Genre: Realistic Fiction

All Summer Long by Hope Larson | Graphic Novel Review

Posted June 28, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Graphic Novel, Middle Grade / 1 Comment

All Summer Long by Hope Larson | Graphic Novel ReviewAll Summer Long and illustrated by Hope Larson
Published by Farrar Straus & Giroux on May 1, 2018
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Realistic Fiction
Pages: 176
Format: Paperback
Source: From the Publisher
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2 Stars
A coming-of-age middle-grade graphic novel about summer and friendships, written and illustrated by the Eisner Award–winning and New York Times–bestselling Hope Larson.

Thirteen-year-old Bina has a long summer ahead of her. She and her best friend, Austin, usually do everything together, but he's off to soccer camp for a month, and he's been acting kind of weird lately anyway. So it's up to Bina to see how much fun she can have on her own. At first it's a lot of guitar playing, boredom, and bad TV, but things look up when she finds an unlikely companion in Austin's older sister, who enjoys music just as much as Bina. But then Austin comes home from camp, and he's acting even weirder than when he left. How Bina and Austin rise above their growing pains and reestablish their friendship and respect for their differences makes for a touching and funny coming-of-age story.

I’ve started developing interest in graphic novels over the last few years, which was a major surprise to me because I’ve always overlooked them. More and more have been trickling in from various publishers, and I’m really seeing the graphic novel format take off, especially for younger readers. I thought All Summer Long sounded like a fun, light read and was excited to dig in. Sadly, there just wasn’t enough substance for me and it felt much younger than I would have liked.

I enjoy coming-of-age stories, but I don’t feel like All Summer Long was a good example of one. I suppose the characters go through some changes, but they felt more like normal kid changes than coming-of-age. When a story is described as a “coming-of-age story”, you expect some major growth. Bina is 13, and she’s spending her summer alone while her best friend, Austin, is at summer camp. She spends the summer playing/listening to music, and hanging out with Austin’s older sister. She gets to babysit and go to a concert and deal with all the normal kid drama: fights, heightened emotions, and overreactions. At the end, she seemed to be pretty much the same person she was in the beginning. The story was very, very simple and the characters seemed like cardboard cutouts. There just wasn’t anything grabbing me and sucking me in.

I know I’m the wrong demographic, but I work with kids who are about this age. Actually, my kids are about a year younger and they don’t talk like these characters. They don’t use the word “bae” or say “like” every other word. I feel like the author tried to write for tweens and young teens, but without a real understanding of what those kids are like today. These kids seemed younger than mine until they said “bae”, which people my age (late 20’s, early 30’s) were already saying when these kids were toddlers. It just felt really unrealistic to me.

The illustrations were fun, but too stylized for me. The proportions were off and there were inconsistencies in the looks of the characters from page to page. Sometimes I had a hard time telling some of the secondary characters apart. It was easy to read and the boxes flowed in a nice way. I rarely read sections out of order because I didn’t know which box came first, which has happened to me in other graphic novels I’ve read.

All in all, this one just didn’t work for me. I shut the book and immediately wrote my review because I’m not even sure I’ll be able to remember it. I would choose to recommend other graphic novels over this one.


Girl Underwater by Claire Kells | Book Review

Posted July 10, 2015 by Jana in Book Review, New Adult / 0 Comments

Girl Underwater by Claire Kells | Book ReviewGirl Underwater by Claire Kells
Published by Dutton Adult on March 31, 2015
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Survival
Pages: 304
Format: Hardcover
Source: From the Publisher
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4 Stars
An adventurous debut novel that cross cuts between a competitive college swimmer’s harrowing days in the Rocky Mountains after a major airline disaster and her recovery supported by the two men who love her—only one of whom knows what really happened in the wilderness.

Nineteen-year-old Avery Delacorte loves the water. Growing up in Brookline, Massachusetts, she took swim lessons at her community pool and captained the local team; in high school, she raced across bays and sprawling North American lakes. Now a sophomore on her university’s nationally ranked team, she struggles under the weight of new expectations but life is otherwise pretty good. Perfect, really.

