March 30, 2014

ListManiac: Favorite Parents of YA

Once again I'm cutting it very close to the mark, aren't I?

But! Never the less, here it comes: Favorite/Best Parents of YA!!!!

This is a topic that is very near and dear to my heart since the crappy parents of YA are one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to the genre (and to Kristan Higgins' books). I just hate how the parents are usually a) totally clueless, b) cartoonish to the point of being stupid or c) totally neglectful; and I probably couldn't tell you the names of about 80% of the parents in the YA books I've read. 

But there are some parents that really stand out because of their presence in their kids' lives and the love they show them, and those are the ones who are going into this list. 

Side Note: I made a conscious decision to not include parents/adults from Melina Marchetta's books because I kind of always put her books / characters into these lists and I could probably fill the list just with them, but! I decided not to do that and go in a different direction. Still, big shot out to Beatriss and Trevanion and Jude Scanlon and company. 

Meg Cabot generally writes good parents into her books, but Joe Mastriani will always be my favorite. He knows his three children pretty well, and lets our leading lady Jess be who she is without trying to push her into a mold of "perfect girlhood" the way her mom does (I don't very much care for Toni Mastriani, I'm afraid). He trusts Jess to make good choices for herself and is generally a cool dad, he doesn't hover but he's always there when his kids need him. 

#4 Arthur Weasley (Harry Potter Series)

Yup! only Arthur gets mentioned. While Molly Weasley is easily one of my least liked characters from the Harry Potter series, Arthur is one of my favorites. Once again, he accepts all his children and shows them the same amount of love - while Molly is busy playing favorites - plus, he's a very curious person and I just love that. 

#3 Jess's parents from Into the Wild Nerd Yonder.

I don't remember if they ever get mentioned by name, but it doesn't matter, they are pretty terrific as Mom and Dad. They always try to show their daughter that it's OK that she's growing at her own pace and finding new and different interests other than chasing boys like most of her friends. Plus, her mom has this awesome quote:
"I just want you to know that there are a lot of really great people out there. You might not meet them in high school, but you'll find them and hopefully they won't be concerned with how cool they are rather than how much they like to be around you." 

So, yeah, even though I'm very on the fence about Julie Halpern in general, i love this book.

#2 Mr. and Mrs. Hovarth (The True Meaning of Cleavage)

First off, I love The True Meaning of Cleavage which, along with The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things, is one of those books I think should be a "MUST" for younger teens. And I love Mr and Mrs Hovarth - Jess's parents -because they are remarkably unremarkable yet they are always looking out for their daughter and let her know that growing up at her own pace is perfectly okay. Again, they don't hover but they are always around. 

#1 Wei and Craing Hwong and Ted Keller (My Most Excellent Year)

These three are actually the ones that inspired this list and they are probably the strangest addition to it. Wei, Craig and Ted formed a sort of co-parenting unit when their six-year-old kids Augie and T.C. decided they were going to be brothers; and now, 8 years later they have assimilated each other into their families and formed one big family unit. Yet, Wei and Craig are still in charge of Augie and would never dream of telling Ted how to raise T.C. and viceversa, they just help each other out and let their kids enjoy their brotherly bond.

I love these three parents because they are not afraid to show their kids how much they love them, they have this wonderful mindset of "I'm going to shower you with my love, so, deal!". And there is also the fact that you can really see that they are friends with each other, and that they have lives other than just being their kids' parents.

So, that's my list for this month! Don't forget to vote on the left sidebar, and please let me know what your favorite parents of YA are in the comments.

March 25, 2014

This is me, though maybe (for once) not as cute!

Can't compete with a Corgi for Cute
Yeah, it's been kind of crazy busy in my neck of the woods - what else is new? - but! I got vacation time coming up soon so I should be able to read and review some more and finally comment on all the lovely blogs I sort of stalk these days.

I do plan to write up a few reviews on friday and tomorrow - or maybe the day after - I'm doing my March ListManiac on Favorite Parents of YA. And maybe a little bit of a rant on why New Adult just doesn't work for me as a genre.

Well, at least I hope. I have been very unmotivated to write as of late... I'm kind of going through a Meh! phase right now.

Also, the poll for next topic is already up on the lefthand side bar: Books that Live up to the hype and books that don't live up to the hype. :P

March 21, 2014

Speed Date: My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger

The Plot: When three high school juniors - T.C. Keller, Augie Hwong and Alejandra Perez - are tasked to describe their "Most Excellent Year", they go back to their freshman year, when Alé (a diplomat's daughter whom has managed to offend almost 20 major countries in her short 14 years of life), transferred to Augie and T.C.'s school in Boston.

