Review: Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

I would like to take a minute and say that I know I’m a terrible blogger. I don’t even really have an excuse this time, which makes this entire situation much more horrible. Aaaand just like that I’m over it. The only reason I’m giving myself a bit of a reprieve here is because I did actually adhere to my objective of reading books from my own summer reading list. Alas, I did not exactly get through every book, but I did read more than half of them. Soooo since I spent much of my free time doing my homework, I think it’s okay that I took some time (or all the time) off from chronicling the books I’ve read.

Anyway. I’m here to write about Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis.

Not a Drop to Drink (Not a Drop to Drink, #1)

Mini Summary

Set in a future, post-apocalyptic America, clean water is sought after and very difficult to find. In fat, it is killed for. Lynn and her mother, Lauren live in Lauren’s childhood home, which luckily happens to be right next to a freshwater pond. Lynn and her mother spend their days purifying the water and defending their home. They aren’t living as much as they are surviving.

First Impressions

Another post-apocalyptic/dystopian novel…. really? Ugh. Must I read another one of these? It better not be a series.

About 20 pages in…

Ssshhhh, Amy shut up this is ah-mazing.

What I Liked

1. The writing. Plot-wise, this was very slow, but Mindy McGinnis’ writing was so raw yet vivid that I would look up from my book and suddenly realize that 20 or 30 pages had flown by. The setting in Not a Drop to Drink is rural Ohio and even though I feel like this has been done before, the writing was so descriptive that I could easily picture the dried-up and almost-lifeless landscape.

2. The characters. As I’ve stated several times (A.K.A. pretty much in every post), for me, a book is amazing if the characters draw me in and make me fall in love with them. And by this, I really mean that I have to love the characters so much that I believe they are real people (Which is not at all totes cray).

  • Lynn, though stuck in her ways and annoyingly closed off to the world, is a great character. Despite the aforementioned traits I understand why she is that way. Even she acknowledged her lack of life experience and worked to adapt to her new family.
  • Stebbs. The injured neighbor was- at first- just a name that Lynn and her mother tossed around when they discussed the few people near them. When Stebbs finally got page time I grew to love him as much as Lynn did; he might even be my favorite character in this book.
  • Eli, Lucy and even Lucy’s grandmother Vera were all great supporting characters! Given Lynn’s personality and situation, their characters were about as fleshed out and involved in the plot as she would allow.

What I Didn’t Like

The ending. It’s not like it bothered me that much, but it seemed a bit rushed. The rest of the book was rather slow up until the last 50ish pages when everything kind of exploded… and then it was over. It obviously didn’t ruin the rest of the book for me, but I would have liked an epilogue. Hopefully I’ll see something like that in the companion novel.

Overall, this book fulfilled my need for badass characters living in a post-apocalyptic world. I really enjoyed the change in pace from other dystopian novels in that McGinnis didn’t feel the need to have an action-filled plot, but focused on the characters and how they worked together to survive. After reading this, I feel totally ready for an apocalypse.

Seriously.

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Review: The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

The Sky is Everywhere

 

I’d like to officially go on the record and say that although I have yet to keep my promise and post/review things regularly (but seriously, at this point, did anyone really believe that I would be proactive about this?), I have, in fact, been reading many books from my summer reading list. GET AT ME.

 

Moving on. I did finally pick up my copy of The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, sooooooo here are my thoughts.

 

Mini Summary:

Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker was sucker punched by the unforeseen death of her older sister, Bailey. As she muddles through her fried, she inconveniently finds herself involved with two very different boys. One distracts her from the sadness while the other comfortingly keeps Bailey’s memory alive. All the while, Lennie struggles to figure out who she is without using her sister as a lifeline.

First Impressions:

Based on other reviewers, I was fully prepared to ugly-cry throughout most of this book. This was not he case. The grief and humor balanced each other out quite nicely, much like Toby and Joe did for Lennie.

