Do I Have a New Favorite Author? | Peaches by Jodi Lynn Anderson

It’s not often that I read two books by the same author in the same year (JK Rowling withstanding). And, it’s rarer than a blue moon that I read two books by the same author within 30 days. Yet, I recently devoured Peaches (in one day) by Jodi Lynn Anderson less than 30 days of  reading The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson (in one day).

Peaches by Jodi Lynn Anderson Book coverPeaches (Peaches #1) by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Released: June 2005
Publisher: HarperCollins Publisher
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In a Ya-Ya Sisterhood for teens, Peaches combines three unforgettable heroines who have nothing in common but the troubles that have gotten them sentenced to a summer of peach picking at a Georgia orchard.

Leeda is a debutante dating wrong-side-of-the-tracks Rex.

Murphy, the wildest girl in Bridgewater, likes whichever side Rex is on.

Birdie is a dreamer whose passion for Girl Scout cookies is matched only by her love for a boy named Enrico.

When their worlds collide, The Breakfast Club meets The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants in an entirely original and provocative story with a lush, captivating setting.

Anderson writes about the most spectacularly flawed characters.

Sometimes they’re downright unlikeable. Like Murphy and Leeda and Birdie, who are selfish and insecure and condescending and full of pride and sometimes just downright fools. I really wanted to hate them, but I couldn’t because beneath the walls they built, they just wanted to be loved and accepted. They want to be optimistic about their future even though Murphy is certain she’s doomed to endure failed relationship after failed relationship just like her mother. And Leeda is certain her existence is a regretful mistake and that her mother actually has a favorite child (spoiler: it’s not Leeda). And Birdie…well, her mother just ran out on her and her father, and the peach farm she calls home is failing, and she’s about to lose that too.

I felt like I was on a peach farm in south Georgia.

Just like in the Vanishing Season, Anderson made her setting come alive, and she made it seem effortless. I could smell the stinky-sweet scent of overripe peaches, and I could feel their sticky juice on my skin as it dried. I could feel the cool refreshing waters of the lake the girls would steal away to after curfew, and I could feel Georgia’s blazing, afternoon sun and suffocating humidity.

The story seemed slow, however.

Which I understand might seem weird because I praised the Vanishing Season for being an intentionally slow novel. In the Vanishing Season, it seemed to add to the atmosphere Anderson was creating. But, it seemed out-of-place in Peaches. I just wanted Murphy and Leeda and Birdie to get over themselves already so that I could read a book about friendship.

A Contemporary YA novel would be incomplete without a little romance.

But, I wasn’t a fan of the romantic relationships that developed in Peaches. Okay, Birdie and Enrico were awkwardly charming together, but Rex and Leeda… and Rex and Murphy? Actually, it was just Rex in general. He didn’t have much of a personality. Really, I just wanted Leeda and Murphy to realize they were better as independent women and lose interest in “wrong-side-of-the-tracks”-Rex (who was really just sort of benign).

Overall, I enjoyed Peaches. I didn’t love it like the Vanishing Season though. Peaches is actually part of a series, which I didn’t realize when I checked the book out. I don’t know if I feel compelled to read on. At least, not this year. Perhaps I’ll revisit the idea of reading Peaches #2 next summer. Still… I did find it to be a satisfying summertime read about friendship and self-discovery. It made me want to read Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants or watch the movie Now and Then.

What is one of your favorite summertime novels about friendship?

This Book Destroyed Me | The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson

The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson is not what I expected. At first, I thought it was going to be a mystery/thriller because teenage girls are vanishing in Door County in Wisconsin and then turning up days later, dead in the water. Then I thought it was going to be a ghost story, and maybe in a really abstract way it is. But really, it was the most haunting and devastating YA contemporary I have ever read.