In alternating voices they all tell the story of that year, when T.C. fell in love with Alé, but she wasn't ready to like him back, and how Augie fell in love with another boy and everyone knew before him; and how they helped Alé find her own voice, too. 

First Date: All right, this is going so well. T.C. you're adorable in your fourteen-year old way. Alé is feisty without falling into any 'latina' stereotypes - big props for that, seriously - and Augie, he puts the F on Fabulous! (and the exclamation sign too!). I love these kids. 

Second Date: I keep falling in love with this people. Now I also love Andy and Lee and Hucky - even if he's a bit surly. Also, I love the parents in this book! particularly the Dads, here is a book where grown ups act like grown ups and care for their kids. Imagine that!

Third Date: For a moment there, I wasn't loving Andy so much, but he came around. Same with Alé's dad, though her Mom is OK. Also, I can't decide if I wanna date T.C. or want him for a big brother, because the things he does for Hucky are so sweet and amazing. 

Relationship Status: So In Love With You Am I

My Most Excellent Year made me happy in a way no book had made me in a while. These were kids were so easy to relate to, I got a quick education of musicals courtesy of Augie, and of Red Sox history and Mary Poppins. 

I loved how fiercely everyone loved in this book and how they weren't afraid to show it, how they had fears and likes and causes without ever going completely over the top, I loved how they thought about stuff other than tv shows and cellphones and brands. 

They were extremely interesting people that I just wanted to hang out with, that I wished would have gone to my school - though then I really would have had no chance with T.C. - so we could have all been friends. 

Also, the musicale stuff was great!!

I love this book, is one of those rare types that really does live up to the hype, probably more than any other I've ever read. 
starstarstarstarstarPersonal Favorite  (made of awesome sauce)

What's a Book Speed Date, you ask? It's a quickie review--about 150 words or so--of any genre book (variety is the spice of life, after all).

If you want to join in or just read other speed date reviews, check out The Book Swarm

March 14, 2014

Book Review: Stealing the Groom by Sonya Weiss

At First Sight: Chad and Amelia have been friends since they were children, as they were both brought up by their respective sets of grandparents who happen to be best friends. Now days they are still very good friends, even if their interests have diverged a lot: Amelia is happy to be a globetrotting photo journalist while Chad is taking the reins of his grandfather's company, a company that Chad's own father nearly ran to the ground a few years before.

They cross paths now and then and go on adventures together, generally being very supportive of each other...until Chad decides he's going to marry a gold-digging mean girl, in order to gain full access to his grandfather's shares in the company.

But since friends don't let friends make dumb mistakes like that, Amelia decides to kidnap him on the day of the wedding and force him to see the error of his ways, while still avoiding that awkward conversation about her own feelings for Chad. 

Second Glance: Well... this book started so, so well! It had all the makings of a funny contemporary with a friends to lovers trope, but it sadly got derailed about 2/3 of the way in.

See, Amelia and Chad are both pretty likable and they obviously have a history, which always makes it easy for me to believe they would get together. And so far it was going very well, I liked it - even though it engaged in some serious sequel baiting regarding Amelia's two sisters and two of Chad's friends - but then the somewhat even pace of the story got redoubled and the ending felt so rushed and anticlimactic. 

Bottom Line:  Stealing the Groom had the potential to be a good rom-com; but ended up being more like a bad Lifetime movie (in which the writers realized suddenly that they were already one and a half hours in and that the had about 15 minutes to wrap it up). The writing is good, though and the characters were likable, at least. 

March 9, 2014

Book Review: Put Me Back Together by Lola Rooney

At First Sight: Katie Archer is happy to spend her days hiding in her apartment and only leaving for class or to go to the Dairy Queen, she's more than okay leaving the partying and the full college experience to her twin sister. All she wants is to be left alone to wallow in her own guilt over something she can't bring herself to tell anyone. 

Isolation is all fine with her, thanks.

That is, until she meets Lucas Matthews, a legendary womanizer and former basketball idol of Katie's university, who has spent most of the last semester in relative obscurity, avoiding people almost as much as Katie. 

Katie would be fine if Lucas ignored her too, but that doesn't seem to be in his plans. And though part of Katie is kind of glad, she also knows that there is no way she's outrunning her past, which is coming to catch her soon. 

Second Glance: Is books like this that give me the fury, I swear. Plus, books like these are one of the reasons why I don't like New Adult in general.

