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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Hot Off the Presses: New YA Releasing June 30-July 6

Hot Off the Presses -- brand new YA releases!

Welcome to Hot Off the Presses!  

Tuesday is book release day, so every Tuesday I tell you about all the great new YA books you can buy in the week to come. If you're a reviewer, you can also link your blog or Goodreads reviews of any YA book publishing in the current month so we can all check them out!

Enter the NEW July giveaway! This month's winner can pick any book up to $15 on either Amazon (for US winner) or The Book Depository (for international winner.)

Enter by linking reviews of YA books that release in June or by commenting on other people's linked reviews.

Hot Off the Presses aims to include every traditionally published YA book. Please let me know about books that came out this week that I might have missed! Some titles may have different release dates outside the US.

Click on the photos to get to each book's Goodreads page!

Between Us and the Moon Shadowshaper Faking Perfect Three More Words
Between Us and the Moon by Rebecca Maizel (Harper)
Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older (Arthur Levine)
Faking Perfect by Rebecca Phillips (Kensington
Three More Words by Ashley Rhodes-Carter (Atheneum)



Under the Lights Storm So I Shall Reap
Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler (Spencer Hill)
Storm (Paper Gods #3) by Amanda Sun (Harlequin)
So Shall Reap by Kathy-Lynn Cross (Clean Teen)



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Monday, June 29, 2015

Just Finished Reading: Weightless by Sarah Bannan

Weightless
by Sarah Bannan

To be published on June 30, 2015
by St Martin's Press

Source: finished copy from publisher for review

Synopsis from Goodreads: When 15-year-old Carolyn moves from New Jersey to Alabama with her mother, she rattles the status quo of the junior class at Adams High School. A good student and natural athlete, she’s immediately welcomed by the school’s cliques. She’s even nominated to the homecoming court and begins dating a senior, Shane, whose on again/off again girlfriend Brooke becomes Carolyn’s bitter romantic rival. When a video of Carolyn and Shane making out is sent to everyone, Carolyn goes from golden girl to slut, as Brooke and her best friend Gemma try to restore their popularity. Gossip and bullying hound Carolyn, who becomes increasingly private and isolated. When Shane and Brooke—now back together—confront Carolyn in the student parking lot, injuring her, it’s the last attack she can take.
My take:  Weightless tells a story that you've probably heard before, in YA books like Tease or media stories about girls like Phoebe Prince: new girl moves to a small town and catches the eye of a popular guy, starts dating him, is bullied relentlessly by her classmates, then (highlight for spoiler) starts an emotional and psychological downward spiral, and commits suicide. (end spoiler.) I flipped ahead to the end to see if the ending would be different than what I was expecting, but it wasn't.

Like The Virgin Suicides or Then We Came to the End, Weightless is written in the first person plural (from the point of view of a "we" instead of an "I"). It's an unusual and gutsy choice, and one that readers may either love or find distracting. On the plus side, the "we" POV emphasizes the mob mentality that often accompanies bullying. But while I thought this POV choice was successful from a literary point of view (to me, this is a POV that takes some serious skill to pull off and I think Weightless is very well written) the "we" narration left me feeling somewhat emotionally detached from Carolyn, the bullying victim. Weightless does include some epistolary elements -- emails, school reports, newspaper articles, etc. -- so it does include a few of Carolyn's texts and such -- but I wished for more of her voice. Plus, the contrast between the literary POV and the pop cultural elements was a little jarring to me -- though other readers may disagree.

There have been a lot of YA bullying books in the last decade, from Speak to Thirteen Reasons Why to Some Girls Are. I've found all of them hard to read (as they should be) and some have definitely touched me emotionally more than this one did. That said, I do think Weightless was well-crafted and definitely worth a try for YA readers who are looking for this kind of a story.

I'll be giving away a finished copy this Friday, so if you're interested in trying this, be sure to stop by!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Freebie Friday: June/July Grab Bag



Happy Friday!


The winner of this week's giveaway will get to choose from a selection of June/July ARCs.
Hope you all have a wonderful weekend of reading!


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Thursday, June 25, 2015

WDYT Thursday: Are You an Early Review Avoider?



Welcome to What Do You Think Thursday, a periodic feature in which I pick a topic, tell you what I think, and invite you to discuss.

When I was a newer blogger, I'd often get comments on my reviews that went something like this: "I haven't read/reviewed this book yet, so I'm going to come back and read your review later."