The Vanishing SeasonThe Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Released: July 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
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Girls started vanishing in the fall, and now winter’s come to lay a white sheet over the horror. Door County, it seems, is swallowing the young, right into its very dirt. From beneath the house on Water Street, I’ve watched the danger swell.

The residents know me as the noises in the house at night, the creaking on the stairs. I’m the reflection behind them in the glass, the feeling of fear in the cellar. I’m tied—it seems—to this house, this street, this town.

I’m tied to Maggie and Pauline, though I don’t know why. I think it’s because death is coming for one of them, or both.

All I know is that the present and the past are piling up, and I am here to dig. I am looking for the things that are buried.

The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson is an atmospheric novel. It is a cold, quiet, and introspective novel. It’s a slow but intentional novel. It’s not something that will appeal to everyone. You need patience to read it, but at the same time, I read it in a single sitting. I couldn’t put the book down because it was one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read.

The Vanishing Season is a character-driven novel. It is a novel about friendship. It is a novel about betrayal. It is a novel about isolation and death and lost memories. It is a novel about unrequited love. It’s always the stories about unrequited love that make me cry. I knew it was coming, but I cried anyway.

The Vanishing Season has one of the most upsetting endings I have ever read. I didn’t expect it, and it feels like the suffocating weight of melancholy. I wanted to love Maggie’s new friends, Pauline and Liam. But, I knew…I knew they were going to be toxic. I get so angry just thinking about them because it’s not fair. It’s not fair!

The Vanishing Season is one of the best books I have read this year. It’s probably one of the best books I’ve read since launching Books & Tea five years ago. It’s so rare that a book moves me to tears or emotionally destroys me to the point where I’m fumbling to find words for a review. I need to read this book again. I think maybe that’s a bit masochistic, but I really do need to read this book again. I’ll wait for wintertime though. I think that’s when this book is meant to be read.

So, this is magical realism? | the Wrap-Up List by Steven Arntson

I find myself irritated by the goodreads shelf labels associated with the Wrap-up List by Steven Arntson. Which is stupid, I know. I’m not a genre snob, I swear. But… Paranormal FantasySupernatural Fantasy? Really? Okay…sure, I can admit, that part of it is gag reflex; when I hear Paranormal Fantasy I think of Twilight and the million other vampire novels out there, which are not in the same league as the Wrap-up List. But part of it is that these genre labels seem to simplify this novel; the story takes place in reality but has fantastic elements and revolves around some really complex issues like grief and mortality. After finishing the novel, I found myself thinking, “So that’s magical realism?”

the wrap up listThe Wrap-up List by Steven Arntson

Released: January 2013
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
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In this modern-day suburban town, one percent of all fatalities come about in the most peculiar way. Deaths—eight-foot-tall, silver-gray creatures—send a letter (“Dear So-and-So, your days are numbered”) to whomever is chosen for a departure, telling them to wrap up their lives and do the things they always wanted to do before they have to “depart.” When sixteen-year-old Gabriela receives her notice, she is, of course devastated. Will she kiss her crush Sylvester before it’s too late?

The synopsis seems to simplify the novel as well

I’m glad I just skimmed the synopsis and flipped to the first page to read the first paragraph instead [your book has to “hook” me in the first paragraph, or it’s going back on the shelf!]. Had I continued the synopsis, I would have learned that Gabriela’s wrap-up list revolves around getting first kisses for herself and her friends. Sounds cheesy, right? Once I actually learned the contents of Gabriela’s wrap-up list, I was quite skeptical myself. It just seemed silly that a sixteen year old would become so preoccupied by first kisses when she had just one week to live. (Then again, maybe I’m the silly one; I would have been more preoccupied by trying to figure out how to see AFI in concert instead of getting my first kiss.) I think I was also a little concerned that the author’s treatment of the subject of death was going to be flippant, which it wasn’t.

