[New in Review] We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Author: Karen Joy Fowler

Publisher: Penguin

  • Imprint: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Date Published: May 30, 2013

Format: ARC (Advance Reader’s Copy).

Source: Gifted from the publisher

Synopsis:

Meet the Cooke family: Mother and Dad, brother Lowell, sister Fern, and our narrator, Rosemary, who begins her story in the middle. She has her reasons. “I spent the first eighteen years of my life defined by this one fact: that I was raised with a chimpanzee,” she tells us. “It’s never going to be the first thing I share with someone. I tell you Fern was a chimp and already you aren’t thinking of her as my sister. But until Fern’s expulsion, I’d scarcely known a moment alone. She was my twin, my funhouse mirror, my whirlwind other half, and I loved her as a sister.”

Rosemary was not yet six when Fern was removed. Over the years, she’s managed to block a lot of memories. She’s smart, vulnerable, innocent, and culpable. With some guile, she guides us through the darkness, penetrating secrets and unearthing memories, leading us deeper into the mystery she has dangled before us from the start. Stripping off the protective masks that have hidden truths too painful to acknowledge, in the end, “Rosemary” truly is for remembrance.

Number of Days It Took to Read: 4.5

Cover:

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I received a galley of this book, so there was no cover art. However based on this picture of the final cover from Goodreads, I would have to say that though it doesn’t stand out visually, the cover does hint at plot of the book.

The Writing Score: 4 out of 5

Recommendation: Must read

Memorable or Forgettable: Memorable

Rating:  4 out of 5

Review:

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book but the synopsis said that it was a story of a middle-class family and since I love reading about other people’s families I was eager to start it. Without spoiling much I’d say We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves was a very touching story about unconventional families. The plot had a very unexpected twist which made it extremely interesting. Also as a psychology major I could truly appreciate how different psychological theories were incorporated into the plot.

Told from a first person perspective, Rosemary Cooke is an unreliable but intriguing narrator due to the gaps in her memory of her childhood which is quite realistic as our memories from childhood can be quite vulnerable being misinterpreted and confused. The story has a tendency to jump around a lot because as Rosemary explains it, she has a habit of starting from the middle whenever she tells a story. Despite a somewhat different upbringing, there were many times that I could relate to Rosemary’s character. Things like fighting for the attention of your parents with your siblings as kids and not knowing what you want to do after school are things that I am sure many people can relate to as well.

Overall I really enjoyed the dysfunctional family dynamics in the story especially seeing how having her sister taken away amplified the problems that were already there within the family structures. Rosemary ends up turning more into herself as she becomes consumed by guilt and blaming herself for her twin sister being taken away. Meanwhile, her mother who was portrayed as somewhat fragile from the start completely falls apart. But the most drastic change is in her brother, who completely isolates himself from the rest of the family, and eventually runs away becoming an extremist. Though the ending of the book is a happy one, many things are left unresolved to indicate to the reader that in real life there are always consequences to our actions and not everything can be fixed once broken.

– Linh

The opinions expressed in this review are my own; I did not receive any compensation in exchange for this review. I am currently accepting young adult fiction and adult fiction books that have a crossover appeal to young adults for review. If you have any questions or would like for me to review your book feel free to email me at lxlnguyen21@yahoo.ca.

 

[New in Review] How (Not) to Find a Boyfriend

Author: Allyson Valentine Schrier

Publisher: Penguin

  • Imprint: Philomel

Date Published:  June 13th 2013

Format: ARC (Advance Reader’s Copy). Paperback.

Source: Received at the Razorbill Fall Preview event

Synopsis:

Sophomore Nora Fulbright is the most talented and popular new cheerleader on the Riverbend High cheer squad. Never mind that she used to be queen of the nerds—a chess prodigy who answered every question first, aced every test and repelled friends at every turn—because this year, Nora is determined to fully transition from social pupa to full blown butterfly, even if it means dumbing down her entire schedule. But when funny, sweet and very cute Adam moves to town and steals Nora’s heart with his untra-smarts and illegally cute dimple, Nora has a problem. How can she prove to him that she’s not a complete airhead? Nora devises a seemingly simple plan to barter her way into Adam’s classes that involves her classmates, friends—and her older brother Phil’s award-winning AP history paper. But soon, Nora can barely keep track of her trades, and struggles to stay in control of her image.