What I Didn’t Like:

1. The whole relationship with Toby. Let me clarify: the “romance” felt forced to me- and maybe that was Nelson’s intention, but it was verrrrry uncomfortable (which was also probably part of Nelson’s plan). Because of Toby’s close relationship with Bailey’s family, I can understand why he’d be feeling displaced and desperate to connect with anything/anyone to do with Bailey. Once it was clear that Toby and Lennie couldn’t keep their hands off of one another, I got super duper creeped out. Honestly, this was really the only element that bothered me, but since it was such a huge part of the plot, it kept me from truly loving the book.

What I liked:

1. Joe (for the most part). He provided me, as the reader, with a sense of relief. He was a distraction form the sadness for me as much as he was for Lennie. It wasn’t even so much the cute romance between him and Lennie that added to the story; he was a breath of fresh air for Lennie, Gram and Uncle Big because they were all trying to keep from drowning in Bailey’s ghost. My one issue with Joe was that he was a bit too stubborn and unforgiving for a while there. Although shouldn’t that make him more well-rounded of a character? Probs.

2. Lennie’s house. It sounds weird to like a physical object rater than a character or plot-line, but Lennie’s house gave me a better understanding of the family and the life they live- which seemed to be a very bohemian-y/care-free/in love with nature lifestyle. I got the sense that Gram tried to bring as much of the “outside” into the house.

3. “Road Reading.” The definition of which is: reading while walking (awesome). It’s an activity that Lennie and Bailey were famous for, as the neighbors knew to be on the look-out for the Walker sisters. Such a small and simple detail, yet a perfect way to define the closeness of the sisters. Plus, books, guys. BOOKS.

And finally…

4. Lennie’s memories. What made this book so poignant were the memories and snippets of conversations between she and Bailey, that Lennie recalls throughout the book. However, it’s the way in which she records said memories; notes are hastily scribbled on whatever scrap paper she can find and then leaves them behind. It’s as if she’s slowly releasing her grief through these memories, and once they’re written down and out in the world, she can pluck them from the sky and remember.

 

Overall, I enjoyed The Sky Is Everywhere. It took me waaaay too long to finish it, which probably kept me from totally loving it, but I would still recommend this book.

Review: SPLINTERED by A.G. Howard

This book. I just don’t know. Let me preface this post by stating that I have been in the most horrible book slump in the history of the entire world and I have been searching and searching for a book that would pull me out of it. Having said that, this review will most likely be incoherent ramblings as I struggle to sort out what I did and did not like about this book. Here we go. Are we ready? (no?) (oh well)

Splintered by A.G. Howard

Splintered (Splintered, #1)

 

A super quick summery:

Alyssa Gardner is a descendent of Alice Liddell (THE Alice of Alice in Wonderland), and THAT fact has ruined her entire life because, apparently everyone teases her about it. And there’s the little problem of all the women in her family have a tendency to be a bit mad. So Alyssa has it a bit tough, I guess. She’s kinda a social misfit. She’s super into skateboarding and is hopelessly in love with her BFF, Jeb (Jebediah. AWESOME NAME), and her mom is living in an asylum. After a series of incidents, Alyssa figures out that the stories of Alice are, in fact, true, and in order to save her mother, she must venture down into the rabbit hole and break a curse.

 

Thoughts.

At first I was totally sucked in. This whole book was like a creepy, gothic, twisted re-telling of a beloved story. Here’s what I liked:

1. The gothic, creepy mood. If Tim Burton decided to write a contemporary, twisted version of Alice in Wonderland, this would be it.

2. The fact this re-telling could only be characterized as a very, very, very distant relative of the original story. As I was never a biiiig fan of Alice to begin with, it was kind of nice to read a story that really only used the skeletal structure of the original story and then took off from there.