I don't get comments like that anymore, which means that one of two things happened:

1) I don't post as many early reviews as I used to. This is possibly true, though I haven't done any kind of statistical analysis.

2) More people have become like me: they don't avoid early reviews.

I used to be an Early Review Avoider. I think I was afraid that if I read another blogger's review before I read the book, I'd be influenced by their opinion -- that I'd somehow absorb their opinion instead of forming my own. (There also seemed to be more incidents of blogger plagiarism going on a couple years ago, so that spooked a lot of us, I think....) 

So while I used to like to go into reading and reviewing blind:



I don't anymore. I definitely scan early reviews, especially if I'm torn about whether to request a book or not. That's because:

1) I now have a better understanding of my reading preferences. I've become better at reading early reviews and using them to decide if a book is for me. And, hey, if I change my mind and miss out on requesting a review copy, I can always buy the book after it comes out.

2) I've read so much YA that I've developed RAS (Review Amnesia Syndrome) and a related disorder, SAS (Synopsis Amnesia Syndrome). Between the time I request a book and the time I read it, I often forget what the book was about, why I wanted to read it, and what anybody thought of it.

3) I've become comfortable having an opinion on a book that goes against all the reviews I've read. Most often, that means I perfectly okay liking a book that others are sort of "meh" on. Like this one, for example. 

But that's just me -- every reader needs to do what feels right to them. I don't think there's anything wrong with avoiding early reviews, or not reading reviews until you've figured out what you think of a book.

Where do you come out on this? Do you find early reviews helpful, or avoid them like the plague? Let me know in comments.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Just Finished Reading: Jesse's Girl by Miranda Kenneally

Jesse's Girl
by Miranda Kenneally

To be published on July 7, 2015
by Sourcebooks

Source: eARC for review

Synopsis from Goodreads: Everyone at Hundred Oaks High knows that career mentoring day is a joke. So when Maya Henry said she wanted to be a rock star, she never imagined she’d get to shadow *the* Jesse Scott, Nashville’s teen idol. But spending the day with Jesse is far from a dream come true. He’s as gorgeous as his music, but seeing all that he’s accomplished is just a reminder of everything Maya’s lost: her trust, her boyfriend, their band, and any chance to play the music she craves. Not to mention that Jesse’s pushy and opinionated. He made it on his own, and he thinks Maya’s playing back up to other people’s dreams. Does she have what it takes to follow her heart—and go solo? 
My take: This week I have an extra bit of spring in my step -- I've been reading some fabulous contemporaries, which is how I think everyone should spend the summer.  I'm a longtime fan of Miranda Kenneally and her Hundred Oaks series. She's got a bit of a Sarah Dessen thing going on, with crossover characters and locations, that I like a lot. And I love that her main characters are always girls with ambitions and dreams, girls who feel real and relatable, girls who find love.

Jesse's Girl had a lot going for it -- music themes, fun 80s references, and a bunch of great tropes. Yes, great. I think of tropes as humble cooking ingredients that can either be humdrum or, in the case of a book like this, elevated into something fun and surprising.

The most obvious trope going here is In Love With a Rock Star.  But hey, surprise: it's Jesse who falls for the (aspiring) rock star, while Maya falls in love with Jesse, a country singer. (Which means that we also get both an Odd Couple dynamic and I'm a Little Bit Country/I'm a Little Bit Rock and Roll face-off.)

There's also a good dose of Girl Next Door in Love With Someone Famous, which has been a favorite trope of mine since I was a kid watching Brady Bunch re-runs and Marcia Brady snuck into Davy Jones' hotel room to ask him if he'd sing at her prom. Jesse and Maya meet cute (well, she's cute and he's surly) and embark on a madcap Ferris Bueller Day of fun. Super-cute, and a little bit Princess for a Day as he tries to buy her fancy cowboy boots, and she declines. He's famous, but he can't get her out of his mind...

What else is there to love about this book? If you still need more convincing, there's a fun American-Idol-meets-the-Voice kind of show involved (with actual celebrity judges) and cameo appearances by two of my favorite Hundred Oaks characters ever, Jordan and Sam.

In sum, Jesse's Girl is the perfect summer read: fun, flirty, and hard to put down.