That all changes when Avery’s red-eye home for Thanksgiving makes a ditch landing in a mountain lake in the Colorado Rockies. She is one of only five survivors, which includes three little boys and Colin Shea, who happens to be her teammate. Colin is also the only person in Avery’s college life who challenged her to swim her own events, to be her own person—something she refused to do. Instead she’s avoided him since the first day of freshman year. But now, faced with sub-zero temperatures, minimal supplies, and the dangers of a forbidding nowhere, Avery and Colin must rely on each other in ways they never could’ve imagined.

In the wilderness, the concept of survival is clear-cut. Simple. In the real world, it’s anything but.

I love survival books and plane crash books (wow… does that sound insensitive!? Haha!). I love the excitement and survival instincts they bring out in our characters. Girl Underwater had been on my radar for quite some time, so I jumped on it as soon as I could. While it was not what I expected, I ended up really enjoying it anyway! As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. I know this has nothing to do with the story or the author, but Tracey Garvis-Graves, my favorite author ever, blurbed this book. She wrote the ultimate survival love story of our time (On the Island), so if she thinks that Girl Underwater is, “a powerful love story embedded in an action-packed tale of survival” then I’m going to be all over it. Her endorsement is a huge selling point for me.

2. I felt a little disconnected from the story. The plane crash and the beginning really hooked me, and then the story alternates back and forth between the snowy dangers of the Rocky Mountains and the realities that occurred after Avery’s rescue. I was disappointed in the fact that we knew right from chapter two that Avery makes it home. It kind of took away feelings of suspense or discomfort, and I was not on the edge of my seat as often as I could have been. I also hated being ripped out of the mountains to read about her life after her rescue. I wanted most of the book to take place on that mountain, with maybe some of the aftermath in the ending chapters or an epilogue. That’s what I mean when I say the book was not expecting. But once I got passed the fact that my expectations were inaccurate, I was able to enjoy the book for what it was.

3. I was expecting a survival story, but what I ended up getting was what happens in the aftermath of surviving. It’s a story about surviving life after you survive a disaster. We read a lot about Avery’s attempts to deal with her PTSD and her efforts to pick up where she left off the moment her plane went down. It was a very powerful, yet sometimes depressing, portrayal of someone who has gone through the unthinkable. You do not get this in books (or news stories) often, so I did appreciate the added details that are usually left behind the scenes.

4. I really loved the characters. Avery is strong in the mountains, and she is strong after she returns home. She was strong in two different ways, though. On the mountain she was strong for Colin and the three little boys she was stranded with. She did everything in her power for them, even if it meant risking her life. When she was back at home, she finally had to focus on herself. She had to be strong for herself, and that is oftentimes the hardest thing to do. I loved Colin so much. He’s the typical gentleman, who was concerned. He was also so swoony to me the way he treated those little boys. And the boys were very sweet and lovable.

5. There were so many feelings and emotions. It was quite a roller coaster, but I ended up really loving and appreciating that about the book. Girl Underwater acted as more than entertainment. I learned a lot about what goes through the mind of a PTSD victim, and I got to see what I think was a very accurate portrayal of what it’s like to be recognized in public for something you’d like to forget ever happened to you. I really felt for Avery. Moving on is hard when the media and your friends keep pulling you back to such a painful event.

6. I loved watching Avery learn to cope. And I loved watching her come to terms with her life and embrace the good parts of it, even if they make her remember the bad times. She never gave up on herself.

7. The romance was not the focus of the book by any means, but it was an underlying factor. I couldn’t help but hope for the best, and I was very happy with how things turned out for everyone involved. It was real, not ideal. And it was beautiful.

Overall, this book reminded me of how much I love reviewing books. I went into this wanting one thing, and the author gave me something I needed instead. I really loved reading about Avery’s and Colin’s stories, and I loved watching their lives change shapes as a result of what happened to them. I think this book would appeal to anyone. It definitely has young adult/new adult/adult crossover appeal, and it has a little but of everything for everyone. Highly recommended.


Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher | Mini Book Review

Posted May 6, 2015 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 4 Comments

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher | Mini Book ReviewThirteen Reasons Why Published by Razorbill on October 17, 2007
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Realistic Fiction
Pages: 304
Format: eBook
Source: Bought from Amazon
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0 Stars
Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out how he made the list.

Through Hannah and Clay's dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.

I have not reacted this negatively to a book in years, and I was so unbelievably upset by it that I had nightmares. I disagree with all this book stands for, and would not have even finished it if I were not reading it for a class assignment. Bottom line, I feel like this book glamorizes suicide. It makes it look like it’s ok to kill yourself. I was so mad at Hannah the entire time, and my opinion of her and her decision grew less and less as I heard her snide voice and her petty justifications. She killed herself because people were mean to her (in sometimes awful ways, yes.), and instead of confronting them she went and killed herself and then blamed them for it. She did something much worse to them than they did to her by blaming them for her death. It seemed like a revenge suicide—like she killed herself to get back of them, and it just made me mad. People don’t kill themselves for reasons. They do it because a switch has been triggered in their brain that makes them feel like it’s a necessity. It’s a mental thing.

If I set my opinions and feelings aside, I can agree that the writing was done very well. The author inserts Clay’s thoughts and actions as he is listening to Hannah talk, which is unique and real. I enjoyed being in the moment with him. Clay cares deeply, and his thoughts seem very accurate for someone who has his hands tied and is unable to help. Hannah’s voice, while sarcastic and rude, is very much like an argumentative child who is mad at everyone (which is basically what she is). They both portray emotions that are brought out in the reader, and I was very convinced. There has GOT to be a better book out there about suicide, though, because this one is pretty awful in my opinion.


How to Love by Katie Cotugno | Mini Book Review

Posted September 3, 2014 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 1 Comment

How to Love by Katie Cotugno | Mini Book ReviewHow to Love by Katie Cotugno
Published by Balzer + Bray on October 1, 2013
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Realistic Fiction, Romance
Pages: 389
Format: ARC
Source: Christmas Present
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3 Stars
Before: Reena Montero has loved Sawyer LeGrande for as long as she can remember: as natural as breathing, as endless as time. But he's never seemed to notice that Reena even exists until one day, impossibly, he does. Reena and Sawyer fall in messy, complicated love. But then Sawyer disappears from their humid Florida town without a word, leaving a devastated-and pregnant-Reena behind.

After: Almost three years have passed, and there's a new love in Reena's life: her daughter, Hannah. Reena's gotten used to being without Sawyer, and she's finally getting the hang of this strange, unexpected life. But just as swiftly and suddenly as he disappeared, Sawyer turns up again. Reena doesn't want anything to do with him, though she'd be lying if she said Sawyer's being back wasn't stirring something in her. After everything that's happened, can Reena really let herself love Sawyer LeGrande again?

I was really not expecting to like a book whose focus was on teen pregnancy, so I was pretty surprised by how much I enjoyed How to Love! Katie Cotugno did a great job realistically portraying the situation and aftermath of teen pregnancy,  not to mention she threw in lot of other plot elements that made the story more dynamic and interesting to read. I liked her decision to tell the story from two perspectives: before Sawyer and after Sawyer. We learn all about his and Reena’s tumultuous relationship, and how Reena handled raising a baby alone after Sawyer disappeared from her life.

I had a super hard time liking Sawyer, which is probably why this book did not receive a higher rating from me. He was an absolutely horrible person to Reena during their relationship, and then he just disappeared. It helps that he left without knowing Reena was pregnant, but he could have stepped up more when he found out he had a child. As the years passed he improved his life some, but he just never convinced me that he was a good person.

Reena is a very likeable character, and I think this was because of the maturity she quickly developed when she became a teenage single mom. I love her relationship with her daughter, how she has grown and changed because of this daughter, and how she is level-headed enough to know she made mistakes in the past too.