 

Honestly that was it. Why I’m so confused about this book is that I was still (for the most part) interested in where the story was headed. I guess I’ll start rattling off a list of things that bothered me. Although I’ll bet everyone an exorbitant amount of money that I’ll end up contradicting myself and subsequently talk myself into liking this book. ANYWAY, here we go:

1. Alice. She was annoying and didn’t seem to have a clue about anything. She was just a bit too whiny for my taste. Having said this, she did have some strong points…. I’m having trouble coming up with them at this point in time BUT I’m sure they exist. Probably.

2. The rest of the characters. There wasn’t one character that I became attached to at all. This is a problem because I’ve discovered that, for me, plot is becoming less and less important in the books I read, and I’m waaaaay more interested in the characters and their arcs throughout the course of the book or series. So it’s unfortunate if I don’t connect with any of the characters, which was the case in Splintered.

3. Alice’s artwork. She makes art out of dead bugs. SHE MAKES ART OUT DEAD BUGS. I don’t think I need to explain this reason.

 

Overall this book puzzled me. I was totally into it for the first half or so, and then I became bored with the storyline and characters. I know this is the first in a series, but I really don’t care enough to continue.

 

 

 

MY Summer Reading List

I know I know I know.

I am the worst part-time blogger ever. I can’t even call myself a part-time blogger because even that is a stretch. A sometimes-when-I-remember-and-am-feeling-motivated blogger is more accurate. HOWEVER, I truly plan on putting in more time on this blog because I am officially a librarian!

*throws confetti and jumps up and down*

Not only am I a librarian, but I managed to land my dream job as a children’s librarian at a library in Massachusetts. HOLLA! #nailedit

So, I plan on making an honest effort in posting at least once a week about books I’ve read/and excited about and any YA book/movie/tv news. No, really, I will do a better job maintaining this blog. Ugh, I’m already disappointed in myself. Whatevs.

To kick-off my string of soon-to-be-written posts, I’ve decided to dedicate this one to all the books I am determined to read this summah. I managed to whittle this list down to 15 books, but I really hope to read more. Judging by my current book slump, it’s not looking too good for me, but I’m DETERMINED.

SOOOOO here we go: (I’ll even categorize this list for everyone #librarianstatus (I need to lay off excessive use of hashtags))

(Side note: you can click on the cover to get a longer summary of the book)

15. The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken *Dystopian

The Darkest Minds (The Darkest Minds, #1) Children with frightening/extraordinary abilities that they cannot control. I’m in.

14. Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis *Dystopian

Not a Drop to Drink (Not a Drop to Drink, #1) Survival story in a world that is running a tad low on clean water. I plan to use this as a “how-to-survive-in-a-post-apocalyptic-world” guidebook.

13.  The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater *Fantasy

The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle, #2) Second book in the Raven Boys series. Scottish mythology. Enough said. PLUS, love me some Ronan and Gansey.

12. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor *Fantasy

Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #1) All I know about this one is that I should have read it AGES ago because apparently it is fantastic. *hangs head*

11. Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes *Fantasy

Falling Kingdoms (Falling Kingdoms, #1) Based on reading and re-reading the summary on Goodreads, it sounds like a truly epic story. I need it right meow.

10. Splintered by A.G. Howard *Fantasy

Splintered (Splintered, #1) An Alice in Wonderland re-telling? Sold.

9. The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski *Fantasy

The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy, #1) I’ve heard nothing but excellent things about this one. Also, any book with a cover that beautiful and a story featuring a kick-ass heroine automatically has me hooked.

8. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern *Fantasy

The Night Circus A circus arrives bringing along two competing magicians. That PLUS a dash of romance= me, swooning.

7. Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins *Contemporary

Rebel Belle (Rebel Belle, #1) A southern belle attains supernatural abilities and proceeds to kick butt. GIMMIE.

6. Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo *Fantasy

Siege and Storm (The Grisha, #2) Second installment in Bardugo’s GRISHA trilogy. The third one hit stores yesterday. I just need more of awesome Alina.

5. Maye One Day by Melissa Kantor *Contemporary

Maybe One Day Two bff’s: one is diagnosed with cancer, and the other is rather…. difficult. Intrigued.