These books are companion books, so you don't have to have read any other Hundred Oaks books to pick up this one. If you've read it, let me know what you thought in comments!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Hot Off the Presses: New YA Releasing June 23-29

Hot Off the Presses -- brand new YA releases!

Welcome to Hot Off the Presses!  

Tuesday is book release day, so every Tuesday I tell you about all the great new YA books you can buy in the week to come. If you're a reviewer, you can also link your blog or Goodreads reviews of any YA book publishing in the current month so we can all check them out!

LAST week of the June giveaway! This month's winner can pick any book up to $15 on either Amazon (for US winner) or The Book Depository (for international winner.)

Enter by linking reviews of YA books that release in June or by commenting on other people's linked reviews.

Hot Off the Presses aims to include every traditionally published YA book. Please let me know about books that came out this week that I might have missed! Some titles may have different release dates outside the US.

Click on the photos to get to each book's Goodreads page!


Emmy & Oliver Book of Spirits and Thieves Date With a Rockstar
Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway (Harper)
Spirits and Thieves by Morgan Rhodes (Razorbill)
Date With a Rockstar by Sarah Gagnon (Spencer Hill)

Tangled Webs Rise and Fall of a Theater Geek Leveller
Tangled Webs by Lee Bross (Disney-Hyperion)
Rise and Fall of a Theater Geek by Seth Rudetsky (Random House)
The Leveler by Julia Durango (Harper)

The Rules A Girl Undone Calling Maggie May
The Rules by Nancy Holder and Debbie Vigue (Delacorte)
A Girl Undone by Catherine Linka (St. Martin's)
Calling Maggie May by Anonymous (Simon Pulse)


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Monday, June 22, 2015

Just Finished Reading: Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway

Emmy & Oliver
by Robin Benway
To be published on June 23, 2015
by HarperTeen

Source: eARC for review

Synopsis from Goodreads: Emmy just wants to be in charge of her own life. She wants to stay out late, surf her favorite beach—go anywhere without her parents’ relentless worrying. But Emmy’s parents can’t seem to let her grow up—not since the day Oliver disappeared. Oliver needs a moment to figure out his heart. He’d thought, all these years, that his dad was the good guy. He never knew that it was his father who kidnapped him and kept him on the run. Discovering it, and finding himself returned to his old hometown, all at once, has his heart racing and his thoughts swirling. Emmy and Oliver were going to be best friends forever, or maybe even more, before their futures were ripped apart. In Emmy’s soul, despite the space and time between them, their connection has never been severed. But is their story still written in the stars? Or are their hearts like the pieces of two different puzzles—impossible to fit together?

My take: I love contemporary YA. But lately, you've seen me grumping on here about a trend in contemporary YA that I'm not so fond of: contemporary books with too much going on. It seems to me that some writers tackling contemporary YA worry that the genre is too mundane and that it needs to be jazzed up with paranormal twists or main characters with psychotic breaks or people who peel their faces off and are actually someone else (okay, I made that last one up, but still..)

I firmly believe that reality can be enough, that contemporary YA can be simple and real and still be able to capture readers' attentions and their hearts.

Thank you, Robin Benway, for writing a book that is Exhibit A in my argument. Emmy & Oliver has a simple premise: Emmy and Oliver are best friends. When Oliver is seven, he disappears. Ten years later, he comes back. That's it.

But with that simple premise, Benway is able to explore a multitude of issues and themes and do so in a way that was moving, funny, and memorable.  I love that Emmy & Oliver was able to explore all the different repercussions of Oliver's disappearance and return -- emotions and reactions that are like ripples on a pond. The parents of Oliver's friends (including Emmy's parents) clutched their children tighter after he vanished, so tightly that Emmy feels like a prisoner herself and has resorted to sneaking out to learn to surf and secretly applied to college. Oliver's mother, who looked tirelessly for her son, has also remarried and had twins. Emmy has made other friends, but the absence of Oliver has left a hole in her life that has never been filled.

When Oliver returns, everything has to be recalibrated: Oliver's family, Emmy's friendships and situation with her parents, and Emmy and Oliver's relationship. I was wondering whether this would be a friendship story or a friends-to-romance story and it could have gone either way, but I liked the way that it went. I loved the way family and friendship were portrayed -- real, funny, and sometimes messed-up.

Emmy & Oliver is one of my favorites of 2015 -- to me, it was a great example of everything a wonderful contemporary story can be.

If you've read it, let me know what you think in comments!

 
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