Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Hole In My Life by Jack Gantos

Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from library; all opinions are my own
Official Summary: In the summer of 1971, Jack Gantos was an aspiring writer looking for adventure, cash for college tuition, and a way out of a dead-end job. For ten thousand dollars, he recklessly agreed to help sail a sixty-foot yacht loaded with a ton of hashish from the Virgin Islands to New York City, where he and his partners sold the drug until federal agents caught up with them. For his part in the conspiracy, Gantos was sentenced to serve up to six years in prison.

In Hole in My Life, this prizewinning author of over thirty books for young people confronts the period of struggle and confinement that marked the end of his own youth. On the surface, the narrative tumbles from one crazed moment to the next as Gantos pieces together the story of his restless final year of high school, his short-lived career as a criminal, and his time in prison. But running just beneath the action is the story of how Gantos - once he was locked up in a small, yellow-walled cell - moved from wanting to be a writer to writing, and how dedicating himself more fully to the thing he most wanted to do helped him endure and ultimately overcome the worst experience of his life.

Review: Jack Gantos is a writer of popular middle grade fiction, but before he ever got to that point, he was arrested for helping to sail a boat to New York City full of drugs in order to earn ten thousand dollars. I read Jack Gantos last semester (in the fall) for my children’s fiction course, and this semester (the spring), I read Hole in My Life for my young adult literature course. It was interesting to read how a young man was able to drastically turn his life around. Young Gantos was not a bad kid, but he obviously made some really bad decisions that led him on his path to jail.

Much of the book focuses on Gantos finishing high school and how he ended up meeting the people who were smuggling drugs. It takes a bit to get to the parts about his time in jail, but I didn’t mind this. Honestly, I’m hesitant to read books set in jails, especially true stories, but this was an assigned book, so I plunged in, not sure what I would think.

Overall, I liked Hole in My Life. It’s a short, quick read that shows the consequences of one’s actions, as well as the necessity to have passion and positive goals in one’s life. Despite the lessons one can learn from this book, it never felt preachy. Each chapter was almost like an essay in Gantos’ life, where everything eventually comes together to complete one full story. As for the chapters about Gantos’ time in jail, they were tough to read, but it was helpful knowing he gets out of prison and ends up on a better path.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Let's Get Beyond Tolerance Blog is BACK!

For those that aren't aware, I started an LGBT entertainment and news blog for a YA audience back in 2010 and I posted there until 2012. Time goes by and it's difficult to run one blog, let alone two or more, so I ended up not posting there anymore. However, I have been wanting to bring it back for awhile now and with marriage equality in the United States, I thought it was the perfect time. Please visit the blog now to see the first post of 2015.

This blog, titled Let's Get Beyond Tolerance, was created with authors Catherine Ryan Hyde and Lee Bantle, and they will continue to be part of it in the future with random thoughts and reviews. I will be the main author of the blog though.

The blog already has some followers from back when we first created it, but I don't know who is paying attention so I'd really appreciate it if you could spread the word, follow the blog, etc. If you have something you want us to feature on the blog, get in touch.

The same rule for comments that I do here applies there too, which means that if you leave a comment on that blog, I will visit your blog (if you have one) and comment on one of your posts. It's all about building relationships and keeping in touch.

If you have any questions, let me know! You can contact me here: lauren51990 AT aol DOT com or leave a comment on either blog.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Ask Me Anything - Answers!

My goofy selfie in the NYC hotel for BEA

It's been about a month since I had my Ask Me Anything post, and now it's time I finally shared the answers to all your questions.

What is your all time favorite read ever? My favorite book? I usually say The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.

Favorite movie? I'm sure I could name many, but I really love Life as a House.

What is your favorite place you've ever visited? I haven't been to that many places, to be honest! I guess New York City because I've been there a few times and there is always something fun and exciting to see/do.

Growing up, what did you aspire to be and why? When I was younger, I was interested in being a teacher. For the most part though, I've always wanted to be an author because I love books!

What was the best part of BEA for you? Making connections with some publicists! It was great to feel more a part of things.

What do you hope to have achieved by the time you are 30? I would love to have a book published, but at the very least, having an agent/publishing deal by that point. I also really hope I've visited England by then!

How was your weekend at BEA? Did you get all the books you wanted? BEA was a lot of fun. I didn't get ALL the books  I wanted, but I got many, and it was fun to find out about new titles while there.

What was the absolute best part of BEA (and the worst part, while we're at it!)? As I said above, I got to meet with some publicists and make more connections, which was awesome. I also really liked walking around and talking to smaller publishers, etc. The worst part? Probably just all the walking you do in NYC in general. I have sensitive feet so they were so sore.

When did you discover your love for books? I don't remember ever NOT liking to read. I used to read all the time as a kid, just like I do now.

I want to know all the HP-related stuff: favourite book in the series, favourite character, house choice, wand choice, patronus choice?? 