4. Paper Towns by John Green *Contemporary

Paper Towns Features a boy road trippin’ across the U.S. to find a girl who disappeared. Obvs there is more to this story, Mr. Green.

3. The Sky is Everywhere by Jandry Nelson *Contemporary

The Sky is Everywhere Lennie comes into her own while dealing with/facing the grief after her sister’s death. Lemme grab the tissues now.

2. Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson *Contemporary

Second Chance Summer I recently hopped on the Morgan Matson train because her books are, in fact, wonderful. Plus this has “summer” in the title, sooooooo I gotta read it now.

AAAAND THE NUMBER ONE BOOK ON MY SUMMER READING LIST IS………..

……………………………………………….

1. Looking for Alibrandi by (the literary goddess) Melina Marchetta *Contemporary

Looking for Alibrandi This is the last book by Marchetta that I have left to read. Aaaand that is absolutely why I have been putting off reading it.. because then I have no more Melina Marchetta…. and that makes me feel nauseous. But I know that I am destined to love this book so it needs to be read and loved and read and loved.

 

Sooooooooo as you can see, I have quite the list going. There are manymanymany more books on my shelf that need to be read as well, so I’ll keep you all updated.

Until then, happy reading!

 

 

 

 

 

Review: Bright Before Sunrise by Tiffany Schmidt

It appears as though I am on a contemporary YA kick these days, which is funny (probably/definitely only to me though) because I’ve been reading all the fantasy/sci-fi/historical YA fiction I can get my hands on. I’ll credit my new favorite author, Melina Marchetta, for helping my rediscover my love for contemporary fiction. Thinking back, ever since my heart and soul were destroyed by Jellicoe Road I’ve read a string of similar books. Well, let’s be clear, nothing it similar to Jellicoe Road because that is is a league all its own. Actually, in my mind, it’s in league with the likes of everything by Elizabeth Wein and Ruta Sepetys.

………

I don’t know when this post became this neurotic librarian’s tribute (again) to Melina Marchetta and Jellicoe Road. I need to stop now because people need to know what I think about Bright Before Sunrise. This is assuming that anyone at all reads my somewhat infrequent ramblings that masquerade as legitimate blog posts. Whatevs.

Back to the point.

Bright Before Sunrise

Mini Summary

It’s been five years since a heart attack took Brighton Waterford’s father from her, and Brighton has spent that time being the perfect daughter and student. She is involved in every activity possible because she needs to please everyone and has the worst time trying to say “no,” therefore she is liked by everyone. Except, not really. New student, Jonah Prentiss has recently moved to the unofficially gated community of Cross Pointe with his mother, stepfather and new baby sister. Jonah does not find himself drawn to Brighton like everybody else on the planet, and actually finds her to be annoying. By chance, these two people are thrown together one evening and find themselves unable to get rid of one another, so they are forced (but how “forced” are they really?) to spend the rest of the night getting to know each other. Maybe, just maybe, Brighton and Jonah can let their guards down long enough to discover that they like and need each other more than they know.

My Thoughts

Honestly, I didn’t think I would enjoy this book as much as I did. However, it was so fantastic that I ended up starting and finishing this book over the course of one day/night. Seems fitting considering Brighton and Jonah’s story unfolds in the same length of time. So basically I was living their story. Kinda. I really enjoyed that this was almost a “boy from the wrong side of the tracks meets girl from right side and they fall in love against everyone else’s wishes” story. I say almost, because yes, Jonah was originally from a rougher town than Brighton, but they didn’t fall in love right away. And no one was against their “friendship” anyway. As I stated in my fabulous summary above, these two didn’t even really like each other at the start of the night. Neither one had a clear idea of the life lead by the other, and it was through learning about how the other lives that they finally began to understand, then like, then fall for each other.