The world building is wonderful

Which is kind of strange when you think about it– this book does takes place in a modern-day, suburban town after all. Except, these beings called Deaths, which children are taught about in school, roam our world to escort the chosen Departed to the place beyond the Fields. (The Fields is a very tangible place that the living can visit, but they cannot visit the place beyond the Fields.) People can also specialize in the study of Departure and work for the Departure Authority. Their reports may end up in the Municipal Archives, which contains all sorts of government records including record of all the Deaths, their Departed, and who was granted Pardons.

Everything changes once Hercule is introduced

Hercule is Gabriela’s Death, and she and her friends intend to kidnap him. What follows is a bit of chaos, some deep discussions about faith and mortality, and a second half of a novel that is so cleverly tinged with black comedy (sort of like when Percy Jackson met Charon and Hades in the Lightning Thief). While I enjoyed the entire novel, it was the second half of the novel that really affected me. The story became so much more complex and emotional and yes, sometimes even funny.

Overall, the Wrap-up List by Steven Arntson is a wonderful novel. Just like Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern, I finished it in one sitting, and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this novel to other readers.

Have you ever read the Wrap-up List? What would be on your list?

On a scale of 1-10, this book is a d20|Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern

Even though Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern is a young adult novel, I’m glad I read it as an adult instead of as a teenager. I don’t think I would have appreciated it as much as I do now because I wouldn’t have been able to get over the “labels”. I went to a big high school, you see; cliques were very prominent, and it was important to immerse yourself in one unless you wanted to be ostracized. My kin were the geeks– the band geeks, the gamer geeks, the Anime/Manga nerds, the AP kids (back when you had to be in the top 15% of the class to take Advance Placement classes [honors English ain’t got nothin’ on us!]). For some reason, this gave us a pass to eat lunch with the goth kids or the punk kids (or at least talk to them in the lunch line). Basically, we were an amalgamation of losers, and we were quite proud of that. So…needless to say, this book kind of resonated with me.

Intothe Wild Nerd YonderInto the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern

Released: September 2009
Publisher: Feiwal & Friends
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It’s Jessie’s sophomore year of high school. A self-professed “mathelete,” she isn’t sure where she belongs. Her two best friends have transformed themselves into punks and one of them is going after her longtime crush. Her beloved older brother will soon leave for college (and in the meantime has shaved his mohawk and started dating . . . the prom princess!) . . .

Things are changing fast. Jessie needs new friends. And her quest is a hilarious tour through high-school clique-dom, with a surprising stop along the way—the Dungeons and Dragons crowd, who out-nerd everyone. Will hanging out with them make her a nerd, too? And could she really be crushing on a guy with too-short pants and too-white gym shoes?

If you go into the wild nerd yonder, can you ever come back?

Jessie’s voice was legit

I don’t know how Halpern does it, but she seems to channel the voice of a fifteen year old girl with ease. It’s like she dug through all of my diaries and wrote what it was like to be me. Like, she hasn’t forgotten what it’s like to be infatuated with someone your parents would never approve of (for example, David J., the pale kid with the [stupid] devilock that Bianca and I would inconspicuously stare at from across the outdoor cafeteria during lunchtime…until he dropped out of school) or what it’s like to watch your friends transform into someone you barely recognize (like the first day of 11th grade when Crystal H. dyed her hair black, shaved off her eyebrows, and replaced her Hurley and Billabong clothing with a wardrobe exclusively from Hot Topic [back when they sold counter-culture clothing, not the pop culture clothing they sell now] and started listening only to HIM [Won’t you die tonight for love/Baby join me in death]).

Best sibling relationship ever!

Jessie and Barrett are amazing. There is no sibling rivalry. They just love each other and have a mutual respect for each other, and it shows. PLUS, THE KRISPY KREME DONUT SCENE IS THE BEST!!!

This book almost feels like historical fiction

Only because the smoking section at Denny’s doesn’t even exist in most states now.