Book - Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and then Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
Character: Draco Malfoy
House Choice: Slytherin (I'm a Slytherin on Pottermore actually)
Wand Choice: I don't know! I'd love a darker wood, and unicorn hair would be fun.
Patronus Choice: Hmm...I really like Penguins! :)

Do you have anything special that you do on your birthday each year? Any rituals, besides birthday cake and presents? I don't really! My family usually goes out to eat (birthday person's choice) but the place differs every year, for the most part.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

'89 Walls by Katie Pierson

'89 Walls by Katie Pierson

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: College is not in the cards for Seth. He spends his minimum wage on groceries and fakes happiness to distract his mom from the MS they both know will kill her. It’s agony to carry around a frayed love note for a girl who’s both out of his league and beneath his dignity.

Quinn’s finishing high school on top. But that cynical, liberal guy in her social studies class makes her doubt her old assumptions. Challenging the rules now, though, would a) squander her last summer at home, b) antagonize her conservative dad, and c) make her a hypocrite.

Seth and Quinn’s passionate new romance takes them both by surprise. They keep it a secret: it’s too early to make plans and too late not to care. But it’s 1989. As politics suddenly get personal, they find themselves fighting bare-fisted for their beliefs and each other—in the clear light of day.

Review: '89 Walls was an emotional read about teenagers Seth and Quinn, who are falling for each other when it might be too late. College is fast approaching and Seth doesn't plan on going, while Quinn is going to another state. Seth's mom is suffering from MS, and while she loves Seth and wants him to succeed, she also relies on his help as they can't afford a nurse to come stay with them. As for Quinn, she is from a well-to-do family who doesn't have to worry about money and she knows that she can easily leave home to attend college and better herself for the future.
It seems like an odd pairing, but they work for the most part. They do have issues that they have to overcome and they don't always agree on things. Their relationship starts as antagonistic in social studies class, as Quinn tends to parrot her father's conservative views and Seth likes to fight back with more liberal thoughts. These obviously come from their life experiences, but they have a lot to learn from each other.

There are a lot of adult themes in this book, and I feel like Pierson handled it well. I liked that the book took place in 1989 because it's interesting to see how things are different, and yet still the same, in today's time. '89 Walls was worth reading, but it wasn't a favorite of mine. I would still recommend it to those that like contemporary/realistic novels that deal with some tougher topics.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Geek Physics by Rhett Allain

Geek Physics by Rhett Allain

Review by Lauren

Source: copy for review (Wiley/Turner Publishing); all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Have you ever wondered whether a human could really fly with wings like a bird’s? What about how many zombies you could actually drive through? Or whether airplanes could save fuel by using iPads instead of paper safety manuals? How about whether Superman could really punch someone into space?

In Geek Physics, Rhett Allain, a physics professor and Wired’s popular Dot Physics blogger, finds intriguing questions buried in familiar movies and TV shows, video games, viral videos, and news hooks and walks readers through the fascinating answers from a physics perspective, without all the complicated details. Geek Physics appeals not just to the geek oriented but also to anyone who loves pop culture and technology.

With illustrations, basic equations, and easy-to-read graphs and diagrams, each chapter not only covers the most popular subjects from Allain’s blog, like lightsabers and McDonald’s drive-thrus, but uses those questions from a less technical approach to teach basic physics concepts. What better way to explain the nature of light than to consider how Gollum could see in the dark?

Review: I was really excited that I received this book for review because I knew some of the information would be really fascinating. I'm not a science person; it was always a class that I struggled with. However, Allain does a pretty good job at breaking down the science so I understood most of what I read. There were some sections of the book that I wasn't as interested in, like sports related questions, but I really liked most of it.

My favorite section was definitely chapter two as that related to all things superheroes. You have the question "Would the Hulk break up the road whenever he jumped?" and even the topic "The physics of Thor's Hammer". I won't give anything away, because that would defeat the purpose of the book, but it's interesting to see how real life physics can help answer some of these unrealistic questions, as we don't really have superheroes!

This is definitely a good fit for those that like science, of course, but it's also good for people that are interested in learning random facts, like technology, and enjoy various aspects of pop culture. Father's Day has just passed, but I could see a lot of fathers enjoying this one!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Eeny Meeny by M.J. Arlidge

Eeny Meeny by M. J. Arlidge

Review by Lauren

Source: copy for review; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Two people are abducted, imprisoned, and left with a gun. As hunger and thirst set in, only one walks away alive.

It’s a game more twisted than any Detective Helen Grace has ever seen. If she hadn’t spoken with the shattered survivors herself, she almost wouldn’t believe them.

Helen is familiar with the dark sides of human nature, including her own, but this case—with its seemingly random victims—has her baffled. But as more people go missing, nothing will be more terrifying than when it all starts making sense....

Review: I am fascinated by stories such as these - the psychological thrillers that seem too insane to be true, yet you know that they could occur in real life. This isn't the book for everyone though. It's intense and full of horrible little details. At the same time, the pages move quick and you're left in suspense until the very end as to what is happening and how Detective Helen Grace will make it through.