In the end, the only thing that can save Nora is a chess tournament—that she has to compete in wearing her cheerleading uniform. Can she prove to everyone that she can be both a butterfly and a nerd?

Number of Days It Took to Read: 1.5

Cover: 

I think the cover may appeal more to tweens and younger teens, and if I were to only look at the cover I probably would never pick up this book. Luckily the plot was  what caught my interest.

The Writing Score: 3.5 out of 5

Recommendation: Casual Perusal

Memorable or Forgettable: Memorable

Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Review:

This was a really adorable light read, the perfect complement to the other book that I was reading at the same time. Anyways the plot consists of your usual teen story where girl and boy meet in a cute way, find out they live close to each other and that they are going to the same school. Then of course girl tries to win over the boy’s affection though there are a few obstacles in the way. Finally the cast is then rounded out with geeks, drama students, football players and cheerleaders. What I especially liked about this was the fact that although there were the stereotypical “dumb” jock and cheerleaders, they were not mean like the ones you see in those teen movies. In fact most of the supporting characters were revealed to have some hidden depth. The idea that there was more to a person then what meets the eye can be seen throughout the book.

While the plot was nothing really new or special, the writing made it a thoroughly entertaining read. The heroine, Nora is a cheerleader and has a habit of creating cheers (complete with actions) in her head to either cheer herself on or indicate how she is feeling at the moment. I thought this was quite hilarious and really cute, and it made me want to root for her even more. Another thing that I loved about this book was the portrayal of a blended family. Nora has a good relationship with both her mother and stepfather and her younger brother, Joshie is just adorable.

The only problem was that I found the lengths that Nora took to get close to the object of her affections to be a bit extreme. Also maybe it’s just weird but I found it a bit difficult to believe that after hearing that Nora lied, stole, helped other people cheat and used people just to get close to Adam; his only reaction is that he’s flattered. Though Nora is aware of her actions and she does face some consequences, for the most part things just end up working for her. But I supposed that’s usually what happens in these types of stories; the ending is predictable and everything is wrapped up neatly for the characters. Nevertheless, despite a predictable plotline I thought this was an enjoyable read with pretty amusing characters. I would recommend this book for 12 and up.

– Linh

The opinions expressed in this review are my own; I did not receive any compensation in exchange for this review. I am currently accepting  young adult fiction  and adult fiction books that have a crossover appeal to young adults for review. If you have any questions or would like for me to review your book feel free to email me at lxlnguyen21@yahoo.ca.

[New in Review] Of Poseidon

Author: Anna Banks

Publisher: Macmillian

  • Imprint: Feiwel & Friends

Date Published: May 22nd 2012

Format: Hardcover

Source: Borrowed from a friend.

Synopsis:

Galen is the prince of the Syrena, sent to land to find a girl he’s heard can communicate with fish. Emma is on vacation at the beach. When she runs into Galen — literally, ouch! — both teens sense a connection. But it will take several encounters, including a deadly one with a shark, for Galen to be convinced of Emma’s gifts. Now, if he can only convince Emma that she holds the key to his kingdom . . .

Told from both Emma and Galen’s points of view, here is a fish-out-of-water story that sparkles with intrigue, humor, and waves of romance.

Number of Days It Took to Read: 2.5

Cover:

Really like the cover, it conveys the mystical element of the story well. Also isn’t the typology of the title just lovely?

The Writing Score: 3 out of 5

Recommendation: Casual Perusal

Memorable or Forgettable: Memorable

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Review:

Emma is just an ordinary but extremely clumsy girl, whose life changes when she literally bumps into Galen. What starts off as a typical meet cute between a guy and girl quickly turns into something more as the reader discovers Galen’s true identity and how Emma and him are connected. This is your typical paranormal romance except this time instead of vampires, werewolves, or angels we have mermaids. Also Emma isn’t just your ordinary human; as she later finds out she has a special ability to communicate with all creatures under the sea.