I didn’t really understand Jessie’s aversion to Nerdom though

Maybe it’s just a weird timing issue here, but…I thought Nerd was the new black. Like, being a Nerd back in 2004 wasn’t social suicide (or maybe it was, and that’s why I didn’t have very many friends?), so I can’t imagine it was social suicide in 2009. And nowadays, Nerdom is embraced. Praised. Promoted. Or maybe it’s just me. Like…why didn’t anyone ever invite me to play D&D when I was in high school?!

Overall, Into the Wild Nerd Yonder was an excellent read. So excellent I finished it in one sitting, which rarely happens. So basically, I think you need to read this book ASAP!

What high school clique did you belong to back in the day? And, obviously it’s been a while since I was a high schooler myself, so do cliques even exists anymore?

In Defense of Dangerous by Shannon Hale

I recently read and enjoyed Dangerous by Shannon Hale, which I later found out received a luke-warm reception upon its release in 2014. I rarely do this, but upon finishing the book, I logged on to Goodreads to see what other readers thought of the novel. Huge. Mistake. While I thought this novel was a rip-roaring, sci-fi adventure that… sure, had some kinks to work out, others were reluctant to rate it one or two stars (if they were even able to make it to the end of the novel). I was left wondering if we read the same book.

Continue reading In Defense of Dangerous by Shannon Hale

The Time I Almost Abandoned a Book but Ended Up Rating it Four Stars Instead|Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

Despite never having read a review for Open Road Summer by Emery Lord, I knew that it was well-received in the book blogosphere, and I wanted to read it. I think it was the title and the cover alone that convinced me because they evoked this sense of lightheartedness and warmth and freedom that I experienced right around my senior year of high school. Clearly I did not read the synopsis for the book very well because I missed the part about broken hearts and broken arms, and I found myself rather surprised that by the end of the book, there was a lump in my throat and tears welling up in my eyes.

Continue reading The Time I Almost Abandoned a Book but Ended Up Rating it Four Stars Instead|Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

Welcome to Celaena-mania! | Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Throne of Glass

[Insert some tired quip about how I’m reluctant to read the books everyone else is raving about because more often than not I’m left feeling disappointed]

But then Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas happened, and I’m sad that I didn’t read it sooner. Sad that I didn’t get to anticipate the release of the next books in the series with everyone else. Sad that I wasn’t swept up in Celaena-mania. Why do I have to be so stubborn? This was such a good book! (Oh, PS. SPOILERS)


Continue reading Welcome to Celaena-mania! | Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

This graphic novel failed a saving throw | Welcome to Gotham Academy by Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, and Karl Kerschl

I’m wouldn’t call myself a passionate fan of Batman, but ever since Jon introduced me to some of his favorite graphic novels of the Caped Crusader, I’ve been hooked. I’ve only read five Batman graphic novels so far, but that number is ever-growing, so when, I discovered my library had the first volume of Gotham Academy by Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, and Karl Kerschl, I couldn’t resist it.

There were two really great things about Gotham Academy:

  1. The artwork. Yet again I’ve discovered a graphic novel with beautiful art, scenery rich with detail, and characters that were incredibly stylish.
  2. Maps Mizoguchi. She’s the Dungeons and Dragons-loving, kid sister of Olive’s (our main character) ex-boyfriend. She’s chipper and vibrant and she has all the best nerdy lines referencing her favorite table top game.

Continue reading This graphic novel failed a saving throw | Welcome to Gotham Academy by Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, and Karl Kerschl

Halt You Villains! Unhand That Review! Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Released: October 2014
Publisher: Marvel
Age Group: Young Adult
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Synopsis: Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are.But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona’s powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

My Thoughts

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson is one of those books that makes me questions my rating scale. I’ve been thinking all week about how fun this book was, how I wish I could trick Jon into reading it, how the artwork was fun and quirky, and how the characters in this book turn our hero/villain archetypes on their heads. It almost appears to be a book that has the qualities of a five-star read, yet…it’s not? What then is it lacking that prevents it from five-star status on this blog? Is it something that I cannot quantify in words? I mean, I can hardly think of a flaw! In fact, here is a list of why you should read Nimona:

  1.  Nimona’s got zest, she’s got spunk, she’s fearless, and I loved reading about a female protagonist (or is she an antagonist?) that embodied those characteristics. Nimona is such a force that she drove the plot forward instead of circumstance.
  2. Noelle Stevenson plays with the hero/villain archetype in her graphic novel, which was fun although it was a little predictable. This of course doesn’t diminish my hatred of the Institution for what they did to Nimona and Blackheart and Goldenloin.
  3. Nimona is a shapeshifter AND SOMETIMES SHE TURNS INTO AN ADORABLE CAT. I mean, isn’t that enough?
  4. Something about the artwork and the banter between the characters combined makes this book laugh out loud funny. I lost track of how many times this book made me gigglesnort.
  5. This graphic novel is a blend of fantasy and science fiction, which fascinates me. Weapons of choice are either big plasma guns or trusty swords. I don’t know how this works, it just does.

The only downfall of Nimona is despite the origin stories and despite the scientific research about Nimona, I still don’t understand how she gained her shape-shifting powers or how they really work. Of course reasons 1-5 make up for this, but I still wanted to be able to close the book and be able to say, “Ooooh, so that’s how it happened”.

In the end, Nimona was an excellent read– fast-paced, funny, and a rip-roaring adventure. It also convinced me I need more Noelle Stevenson in my life; during my next library visit, I’ll be searching for the Lumberjane graphic novels, another series Noelle Stevenson wrote/co-wrote.

Have you read anything written by Noelle Stevenson? What did you think of it? Did you know that she illustrated the cover of Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl? Awesooooome!

This is Another Five Star Review: Ms Marvel, Vol 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona

Ms Marvel, Vol 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona

Released: October 2014
Publisher: Marvel
Age Group: Young Adult
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Synopsis: Kamala Khan is an ordinary girl from Jersey City — until she’s suddenly empowered with extraordinary gifts. But who truly is the new Ms. Marvel? Teenager? Muslim? Inhuman? Find out as she takes the Marvel Universe by storm! When Kamala discovers the dangers of her newfound powers, she unlocks a secret behind them, as well. Is Kamala ready to wield these immense new gifts? Or will the weight of the legacy before her be too much to bear? Kamala has no idea, either. But she’s comin’ for you, Jersey!

 My Thoughts

Ms Marvel is the first graphic novel I’ve ever purchased, and the reason I pulled it from the shelf is entirely superficial– the cover. I mean, look at it! It’s intense and powerful. If that was any indication of the story inside, how could I resist? And I definitely wasn’t disappointed. First, the artwork was stunning and the colors were bold;  I’ve only read a handful of graphic novels, but the artwork of Adrian Alphona is my favorite yet. Second, Kamala Khan is a powerhouse. I mean, obviously– she is Ms Marvel. But even when she’s not a super hero, she’s still strong. She’s insistent on experiencing teenage-hood despite over-protective parents and the fact that teenage-hood is an absolutely terrifying time. Also, while she seems shy and awkward, she is also unapologetically her own person (and unapologetically geeky!) even though sometimes she’s still trying figure out who that is. Finally, Ms Marvel: No Normal is a thought-provoking story because it challenges a lot of our social norms– what is considered beautiful, who can be considered a hero, what it means to be American. Kamala Khan may start out transforming into a Carol Danvers look-a-like, but soon she realizes Ms Marvel doesn’t have to be a blonde-haired, white woman as she becomes more confident in herself and her identity.

If you pick up one graphic novel to read this year, it definitely needs to be this one. I’m still trying to get my hands on Vol 2: Generation Why but my local bookstores never seem to have it in stock!

Have you read any of the Ms Marvel comics featuring Kamala Khan? What did you think of them?