Tuesday, September 30, 2014

review: a blind spot for boys by justina chen

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After a bad breakup with an older guy, Shana is not interested in starting a new relationship, especially with someone about to start college. She goes as far as to block the emails of Quattro, who she met while photographing Seattle's gum wall. But fate intervenes. Quattro is going on a trip with his father to Machu Picchu. It's a trip that Shana's parents also decide to take upon the devastating news that Shana's dad is going blind. Despite being in different tour groups, Shana and Quattro are thrown together when a mudslide takes out much of the trail.

A Blind Spot for Boys is beautifully written with great descriptions and plenty of highly emotional moments, but it's also predictable. Too frequently Justina Chen falls back on clichéd responses--Shana's dad isolates himself from the family, a minor character who is a wealthy jerk saves only himself, and Quattro runs hot and cold with Shana. But Chen also excels at creating family and friend dynamics, so that even the clichés seem reasonable.
Review copy provided by BookSparks PR.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

review: mating for life marissa stapley

Mating for Life features an aging folk singer and her three grown daughters. Unfortunately, Marissa Stapley doesn’t stop with those four women, but instead incorporates a number of other characters including the girlfriend of the man who works at the marina and the daughter of the boyfriend of one of the women. With so many characters in a constantly shifting narration, it was impossible to relate to any of them. Mating for Life frequently felt like someone was relating a boring story of “and then this happened.” When Stapley initially introduced the main female characters, Mating for Life promised to be a drama-filled look at a family who went in different directions; but the numerous subplots made it all too scattered and disconnected.
Review copy provided by BookSparksPR.

Monday, September 22, 2014

review: little girl gone by drusilla campbell

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Madora was having a bad reaction to cocaine when she met Willis. Madora’s mother didn’t approve of the relationship given the age difference, but she eventually left her daughter behind when she decided to marry. Soon Madora had dropped out of high school and moved into an isolated, ramshackle house with Willis. Little Girl Gone skips ahead five years to when Willis kidnaps a pregnant teen with intentions of selling her baby so he has money to go to medical school. Meanwhile, a 12-year-old boy is orphaned and moves in with his aunt who lives near Madora and Willis. Their lives intertwine and Madora and Django bond over Madora’s dog.

While the plot has all the right elements to make an interesting and dramatic story, Little Girl Gone is a little lackluster. It’s all pretty predictable with an ending that falls flat and felt tacked on. There are some compelling moments, but they weren’t enough to push this one out of mediocrity.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Grand Central Publishing.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

review: one hundred names by cecelia ahern

Kitty’s career in journalism is failing after she did a story accusing a man of having an affair with an underage student. Making matters worse is that the one person who keeps her working is dying. The dying woman gives Kitty a list of 100 names, but no explanation other than Kitty should do a story. Kitty is determined to do just that. As Kitty tracks down the names, she also experiences a lot of strife in her personal life stemming from the defamatory story she did. Yet Kitty is not sympathetic. She thinks only of herself—not her dead friend or the people her story hurt. Although Cecelia Ahern creates an interesting story and a great journey for Kitty, it is not the story or journey that Kitty probably should have made. In the end, Kitty experiences little growth even as she triumphs.
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

review: keep the change by steve dublanica

Following his bestselling book Waiter Rant, Steve Dublanica uses his background as a tipped employee to inform his research on tipping for Keep the Change. As Dublanica posits, many are confused on how tipping works and what's appropriate. For example, in some states (like my home state of Washington), tipped employees receive tips on top of their regular wage which must meet the state minimum ($9.32 in 2014); in others (like Texas where I live now), their wages can be reduced below the state minimum because of the tips. The interviews with a wide variety of tipped workers proved eye-opening and incredibly interesting, especially the one with the shoe shiner. I had no idea that shoe shiners are oftentimes considered contract workers who make almost no salary--they literally live on their tips. Dublanica also explores the history of tipping and how even as tipping started to become commonplace, the tipped workers were often exploited by corporations. This is definitely a book that will make you think if, like me, you've never worked for tips.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Ecco Press.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

review: going vintage by lindsey leavitt

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Shortly after discovering her boyfriend has an online "wife," high school student Mallory discovers a list of goals written by her grandma when she was Mallory's age. Mallory decides to follow her grandma's list and live what she expects will be a simpler life free from technology. But Mallory soon discovers that not only is her life is not any simpler, her grandma's high school days were filled with even harder choices.

The lists that began each chapter were cute, but Mallory's sister was more than a bit annoying. I'm not sure how Mallory didn't smack Ginnie when she would get all know-it-all-y about being "authentic." Although Ginnie unfortunately didn't show any growth, Mallory made an excellent evolution from being a bit selfish and impulsive to having a larger understanding of her life.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Bloomsbury.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

review: september girls by bennett madison

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September Girls has a lot going on, but none of it is particularly plotted out. After Sam’s mother takes off after making new friends on Facebook, Sam’s father decides to take Sam and his older brother on a summer vacation to the beach. Sam’s brother declares it’s time for 17-year-old Sam to lose his virginity which should be easy enough to do given the abundance of attractive, flirtatious girls living in this beach town. But these are not ordinary girls. As Sam will eventually find out, the girls were cursed by their father and have only a short time here to defeat the curse. It’s a big mess of an almost nonsensical plot.
Review copy provided by the publisher, HarperTeen.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

review: breakfast served anytime by sarah combs

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Breakfast Served Anytime is set at what Gloria calls “Geek Camp.” It’s there that, separated from her best friend, Gloria makes new friends and learns how little she knows about the world. She befriends people she never would’ve been friends with if they attended her high school and is challenged by the class she’s taking at camp. Sarah Combs’s debut is splendid. Gloria starts off as a bit of a judgmental brat, but her evolution is so beautifully written that it’s easy root for her.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Candlewick Press.

Monday, September 1, 2014

review: nowhere but home by liza palmer

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Before I get to the details of Liza Palmer’s Nowhere but Home, I feel I should share a little background. While this is a great book, I think I had an appreciation for it that I wouldn’t have even a few months ago. After spending my entire life in the Pacific Northwest, I accepted a job in Texas which is the setting of Nowhere but Home. The setting plays such a large role in the novel that I definitely enjoyed the book more now that I’ve spent some time in Texas. There were plenty of moments when I thought, “That’s exactly how it is!” One of the biggest adjustments? Being called “ma’am.” And that’s just one of the things I related to in Nowhere but Home.

So what’s the book about and why did I love it so much (besides the setting)? Well, a woman named Queen Elizabeth Wake (yeah, she goes by Queenie) has been a bit of a wanderer ever since leaving her hometown—a place where she was always an outcast simply because she was a Wake. After being fired from yet another job, she decides to go home for a bit. Her sister still lives there and Queenie hasn’t seen her nephew, now a high school freshman and great football player, since he was a baby. Although she intended to make it a short visit, Queenie ends up staying far longer for a multitude of reasons.

Nowhere but Home has a fantastic family and small town dynamic to it. The growth that Queenie experiences, especially when working in the prison kitchen, over the course of the novel is quite the ride, but it’s a good one. Queenie learns a lot about herself and the life she fled. Palmer excellently inserts humor into what is, at times, a very emotional story so that it all comes together marvelously.
Review copy provided by the publisher, William Morrow.