I really loved the world and the characters that Banks has created. As a bit of a history and mythology buff myself I enjoyed reading Banks’ take on mermaids or Syrena as they are called in this book. I especially enjoyed how Banks incorporated actual significant historical events and artifacts into her story’s mythology. The plot itself was quite interesting and the introduction of the back stories of some of the characters along with the cliff hanger ending left me wanting more.

The characters in Of Poseidon were for the most part likeable, and extremely fun. In particular I found the awkward interactions between Emma and Galen to be adorable. My favourite thing about this book though would have to be the fact that the story is told from both Emma’s and Galen’s perspectives. It was really nice to see what they each felt and thought of each other as well it allows the readers to get more of a back story which is especially important in Galen’s case as we get to understand his motivations and reasoning better. The only thing that kind of annoyed me about the characters were how Emma kept on saying ohmysweetgoodness, as well how whenever Galen called Emma “Angelfish” I could not help but immediately think of a character from one of my favourite TV shows who is also from the sea as this character also called his girlfriend by the nickname, “Angelfish”.

Still I found that if you did not take the book too seriously it can be a very entertaining read. This made it the perfect book for me to pick up after having read a lot of books that had more realistic and grim stories.

– Linh

The opinions expressed in this review are my own; I did not receive any compensation in exchange for this review. I am currently accepting young adult fiction and adult fiction books that have a crossover appeal to young adults for review. If you have any questions or would like for me to review your book feel free to email me at lxlnguyen21@yahoo.ca.

[New in Review] The Gyspy King

Author: Maureen Fergus

Publisher: Penguin Books

  • Imprint: RazOrbill Canada

Date Published:  January 22nd 2013

Format: Hardcover

Source: Received from the publisher

Synopsis:

A runaway slave with a shadowy past, sixteen-year-old Persephone has spent four long years toiling beneath the leering gaze of her despised owner and dreaming of a life where she is free to shape her own destiny. Then, one night, a chance encounter with a handsome chicken thief named Azriel changes her life forever.

Sold to him for a small bag of gold coins, Persephone soon discovers what she already suspected: namely, that Azriel is not what he seems. And when she realizes that he believes Persephone has a special destiny—she is determined to escape him and his impossibly broad shoulders.

But things are no longer as simple as they once were. Torn between her longing for freedom and her undeniable feelings for the handsome thief with the fast hands and the slow smile, Persephone faces the hardest choice she will ever have to make. And no one least of all her—could have imagined the shocking truth her decision will reveal.

Number of Days It Took to Read: 3

Cover:

While I will admit that it is a nice looking cover especially with the castle in the background, the image of the girl on the cover for some reason does not look it it belongs with the background.

gypsy king

The Writing Score: 3 out of 5

Recommendation: Casual Perusal

Memorable or Forgettable: Forgettable

Rating:  3 out of 5

Review:

To be honest the synopsis didn’t make it seem like a book that I would have liked, but after talking to a few other bloggers who loved it I decided to give it a shot. The plot was interesting enough and the story was very thrilling and fast paced which made it a quick read. I also loved how the dark moments in the book were balanced with lighter moments in other parts of the story. Speaking of light moments, I LOVED the animals in the book though they did not exactly talk they were fiercely loyal to Persephone the heroine. They way they treated Azriel especially at the beginning provided a much needed humour break from the darker plotlines.

I actually liked Persephone as a protagonist. She was pretty strong and feisty and I was glad to see a heroine that was not perfect. It is nice to read a book where the heroine is not afraid to be selfish and put her own agenda first, while doing whatever it took to reach her goal. Still some of her actions left me feeling frustrated at times because she often did things without thinking them through. I was not completely sold on Azriel as a love interest although that may be in part due to the fact that I know who his character is based on. I felt like his character was always trying too hard and I did not really buy into his relationship with Persephone as it felt like the two of them were suddenly rushed into a romantic relationship near the end. However as this is only the first book in the trilogy, I have a feeling that their relationship will become more fleshed out in the later books. Finally though the main antagonist in the book, Regent Mordecai was portrayed in a very stereotypical almost cartoonish manner i.e. his gruesome physical appearance I think Fergus really succeeds in making him a despicable villain. I truly hated him, and his beliefs and actions only made me despise him more which I think is a good sign for villains in stories that contain a fantasy element.

