Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Author Spotlight: Rules for 50/50 Chances by Kate McGovern

Posted by Jenn Christensen at 1:00 PM 0 comments


Kate McGovern has taught theatre and language arts to middle schoolers in Boston, New York, and London. A graduate of Yale and Oxford, she currently lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she was born and raised. RULES FOR 50/50 CHANCES is her first novel.

Title: Rules for 50/50 Chances
Author: Kate McGovern
Publisher: FSG
Publication: November 24th 2015
Cover Rating: 5/5

The first thing I want to mention is that when I opened Rules for 50/50 Chances to the first page... I may or may not have read the first paragraph like the beginning of a Grey's Anatomy episode, out loud, in a rather convincing voice too. I have no idea what that says about me but after reading the synopsis and finding out the book is about medical situations, my brain just kind of went straight to Grey's Anatomy. My brain also went to Grey's Anatomy's episode in season seven, I believe, where the woman has Huntington's and she was literally trying to live as much as she possibly could while she still could.

The best way to describe Rose, our protagonist, is scared. She is scared she will end up sick like her mother so she has basically stopped living. No... Not stopped. Never started, really. She is too afraid to try anything new or let anyone into her life because she is afraid she will end up dying young and ruining everything. I really think she should have been on some sort of anxiety medicine. It is okay to think about death and worry about it occasionally. But on a daily basis and to the point that is literally keeps you from living, yeah, that's something that needs to be treated.

BUT if I was in Rose's shoes I would be a little crazy too. I could not imagine having to watch my mother slowly wither away. I mean, yeah, growing old and dying is one thing. But slowly turning into someone else and then dying is different. Rose has pretty much already lost her mother. So I can understand why she is a little messed up.

Lena was such a great and supportive friend. Rose is a seriously lucky person to have found these people who give her so much feedback and support. Lena isn't afraid to tell Rose what she thinks and I love that about her so much. If you are someones friend you need to be honest with them. Yes, supporting them in a big thing, but if supporting them will end up hurting them then you need to speak your mind and tell them what you think.

I liked Caleb. I think he brought something good out in Rose. He gave her the balls to try and live life. I don't think there would have been much of a story without him pushing Rose out of her comfort zone and encouraging her to LIVE. But towards the end I think he made a lot of poor choices. He was a complete dick to Rose. I think he over reacted to a lot of things and if he had these feelings ALL ALONG why did he say he loved her and do other things with her? 

The entire time I was reading the book I wanted to grab Rose by her shoulders and shake her. I wanted to yell at her. Then I want to sit down and tell her that if she is so worried about dying then she should WANT to live her life to the fullest. Do everything she dreams of doing. That way IF she does die she doesn't regret NOT living. She is living in a world of nothing but fear and I know she is going to regret not living her life while she was a teen when she is older. She will look back on her life and be like, damn, I didn't do shit with my teenage years.

Health issues aren't the only topics in this book. You have love, skin color and some pretty big life changing events that happen. So don't come into this book thinking it's just going to be about medical issues because, yes, the majority might be about health issues, but the other events that happen throughout the book are what make this novel so amazing.

By the end of the book a lot of things started to change. I saw change in Rose that I actually didn't expect to really see. She started viewing the world a little bit differently. I can't say whether it was a good or bad change. Only Rose knows that answer. I think the bravest thing Rose did was actually go to the Ballet Audition at PCCA. I think that was the actual point where she started to change.

I think the big thing this book has to teach you is don't be afraid to live. Rose was so afraid of dying that she wouldn't let herself live. So, she was pretty much making her biggest fear come true. The moral of this story, for me at least, is to follow your dreams and live life to the fullest. I have no idea if the author set out to write such a diverse and intense book but she did an amazing job with it. 

Overall, I gave the book 4.5/5 stars.