The writing is also done very well, and was probably the main reason I enjoyed the story. I liked the way Katie Cotugno portrayed the feelings and emotions of the characters, and I enjoyed her account of the encounters that went down between Reena and her family, as well as Reena and Sawyer. While the book did not blow me away like it did some of my blogging friends, I did appreciate such an honest and realistic portrayal of such a sensitive subject not usually tackled in YA literature. I think that many people will be able to relate to Reena’s situation, or at least realize they have felt some of the same feelings in their own familial and romantic relationships. I have a feeling Katie Cotugno is going to quickly become a big name on the young adult scene.


Welcome, Caller, This Is Chloe by Shelley Coriell | Book Review

Posted March 17, 2014 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 3 Comments

Welcome, Caller, This Is Chloe by Shelley Coriell | Book ReviewWelcome, Caller, This Is Chloe by Shelley Coriell
Published by Harry N Abrams on May 1, 2012
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Realistic Fiction, Romance
Pages: 299
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought from Amazon
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4 Stars
Big-hearted Chloe Camden is the queen of her universe until her best friend shreds her reputation and her school counselor axes her junior independent study project. Chloe is forced to take on a meaningful project in order to pass, and so she joins her school’s struggling radio station, where the other students don’t find her too queenly. Ostracized by her former BFs and struggling with her beloved Grams’s mental deterioration, lonely Chloe ends up hosting a call-in show that gets the station much-needed publicity and, in the end, trouble. She also befriends radio techie and loner Duncan Moore, a quiet soul with a romantic heart. On and off the air, Chloe faces her loneliness and helps others find the fun and joy in everyday life. Readers will fall in love with Chloe as she falls in love with the radio station and the misfits who call it home.

This is an Epic Recs review! Racquel from The Book Barbies is my partner, and she recommended this book to me because I loved Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins. It had not been on my tbr at all even though I had heard about it before. It just never really grabbed me enough to even read the summary. I am so glad Racquel pushed it on me, though, because I ended up really enjoying it! As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. At first glance, this book looks bright and cheery. I was expecting a light and fluffy book as a result. While there are some very sweet, cute moments, this book tackles some major issues. I’m not usually a fan of issue books, but the author was able to do it in a way that made me hopeful instead of depressed. I can handle that.

2. Chloe is so much fun, and I love her snarky sarcasm and bluntness. She likes to be funny, and she really cares about people. And she is in love with vintage shoes, which made me love her. Because, really? I will talk about my beloved shoe collection with anyone. She is just real, and she is figuring herself out. Being a teen is tough, but I feel like she has risen above all the typical teen drama and knows what’s important. I would have loved a friend like her in high school.

3. I felt like the radio aspect gave us a larger opportunity to get to know Chloe. Rather than reading descriptions of her, or seeing what other people think of her in the story, we got this window into her thoughts through “listening” to her talk show. Teens giving teens advice does not always work out so well, but I really liked her genuine sensitivity and desire to help.

4. Speaking of the radio, I LOVED the characters who ran the radio station. They are all social outcasts for one reason or another, so they found each other and created this super close family. I particularly loved Clem, who is this hardened grump but ends up becoming a really sweet person. And I can tell she is so loyal. She and Chloe have a really entertaining relationship.

5. Duncan. I loved him so much. He’s super sensitive and caring, and he comes from a broken home, which I feel adds so much to his personality. He is always looking out for people and paying attention to them because that’s what he wants for himself.

6. Everything, and I mean everything in this book came about as a result of deep friendships. I loved that this book focused on friendship instead of romance. And these were not superficial friendships. They were stronger than some familial relationships, and I just drank it all in. Can I hug all of these people?

All in all, Welcome, Caller, this is Chloe was a darling contemporary that was fun, yet serious at the same time. I love the group of characters, and how they helped each other through their tough times. This book is so underrated, and I hope more people discover it and fall in love with it as I have. :)

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