebonnets are a very wealthy group. The girls must each throw a party with a theme and sell tables to said party. The tables cost thousands of dollars, and the money goes to an organization that each girl will choose. Between designer outfits, party preparations, and tickets to each party, the debs have to spend a large amount of money. It's a burden on Megan and Julia's parents, who have been struggling at their ranch, even after factoring in the money that their grandma left for their debut.

At the first party, thrown by their cousin Abby, Megan makes yet another bad impression. She was punched at a soccer game right before the party, and must attend with a black eye. In jest, she tells her escort that she was mugged. This ends up being all everyone talks about, even though Megan eventually sets the record straight. The coach eventually talks with her about how improper that was, taking attention on Abby's big night, and she makes a lot of sense.

In a sudden death move, Megan decides to sign up for a class on manners taught by the coach. She soon discovers that the course is for elementary school students. In spite of this, she sees it through and gains a bit of respect. Julia ends up falling for the brother of the witchiest deb, the Charles Bingley, or Zach, as he is called here. The sister is dating, practically engaged to the Mr. Darcy, Andrew Gage. Megan strikes up a romance with the charming Hank Waterhouse, our dangerous George Wickham facsimile. Hank not only romances Megan, he also convinces her father to sell their ranch to his obviously Big Evil Corporation.

Julia ends up having trouble with an ex-boyfriend, trouble that ends with a police chase. She resigns from the Bluebonnets, so it's up to Megan to uphold the family legacy. Unfortunately, Zach breaks it off with Julia, on advice from Andrew! After all the terrible things that Hank has said as well, Megan has quite a bone to pick with him.

Of course, it will not surprise anyone who has read the original that it's mostly a big misunderstanding. He's got pride, and she's got prejudices, and vice versa. They eventually come to a mutual understanding. It's all happily ever after.

I received my copy of The Season through the Goodreads First Reads program. It's available for purchase now.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Literally by Lucy Keating

"Without realizing it, I break into a run. My life is filled with TKs, because my life does not belong to me.
My life belongs to Lucy Keating..."

Annabelle is a normal, if somewhat type-A, teenage girl. She lives in a beautiful home with her parents, older brother, and their somewhat evil dog Napoleon. Her brother's best friend Elliot is always around and tormenting her. Annabelle meticulously schedules every part of her life, color-coding each event in her planner. Naturally, she is startled when her parents announce that they will be selling the family home...and living separately. The truly world-shattering news is yet to come.

An author named Lucy Keating visits Annabelle's fiction writing class. Ms. Keating announces the plot of her newest book: a girl with everything under control who learns just how messy life can be when her parents sell her childhood home and separate. The character even has a weird little dog! Obviously, Annabelle sees parallels with her own life. She asks Lucy if her new book is based on her, and the answer is...yes. She created Annabelle and is writing her story.

Thankfully, Ms. Keating plans to shake up her newest book. While past stories tended to end tragically, she is now dedicated to happy endings. Annabelle ends up meeting a new boy at school, Will. He is absolutely perfect for her, another type-A rule follower. Another Lucy Keating staple is the love triangle, which seems crazy-cakes because things are so great with Will.

Then Annabelle starts to feel romantically about, of all people, Elliot. Lucy lets her know that her destiny is with Will, but she can't stop her feelings. Annabelle and Will decide to take charge of their own stories. They decide to demand that Lucy stop writing about them. The author agrees, but their lives don't return to normal. Because they aren't being written about, Annabelle, Will, and their families and friends start to fade away.

Literally was a fun and unique story. I'm a fan of meta stories, so I was there for this. Annabelle could be a bit too perfect, but I liked her. She watched The Great British Bake Off, so we're cool. It sort of blows my mind that Lucy Keating wrote a book that involves Lucy Keating writing a book about Annabelle. What even is reality, y'all?

I received my copy of Literally from Edelweiss, courtesy of HarperTeen. It's available for purchase now.

We Know It Was You by Maggie Thrash

What was the point of all this shit happening if when you died it just got erased, like it hadn't meant anything at all?

It seemed like a normal football game...until the mascot jumped off a bridge into the river. Everyone is shocked that popular and sweet cheerleader Brittany would kill herself, most of all her twin sister Angie. The worst part is that they can't even hold a funeral because the body hasn't been recovered from the rushing water.

The entire situation seems suspicious to Benny. He's the president of Winship Academy's Mystery Club. The only other member is Virginia, because she is the only one who wanted to join. She used to run a gossip website about her classmates that made her very unpopular. Now, Virginia hopes that joining the Mystery Club will change her reputation, though it really just makes her as invisible as Benny.

They were both there when Brittany jumped off the bridge. Someone else was standing nearby, someone who scared her into jumping. The plot thickens when Benny and Virginia discover that Brittany is still alive. So, who jumped off the bridge?

I'm a sucker for a mystery, as in the mystery intrigues me so much that I have to find out who dunnit. The mystery was pretty good, and I almost liked the book. There were just weird little things that kept putting me off, like a really gross scene where a dude pleasures himself in a car while holding a gun. I just don't know what that added to the plot? There was also a Nice Guy who basically stalked all the cheerleaders. Blech. I can't really recommend this book, but it wasn't the worst thing ever.

I received my copy of We Know It Was You from Edelweiss, courtesy of Simon Pulse. It's available for purchase now.