1) Have you always wanted to become an author?
​I've always wanted to write--and I've always done a ton of creative writing in my spare time--but I didn't always know I would write for young adults, or even fiction. I grew up doing theatre and my first big pieces of writing were plays. My play BLUE BEFORE MORNING ran Off-Broadway at the DR2 Theatre in 2008. I've also written a lot of essays and other pieces of creative non-fiction. But as I started working more and more with students, I found myself more drawn to novels for teens, and decided to try my hand at it.

2) What made you decide to write a book with Huntington's Disease as the main focus?
​In 2007, I read a news article about a young woman in a similar situation to Rose​. She was trying to decide if she wanted to get tested for Huntington's disease or not. I was really struck by the complexity of that question--what would you do?--and her story stuck with me. I started reading more and more about HD, and eventually started writing RULES. 

3) Are you currently working on any new books?
​I am! I'm working on another YA contemporary. It's a love story at its core, but it deals with some big, complex issues of race and violence. I'll be able to say more about it soon!
​ 
4) Have you ever danced ballet?
​Not really--I danced a little bit in high school, but like I said, I was a super theatre geek, so I spent the vast majority of my time acting, writing plays, doing set and lighting design, and directing theatre. I LOVE dance, though, and I have a particular thing for books and movies about ballet--so I decided to put Rose in that world.
​ 
5) Do you think you would live your life differently if you found out you had a life shortening illness?
​That's a huge question. I'm sure I would in some ways, and probably not in others. It's hard to know, I think, how you would really respond to circumstances like that unless you're living them. For example, if you ask a room full of people if they would get tested for Huntington's, most will say yes. But in reality, only about 10 percent of at-risk individuals go through with testing. I think that tells us that the choices we THINK we'd make, hypothetically, and the choices we really make when faced with a situation, can be very, very different. 
​ 
6) Have you ever rode any of the trains mentioned in the book? 
​Yes! I rode the California Zephyr in 2012 and it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. You see the country in a whole different way when you watch the landscape change and unfold out the window. Like Rose, I was profoundly affected by that ride.​ ​It gave me a fresh perspective on the many different ways people live in this huge country of ours. ​​That's why I wanted her to experience it, too. More recently, I rode a train called the Himalayan Queen to a city called Shimla in northern India (which is also mentioned in RULES--it's where Jay is from!). That was UNBELIEVABLE. It winds very, very slowly through the foothills of the Himalayas. The views are stunning, and the windows open all the way so you can just hang your head out and breathe in the fresh air and experience the ride. I'll never forget that.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Topic Tuesday[4] - Retellings - Miscellaneous

Posted by Jenn Christensen at 1:00 PM 0 comments
So for this last week I am just going to talk about random retellings. There are so many of them out there and I know I can't possibly talk about all of them but I am going to touch on a few that I think are pretty darn good.


The first book I am going to talk about is The Wishing Spell, or The Land of Stories series, in general. I was very hesitant about reading these books because they are Middle Grade. I just didn't think they would appeal to me at all. But I was wrong. I really enjoyed the first book. The series is about pretty much all the fairytales. It is a younger persons version of Once Upon a Time, the TV show. I highly recommend these books to anyone of any age.


The next book/books I want to talk about are the Lunar Chronicles. I mentioned Cinder already to I am just going to use Scarlet's cover for this one. The entire series is amazing. It is retellings with a Sci-Fi, Dystopian twist. You get Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Snow White, so what's not to love? I urge everyone to try this series out.


No, this isn't a fairytale retelling but it is still a retelling. It is a retelling of the Bloody Mary Legend and I really loved these books, there are 2. They are scary and wonderfully written and I think everyone should read them, if not for the thrill, then for the purpose of seeing how wonderful the author writes. 