Katie was way too neurotic to ever be a semi-functional adult, and believe me, I would know as neurotic is my middle name (it's actually Marisol, but why split hairs?). But she and Lucas actually have a pretty good meet-cute. I like Lucas okay enough, he had the brooding thing going for him and he was almost always nice to Katie.

But after this initial cute meeting - and a kitten - things go south fast. Katie is keeping a pretty big secret and beating herself about, and everyone in her life - except for Lucas - is looking the other way, while still telling Katie off because of her erratic behavior, without ever looking at the source.

The source, as it turns out, it's something very dark, almost so dark part of you thinks it HAS TO BE a parody or something, because, really? it was just too much. It was like this book had a personality crisis, and I'm sad because I kind of liked the beginning, but the more I got to know Katie and her secret, the least interested I was in her, and I actually started to think she was kind of dumb.

Plus, Lucas never evolves beyond being the "perfect", overprotective boyfriend for Katie. 

Bottom Line: Put Me Back Together isn't a winner, it has some promising traits but it doesn't know how to handle the dark-subject matter that it bends over backward to shove in to the story. 


March 6, 2014

Book Review: The Party Girl by Tamara Morgan

The Deal: Kendra Khuso is happy being the life of the party, trying to build her business and ignoring her parents as they tell her is high time she married and settled down with a traditional, parent-approved groom. 

She is proud of her plastic surgery, likes to feel attractive and enjoys hooking up with different guys, until the day one of her exes, Lincoln, knocks on her door all bloodied up and asks her to drive him out to town to a friend's house. 

Said friend turns out to be Noah, a solitary man who is trying to live a simpler life: living off the land in a sustainable plot outside of town, and just keeping things chill. He does come to Lincoln's help though, and impresses Kendra enough that she decides she'd like to stick around him.

There is a little problem though, mucha s Noah likes Kendra, he can't really act on it, as he knows his best friend is already in love with her. 

My Thoughts: I liked The Party Girl, I thought it was a cool story, with a conflict that made sense - even if could be summarized as Bros before 'Hos (no disrespect to either camp) - and two very likable people.

Kendra was a Party Girl and maybe I wouldn't be her friend in real life but she was likable, and fun, and relatable even if I didn't agree with all her life choices. I did like Noah a lot, though. He was a really good friend and I could see why Kendra liked him, which is always a plus. 

All in all, a good read. 


March 3, 2014

Book Review: The Bride Says Maybe by Cathy Maxwell

At First Sight: Lady Tara was once the Belle of the Season, but a few scandals later - and the eventual marriage of her older sister to Tara's erstwhile fiancé - Tara is no longer the Toast of London, and instead she has found herself betrothed to Breccan Campbell, known in Tara's town as the Beast of Aberfeldy. 

Tara isn't happy about this, in fact she's a bit shocked that her father would just promise her to a man such as Breccan... until she realizes that Breccan may very well be her ticket out of the valley and back to London. 

Breccan doesn't really know Tara well, but he is quite taken with her beauty, marrying her was a completely impulsive act on his part, but he's determined to make it work with her... though the scandals of her past aren't far behind. 

Second Glance: I kept this summary a bit vague because I don't know how much to reveal, given that this is the second book of the series and that, well, there just isn't much conflict here, so I feel like if I reveal a bit of it, I've said it all.

That lack of conflict is actually one of the two big problems I had with this book. Tara and Breccan marry as strangers, but there is actually very little in their way to be happy, there are no big external conflicts, or obstacles. It's basically up to them to decide to be happy, and as such, this is a book where there is little character growth and progress.

However, on the other hand, we have Tara, whom we got to know pretty well during The Bride Says No, and  between the ending of that book and this one it seems like Tara went through a personality transplant. In the first book Tara was pretty selfish, unlikable and unkind. In The Bride Says Maybe, those traits are almost gone or toned down enough that they don't factor much, and you never see her get to point A to point B.

(Although, there is this point in the book where she overreacts to something Breccan's dogs do that set my teeth on edge)

The rest of the characters and plots are Ok enough, I really enjoy Ms. Maxwell's writing and she can turn out a charming book as well as anyone, but the incongruences between the first book and this second kept me from enjoying the book as much as I could have.

Bottom Line: The Bride Says Maybe is a charming book, really, but it also sometimes reads like a novella, rather than a full length novel - particularly in the developing and layering of Tara and Breccan - other than that is pretty sweet, though I think it might be more enjoyable if you read it before reading The Bride Says No. But, all in all, I'm looking forward to The Groom Says Yes, last book of the series.