Although I did not read the book, I have seen the movie version of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, and based on that experience, I can tell you that this book has a similar feel to it. Side note: I did not actually enjoy Nick and Norahfor whatever reason. Schmidt does an excellent job keeping the book at a good pace, never keeping these two in one place for an extended period of time because they would have taken away from the physical journey of getting to know each other as well as the emotional one. I particularly enjoyed the potion of the night spent at a gross house party, because it was fantastic to see A) Brighton being more than capable of taking care of herself, and B) Brighton being a character who genuinely had no interest in drinking because everyone else was. <—— This was (is) my entire life, and it was nice to see a contemporary YA novel that did not write it in as part of the “good girl’s character.” I mean, yeah, Brighton was a typical “good girl,” but she admitted that, despite drinking with her close friends, drunken house parties just weren’t her thing. Sometimes, people, that is just the truth.

Other elements I enjoyed:

  • The minor characters. This was really Brighton and Jonah’s story, but Schmidt created other minor characters that helps us gain a better understanding of both Brighton and Jonah. Evy and Amelia- Brighton’s sister and best friend- were two of my favorite minor characters because they could easily have existed as merely a way to highlight Brighton’s quiet and serious disposition by being loud, outgoing and flirtatious. Instead, they acted as pillars for Brighton to lean on, and I found myself wishing they were real people.
  • The scene in the baseball park. Adorable. It totally made Jonah’s story and his athletic background come full circle. Plus, now I want to go play catch at like 2 am. (Jonah has to be there).
  • The love story. I was totally skeptical of the whole “two people falling in love by the end of the night” thing, but, Tiffany Schmidt, you and your beautiful writing and characters won me over. I was afraid that it was going to be some cutesy story where two characters meet and then go on a series of cute adventures throughout the night as they fall more in love. Thank GAWD that was not the case. I probably would have vomited. Instead, these two develop feelings over the course of the night and end up acknowledging them by the end. Adorable.

In conclusion, everyone should read this book. There is obviously a lot more to the Jonah and Brighton than I’ve discussed, but I don’t want to spoil everything. If you want a book that you can devour in one night and feel like you were right there with the characters, then definitely check out Bright Before Sunrise.

Review: Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens

Faking Normal

Mini Summary

Faking Normal, written by the lovely Courtney C. Stevens, tells the story of two broken teenagers and how they tentatively begin to heal after being thrown together. Alexi Littrell harbors a secret that claws at her from the inside out, causing her to retreat to her closet where she no longer has to fake being normal. A family tragedy sends kool-aid kid, Bodie Miller into the Littrell household for an indefinite stay. Together these two forge an unlikely friendship and slowly help each other to “channel their brave.”

My Thoughts

It was this book’s total honesty that kept me turning page after page. I was privileged enough to see/meet Courtney C. Stevens and hear her speak at two different author events. Each time she emphasized how this story was one that she needed to tell, and it was clear to me (and everyone in the audience) that every word she wrote was deliberate and packed with raw emotion and honesty.

Alexi was fantastic as the book’s main character. She is not forthcoming with her secret right away, but from the beginning, you get a very strong idea of what happened to her over the summer. Everything about her is tense. Stevens’ writing made me feel like I was seeing the world through Alexi’s eyes and feeling everything she was at the same time. This makes for a very intense reading experience, because Alexi is so tortured by her assault back in July, and so every time her thoughts take a darker turn, I also felt as desperate and helpless as she did.

Bodie Miller was just as heart-breaking a character. The book begins with his mother’s funeral (she was murdered by his abusive father- which Bodie witnessed) and Bodie leaving the church as he was unable to speak about her. He is grappling with the fact that he is basically an orphan, while coming to terms with witnessing his father murder his mom and being unable to stop him. While you never get inside Bodie’s head the way you do Alexi’s, Stevens still made me feel like I knew who Bodie was, and Alexi’s relationship with him is definitely what makes that possible. Because we are constantly aware of Alexi’s thoughts and emotions- and at such a gritty level- we get to know Bodie through Alexi.