So this is all I have to post. I own plenty of retellings but I haven't read that many of them shockingly. If you guys have any other retellings you want people to know about then please leave a comment! Thank you.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Review: The Things you Kiss Goodbye by Leslie Conner

Posted by Jenn Christensen at 1:00 PM 0 comments
Title: The Things You Kiss Goodbye
Author: Leslie Conner
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication: June 24th 2014
Cover Rating: 3/5


I went into this book with a "MEH" type feeling, not having high expectations for it but not have low ones either you know?
Now, I've always been bothered by cheating in books, and even more so in real life xD
There is something about reading it that makes me fifty shades of uncomfortable with the characters, but I understand why it happened
Wait is this considered a spoiler?
...
Damn.
Anyways, Brady turned into such a douche face!
Okay I should really say the book wasn't the light reading that I kinda thought it would be due to the emotional abuse and stuff, it was hard.
Her struggles with the school seemed really harsh but at the same time so read. Its things that people DO and HAVE gone through in high school , not all but... Well... Maybe...

Recommend it?
mmm sure, I guess... yeah

Overall, I gave the book 4/5 stars


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Topic Tuesday[3] - Retellings - Beauty and the Beast

Posted by Jenn Christensen at 3:30 PM 1 comments

This weeks Topic Tuesday is Beauty and the Beast retellings. There have been a lot of these lately but all of them are completely different. I know I said Cinderella was probably the favorite of all the fairytales BUT I am starting to think that Beauty and the Beast is taking that spot.



The first retelling I am going to mention is my favorite one. I read this book and adored it so much. The world is amazing and the characters are beautifully crafted. This one sticks to the story pretty well but of course it has its own twist. If you are looking for a darker spin on Beauty and the Beast then this is the book for you. The author has 2 other books. Gilded Ashes is actually a Novella set in the same world as Cruel Beauty. It is a Cinderella retelling that I forgot to include in the last Topic Tuesday. Then there is Crimson Bound. A lot of people think it is part of the Cruel Beauty series but it is not. Just has a similar cover design. That book is actually a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood and is set in an entirely different world. So this author is pretty good with retellings.


Of Beast and Beauty sounds like another pretty twisted retelling. I haven't read it but I do own it and hope to read it soon. I can't really say much on this book as the synopsis is pretty vague. But it sounds really good. Stacey Jay writes a lot of retellings as well. You should check her out if you enjoy retellings.


This is another one that I haven't read but I own. I do know that it has faeries in it. I also know that it has pretty high ratings and a lot of people adore the author. I have heard that it isn't an upfront retelling, though. So it might have some aspects of Beauty and the Beast but it isn't an outright retelling.


And then we have Beastly. This was the first Beauty and the Beast retelling I ever heard of. I haven't read the book but I have seen the movie and it was pretty good. This story is told in present day and the Beast was a popular guy in high school but he messed with the wrong person and ended up cursed. Alex Flinn is another author know for writing retellings.

If you have any other Beauty and the Beast YA retellings you would like to add then feel free to leave them in the comments!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Double Vision Review: Maybe One Day by Melissa Kantor - Valeria + Dani

Posted by Jenn Christensen at 1:00 PM 0 comments

Title: Maybe One Day
Author: Melissa Kantor
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication: February 18th 2014
Cover Rating: 4/5

I don't know how to feel about it, like its in the middle but I don't know if I am leaning towards more good than bad.
The book started out well enough but as it went on it started to irk me. 
Like, example, how the characters couldnt understand something simple but yet know something complicated, like oncology (I had to google that stuff)
To me a lot of it just seemed forced, the characters didnt naturally fall into their struggles, I could go on a full rant about the characters themselves but I feel like I would spoil much of it due to giving particular examples to which I rolled my eyes. They could annoy me to bits at times which is why I give the book a 3

Recommend it?
eh.... ish

Overall, I gave the book 3/5 stars.



I heard that this was a very sad book and to make sure that I have tissues ready. I could see how this is a sad book, but I couldn’t connect to the characters or the story.


This is a story about a teen that faces an aggressive type of cancer. Going through the treatments that the doctors think that will help her. But with every cancer there can be setbacks. With the setbacks, the doctors still do the best they can. I know about doctors giving chemotherapy and that some can lose their hair. I had to watch my Nana go through it all. With this in my background, I still couldn’t connect to anything that happened.