Taken as a whole The Gypsy King was a good, quick read that was written in an easy to read manner that flowed quite well. The ending of this book left me curious to read the next one and luckily I have and advance reader copy of the next book which I have been told is way better but has an even bigger cliffhanger ending. Anyways I would recommend this book to those who like historical young adult fiction with a fantasy element.

– Linh

The opinions expressed in this review are my own; I did not receive any compensation in exchange for this review. I am currently accepting young adult fiction and adult fiction books that have a crossover appeal to young adults for review. If you have any questions or would like for me to review your book feel free to email me at lxlnguyen21@yahoo.ca.

 

My Thoughts on Fandoms via Tumblr

I came across a question from someone under the comics tag on Tumblr and they basically asked if they could still be considered a Avengers/Batman fan if they’ve only seen the films. I, or course, responded but thought that response wasn’t enough due largely to the character limit. I decided to reblog the question so I could answer it fully. Here’s what I wrote:

I already gave…my answer but I thought that I should elaborate further but, before I do that, here was the answer I gave:

No. Fandoms aren’t determined by how much u know only how much u love. There are levels of “knowledge” w/in a fandom though. 😀

What is a fandom? It’s basically a collection of fans who love the same thing or person (a tv show, movie franchise, books, comics, Harry Potter, Batman etc). That’s it. If you love Batman, you are a part of the fandom regardless of only watching the animated shows or movies and not having read the comics. If you love Doctor Who, you are a part of the fandom regardless of not seeing the pre-2005 episodes.

I get annoyed when people are told they aren’t really a part of a given fandom because they haven’t devoured everything that’s linked to the show/book/character/comic etc even if the connections are really obscure (i.e. That time when Batman was mentioned in a Doctor Who episode in passing 3 years ago but, as a Bat fan, you missed it. Shame on you).

The purpose of fandoms is to share our mutual love of something with others. That’s it. Fandoms allow for various people to share knowledge and, most importantly, enthusiasm.

I find the best part about being into books is sharing the ones I love with people who haven’t read them yet. It brings me joy. I know that when I got into Doctor Who 2 or 3 months back, my friends and others from the fandom welcomed me and were eager to give me some advice on starting out or help clear up any confusions I might have had. The same thing happened with the Star Wars fans when I announced that I would watch the older movies for the first time. A lot of them cheered and said that I would like it (I do by the way. Hans Solo/Princess Leia for the win). That’s what fandoms are for.

They’re meant to get people into what it is you’re into. It won’t make it any less special if more people enjoy it. I understand the fear that by becoming mainstream it’ll lose whatever it was that made it cool but exclusion is a form of elitism. We don’t want elitism. There’s enough of that over at Abercrombie and Fitch.

So next time anyone says you’re not a true fan because you “don’t know enough about what it is you’re a fan of”, tell them they’re doing a disservice to their fandom by speaking.

You can find the original post here.

This is a topic that’s been on my mind for a long time as I got more and more into things that people would deem “geeky” or “nerdy”. These days being a geek or nerd isn’t a bad thing and are, in fact, a great thing. Sadly, people believe this equates to a hoard of “fake geeks” which seem to be a title directed mostly at women (fake geek girl) because THEY would never be into that (note sarcasm). Are there people just putting on the title because it sounds good? Of course. We’ve pretended to be something we’re not at least ONCE in our lives to impress others but these people are rare and you can tell if this is the case by talking to these individuals but by expecting people to know everything about one fandom or the entirety of geek/nerd culture is ridiculous.

No one knows everything and that’s a fact.

I’ve heard the argument that if you love something enough then you’ll go out of your way to learn everything about it. That’s not necessarily true. People love things differently whether it’s cosplaying, buying/wearing things that have Batman’s face or just tuning into Doctor Who every Saturday.

You love it = you’re a fan. Simple as that.

A. A. Omer