In spite of the trauma these two have endured, the relationship they form is one of the most beautiful and real bonds I’ve ever read about. Each becomes a confidant to the other, and even without speaking their secrets out loud, there is a true sense of understanding between them, and Bodie always knows when Alexi needs his support, and vice versa. Their eventual love story totally makes sense within the context of the larger narrative.

There is much more going on in this book; more characters, subplots, secrets, etc., but in order to avoid re-typing the entire novel, I’ll let you read it on your own. Though Stevens takes on tough subjects, Faking Normal leaves you with a sense of relief and hope, and what more could you ask for?

Happy Reading!

In Which I Rant

I was innocently scrolling through my Twitter feed when I saw a link to an interview with Chloe Grace Moretz, who is playing Mia in an adaptation of Gayle Foreman’s book If I Stay. Obviously, I had to read this article because I cannot wait for this movie to come out this summer as this book is one of my favorites. As I’m reading the article, I found myself getting angrier and angrier to the point that I actually began seeing red. I can’t even compose a coherent sentence on the first try right now because I’m seething over comments Moretz made about Young Adult literature.

Some special tidbits from the article.

 

“Forman’s novel might occupy a certain part of the bookstore, but Moretz doesn’t love the “young adult” designation. She thinks it diminishes the book’s value” (Bahr, 2014).

And here’s a gem from Miss Moretz herself:

“What’s interesting about Gayle’s novel is that it’s not really that YA. It deals with issues that are much bigger…it’s much darker than I think most YA is,” says Moretz. “I want people to walk in and feel like they actually felt something, and learned something, and realized something different about life that’s more than just, ‘Oh, I saw this love triangle and it’s super sad because she chose the guy I didn’t like. And then the movie was over.’ And you’re like, ‘Okay, that’s pathetic.’ You want to watch something that actually means something and makes you feel and makes you want to be involved. That’s what I wanted to make and that’s what I strive to make” (Bahr, 2014).

Let’s see if I can rant without completely losing my mind.

Ummmm….. WHAT??

First of all: Gayle Foreman’s novel is absolutely YA. The protagonist, Mia, is a teenager dealing with teen issues, A.K.A. high school, college applications, a boyfriend, best friends, etc. While, yes, this novel does have a darker premise (Mia’s in a coma after a horrific car crash that killed her parents and brother, and now must choose whether to stay alive or let go to be with her family), it does not make it better than other Young Adult novels.

And now I shall acknowledge the extremely ignorant comment disguised as an eloquent critique. Young Adult literature does not diminish any book’s value. EVER. This makes me question whether Miss Moretz reads at all. Did you even read If I Stay before you found out it was being adapted into a movie, Chloe?? Did you? Do you even read at all? Young Adult literature does involve romance and some love triangles, but you would be a moron to believe that is all those books are limited to. YA tackles friendships, family, drugs, sex, love, high school, college, politics, religion, along with any and all issues that are related to those mentioned.

So many authors do a fantastic job creating characters with layers upon layers that readers need to peel back throughout the course of reading the book in order to understand the characters they are reading about. My latest author obsession, Melina Marchetta, writes characters with so many levels that I find myself falling in love with each one repeatedly as I’m reading. Just because the protagonists are teenagers and the book is about their adolescent lives, does this mean the writing, characters, and story are not as developed and fleshed out as “adult literature”?

Fantasy, science fiction, dystopian novels, paranormal romance. Books in all of these genres should not be dimissed simply because they are geared towards young adults. Most books address similar themes and issues discussed above, but they set them in imagined worlds (which take a level of genius to create that I can’t even fatham) or futuristic settings that allow readers to immerse themselves into different scenarios. Again, these writing styles do not take away from the books’ value.

I don’t think I can write (rant) anymore without sounding like a maniac.

Here’s the link to the whole article: http://insidemovies.ew.com/2014/03/28/chloe-grace-moretz-if-i-stay/

You are dismissed, Chloe Grace Moretz. DISMISSED.