What Maybe One Day did for me was show me lessons that you tend to learn as you grow. That children and teens can get cancer. It’s a sad fact, but it happens more than people like to think about. Due to illness, it is hard on the patient, but not only on them. It is hard for everyone connected to that person. It’s hard because they love and care about them and just want them to happy and healthy instead of sick. I found one other lesson important. Which is hard work may not always pay off the way you want it to, but it teaches you not to give up.

I started to connect to the story at the end. I felt Melissa Kantor put all the emotion she could in the last 30 pages or so and it hit me all at once. It made me cry a lot and I had a hard time getting through the end.

Overall, I did like Maybe One Day, but not as much as I would have liked. If you are looking for best friends having to go through a traumatic even together, then I recommend you read it. I recommend it to anyone who wants a story of setbacks and let downs, but no one giving up.

“That’s the thing about dying. Nobody knows how long it takes.” –Hospice Nurse


I rate this 3/5. 



Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Topic Tuesday[2] - Retellings - Cinderella

Posted by Jenn Christensen at 1:00 PM 0 comments

So, this weeks topic is going to be Cinderella retellings in the Young Adult community. I am actually shocked that there aren't MORE retellings out, I'm sure there will be in the future. Cinderella is one of those stories that everyone holds on to after hearing it. They want their Happily Ever After. So below will be a few Cinderella retellings you can read. Some of them might not be exactly what you are expecting and some of them might be exactly what you are looking for.


I am going to start this off with Cinder because I think this is the most popular of the retellings. Cinder is the first book is a series of retellings where each book continues the previous characters stories but adds new characters into the mix. I personally enjoyed this serious very much. It is pretty much a Sci-Fi and Dystopian version of Cinderella with a bunch of other fairytale characters thrown in. So if you are looking for JUST Cinderella then this might not be for you but if you love any kind of retelling then this would be right up your alley. 

These next 3 books I haven't personally read but I do own all of them.


This book has the classic father dies and girl is handed over to her ridiculously horrible step mother BUT there is a twist. I do believe Cinderella might be a lesbian in this book. I do know that there are some lesbian parts but having not read this book personally I cannot say for certain. This book also have a prequel novel called Huntress. I am not sure how it fits into this book so you would have to find out for yourself. I do know there are some Chinese elements in Huntress. I actually think I might bump these books up on my TBR because they sound great. I bought them a while ago because of the covers so I think it might be time to see what is hidden under those beautiful covers. 


So, this book, I also have no read, but from reading the synopsis it kind of makes me think of Cinder. The main character in this book, Nicolette, is a mechanic and she loves to invent things. From what I gathered the world is pretty technologically advanced. So those aspects are similar to Cinder but that's about it. This book is different from most Cinderella retellings because it ends differently. But if you like Steampunk and are looking for a retelling then this is the book for you.



And lastly, but certainly not least, we have this beautiful book. Ash & Bramble sounds like a really messed up twist on Cinderella. But from what I can tell these seems to be a love triangle and I know some people loathe those. But if you like darker stories with lots of twists and turns then I bet this book would be great for you. 

If anyone has any other Cinderella retellings they would like to suggest please feel free to comment. I have heard the Throne of Glass could be considered a retelling but I am not entirely sold on that idea.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Pre-Pub Review: The Killing Jar by Jennifer Bosworth

Posted by Jenn Christensen at 1:00 PM 0 comments
Title: The Killing Jar
Author: Jennifer Bosworth
Publisher: FSG
Publication: January 12th 2015
Cover Rating: 5/5


Going into The Killing Jar, I knew it was going to be weird. I had read Struck, a previous book from the author, and it was weird. But I still kind of liked it. So I went into this book with the same mindset. And, yes, it was weird. It was BEYOND weird. But I didn't like it very much. I did, however, find out that the author has a thing for organized, cult-like situations. 

Kenna, I actually had to go back and look for her name even though I JUST finished the book, isn't normal. She's actually kind of annoying. She has some weird power that her mother passed on to her so she lives her life in depression and misery. She obsessed over her guitar and won't let anyone touch her. I get it, she can hurt people who touch her, but she is overly dramatic. 

The book starts out weird. Then it goes to being somewhat contemporary. Music festival, Kenna singing, her and Blake finally kissing after years of being that weird best friends in love couple. Then she goes home and her entire life is changed. Well, it was technically change after the Jason kid crap. BUT, this just spurs everything out of control. 

One thing I have to point out is, she was THINKING about Jason and his dad RIGHT before the festival. She even said something about Jason's DEAD EYES. But when she sees someone in the crown with the SAME FRICKEN DEAD EYES, she can't place where she has seen them before? Bullshit. Yet, somehow she instantly knows who is in her house when she gets home. Hmmm.

After all this crap goes down, Kenna's mother decides to finally take her somewhere so she can learn who she is. 

Oh, did I mention Kenna has a twin? Yeah, her name is Erin and she is just as annoying but even more pathetic because she is sickly. 

So, yeah, Kenna ends up in this weird cult-like place where her grandmother comes into play. and all these other people who follow her grandmother like she is God. It gets weird and creepy from here. The place is called Eclipse and it is pretty much a haven on sex, food and music. 

That characters in this book were unbelievable and unrelatable and unlikable. Everyone seemed to be two-faced and it was just annoying not being able to connect to any character.

The authors writing wasn't bad. The world building was actually pretty good and I could picture Eclipse and the woods. I actually really like the authors writing style. It is very quick for me. She just hasn't written a book that I can connect with.

There were some parts that I liked, or at least tolerated. But when the VAMPIRE MOTHS came into play I was kind of done. The book is about vampires, technically. The Kalyptra suck the lives out of everything, which is like a vampire. AND when I looked up a Calyptra Moth it came up saying Vampire Moth. Soooo. 

So after all the weird crap at the end happens we get this epilogue. KENNA'S MOTHER AND SISTER are pretty much living in the fricken house where the freaks lived. I don't understand that. This entire book just felt pointless. I don't like saying that because ALL books are someones baby. But that is how I feel towards this book. 

Overall, I gave the book 2.5/5 stars.


Friday, January 8, 2016

Review: The Fall by Bethany Griffin

Posted by Jenn Christensen at 1:00 PM 0 comments
Title: The Fall
Author: Bethany Griffin
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication: October 7th 2014
Cover Rating: 5/5

I love Edgar Allan Poe. One of my favorites is The Fall of The House of Usher. So I had to read The Fall and read Bethany Griffin’s take on his story. I must say, I absolutely loved it. I couldn’t get enough. 

Out of everything, only the ending really bothered me. For me, it felt like more could be written. I was left hanging. Now that I have that out of the way, it’s onto the good. 

One aspect that I really enjoyed was seeing Madeline through the ages. Some chapters are one age and other chapters are another age. It adds to the story because we get to see changes between the character and the house. We also get to see how other characters change over the years. Such as, her brother, their parents, and the doctors that live with them.

I thoroughly enjoyed this take on Edgar Allan Poe’s story. I think Bethany Griffin did a great job with this piece of art. 

Overall, this has become a part of my re-read list. One, that I shall read when it gets close to Halloween. If you are a lover of Edgar Allan Poe like I am, then I highly recommend that you pick this lovely piece up. 


I rate this 4.5/5.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Review: How to be Brave by E.Katherine Kottaras

Posted by Jenn Christensen at 1:00 PM 0 comments
Title: How to be Brave
Author: E. Katherine Kottaras
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication: November 3rd 2015
Cover Rating: 3/5
Goodreads | Amazon

How to be Brave is an extremely sad, beautiful and wonderful book. I thought it was just going to be another book about some chubby girl trying to lose weight and find her way in life after the death of a parent but it was so much more than that.

Georgia just recently lost her mother due to sepsis that stemmed from diabetes. Her father is kind of a lost cause and she just feels lost. Her mother told her to live life to the fullest and that is exactly what Georgia intends to do. So her and her best friend devise a sort of bucket list and try to do as many things on it as soon as possible.

I thought this book was pretty great. The bucket list of things to do in order to be brave was awesome. I like that it wasn't a list of things to do before you die. Just things to do to get over being afraid of so much crap. There were certain things on the list that I don't think one needs to do in order to feel brave or live life to the fullest but everyone has their own opinions and interpretations.

There is plenty of High School drama in this book. Love, hate, pain, sorrow, depression and just overall life as a teenager are all very heavy in this book. The book has a lot of topics to pick from if you are looking for something specific. I think this book has a little bit for everyone. Even parents. They would get to see how Georgia's father responds to his wife dying and being left to raise a daughter.

One thing that did kind of take me by surprise was the who Evelyn thing. It just showed that even when people try to act like a bad ass they still have something they are covering up. And after the entire situation happened Evelyn's mother was a complete bitch about it. Saying she brought this to herself?!?! Ooohh, that part pissed me off entirely and I don't think I have ever wanted to slap a fictional bitch so bad in my entire reading career.

By the end of the book Georgia finds herself mad at her mother for not caring enough about her daughter to change her lifestyle so she could have lived a little longer. It is quite sad to know that her mothers condition probably could have been avoided had she just put forth and effort to actually live. From some parts of the book I can tell that Georgia loved her mother very much but she honestly wasn't much of a mother if she couldn't find the will to live for her own child.

The last thing I could like to say has to do with the cover of the book. The outfit the girl is wearing is fine. BUT there is this one specific item of clothing that is mentioned at the beginning of the book that I think the girl should be wearing instead. It is a dress her mother bought her that she decided to wear for the first day of school. I know authors have no say in the book covers pretty much but it's the little things that make readers happy and publishers should take that into consideration a bit more.

Overall, I gave the book 4/5 stars.



Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Release Day Review: Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

Posted by Jenn Christensen at 1:00 PM 0 comments
Title: Firsts
Author: Laurie Elizabeth Flynn
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication: January 5th 2015
Cover Rating: 4/5


Firsts is a book about a girl taking guys virginity in order to teach them how to give their girlfriends the best first times. She does this because her first time wasn't that great. But if you think that's all this book is about then you are very wrong. I know I was wrong. I figured I would get a book about a skanky girl who got what was coming to her but it turned out to be so much more. There are a few triggers in the book. The one really hit home for me and I wasn't expecting the subject to appear in a YA book. But I got passed it and it was so sad that the event had happened. Fictional person or not. No one should ever have to go through what she did. 

Mercedes, aka Mercy, is a very complex character. She isn't popular, nerdy, an outcast or any other cliche title that most Young Adult main characters are labeled with. She was just very unique. About as unique as her... hobby? Sometimes I really liked her and other times I was telling her to give it up and just be a normal teenager. But that was before I found out exactly WHY she started doing the stuff she did. 

I loved Zach. Yes, he was doing stuff with Mercy but he was also trying to do right by her and make her his girlfriend. He stood by her when he had every right to get up and go. I would definitely say that his SINGLE mother raised him soooo right. I am so glad everything ending up working out for him. 

I didn't like Faye at first. I just thought she was going to be Mercedes competition for school slut. But she turned out to be something else. A Friend. Someone who sadly knows everything Mercedes is going through and doesn't want it to keep happening. I hope Faye finds her happy ending. She deserves is just as much as Mercedes.

I didn't expect the Charlie stuff at first. But after he asked for the first favor I knew something bad was going to happen. I also knew that after everything went down that Mercedes would end up losing her best friend because girls will always believe a guy over their friends. But even with everything that ended up happening with Charlie, things still turned out the way they should have been and I was like "Haha!! Screw you, Charlie."

Just because you think you know someone and their situation doesn't mean you actually do. And even if you DO know that doesn't give you the right to judge someone. And I think that is one of the many, many lessons in this book.

Overall, I gave the book 4.5/5 stars.


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