Eeny Meeny is the first book in the Helen Grace series, and it was a huge hit in Europe before finally making its way to the U.S. this month. Helen Grace is a tough cop who everyone either looks up to, wants to be, or is a bit afraid of, but she knows how to get the job done. This new string of killings though has her baffled. Two people are kidnapped with the option of either them both starving to death or one person using the gun they are left with (only one bullet) to kill the other captive. If this is the route they take, they are set free, and yet, they will never really be free of what they were forced to do in order to survive.

Just this idea had me instantly fascinated and it was curious to see what the captives ended up doing and when. The book is told in third person point of view, so you are given insight into a variety of characters. You get both captives (during each kidnapping), Helen Grace, other cops on the case, and even some past memories and thoughts of the kidnapper (these are in italics in my advanced copy to differentiate from the rest of the book).

Overall, I loved this novel and it would be a great choice for people like me who like the psychology behind crime. I can't wait to read more from Helen Grace. The international editions of the next two, Pop Goes the Weasel and The Doll's House, are out now. The fourth title in the series, Liar Liar, is released this September.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Summer Sunshine Box Swap Reveal

I took part in the Sunshine Box Swap, where you send and receive a fun box of Summery goodies! The hosts were Mrs. AOK and Always, Abby and you can see everyone's goodies here.

My partner was Mrs. Tee - Life, Love, and Laughter and she sent me a really sweet box of bright, fun goodies for the summertime!

I guess it's not in the pictures, but Tee covered all the goodies in her box with a cute cardboard sign that said Sunshine Box with some fun stickers. Inside the box, I got a cute bag (the blue one that says Shine Brightly), a sign that says Today is Your Day (it's in my living room), a fun tumbler with L for my name (as well as a notebook with L) on it. The rest of the items are things you can see in the photo and I like that they all have a "sunny" theme of yellow, orange, etc.

Thank you! Happy Summer everyone, and Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

DNF Review: Because You'll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas

Because You'll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Ollie and Moritz are best friends, but they can never meet. Ollie is allergic to electricity. Contact with it causes debilitating seizures. Moritz’s weak heart is kept pumping by an electronic pacemaker. If they ever did meet, Ollie would seize. But Moritz would die without his pacemaker. Both hermits from society, the boys develop a fierce bond through letters that become a lifeline during dark times—as Ollie loses his only friend, Liz, to the normalcy of high school and Moritz deals with a bully set on destroying him.

DNF Review: I really loved this summary and I thought the book would be a good fit for me. Obviously, it was not and I ended up not finishing the book. This is my first DNF review on the blog. That doesn't mean I've finished every single book I read, but those are usually personal or library titles. When it comes to review books, I usually request things that I'm fairly sure I will enjoy, and it tends to work out. However, even though I didn't finish this one, I do think it would work for other people.

Like I said before, the premise is great. I like the idea of having a friend that you could never meet in person. Well, I like the idea in a book - in real life, it would be frustrating. Now, the main reason I didn't end up finishing this book is because it just fell a bit flat for me and I didn't find all aspects of it realistic.

Ollie being allergic to electricity made sense to me and I think it worked. Moritz, though, not only has a pacemaker, he also has no eyes. That's right - he's not blind; he literally has no eyes. He tends to handle this well though because of echolocation, which is essentially how bats can see in the dark. He is able to tell where people and things are located. Again, this isn't too bad to handle. However, Moritz would describe people way too accurately for my taste and for me, I don't think he would be able to, unless he just made it up. I believe the publisher had a note in the beginning that mentioned having to suspend belief a bit, and sometimes I can do that, but it just didn't work here.

I suppose the overall story was moving a bit slow for me too. I might have a better chance of reading a physical copy of this instead of on my kindle, but for now, I'm going to pass.

What do you think? Will you give this a shot? Have you read it already and want to share your thoughts?

Friday, June 19, 2015

Exquisite Corpse + Last of the Sandwalkers

Exquisite Corpse by Penelope Bagieu

Review by Lauren

Source: copy for review; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Zoe isn't exactly the intellectual type, which is why she doesn't recognize world-famous author Thomas Rocher when she stumbles into his apartment . . . and into his life.

Zoe doesn't know Balzac from Batman, but she's going to have to wise up fast . . . because Rocher has a terrible secret, and now Zoe is sitting on the literary scandal of the century.

Review: Exquisite Corpse was written and illustrated by French author Penelope Bagieu and I'm very excited that it was translated into English because this is a really fun story! First off, I should mention that this is for older readers are there are some adult illustrations and moments. It's nothing too overly graphic or annoying though, so don't let that deter you from reading this if you are interested.

 As for the story, this is about a girl named Zoe who hates her job, has a really awful boyfriend, and doesn't have that many aspirations for the future. When she meets author Thomas Rocher, she thinks she has it made as he's sweet to her and gives her a place to hide away from the world. It isn't long until Zoe realizes that Thomas might be hiding from something in particular, though, as he is never willing to leave his apartment.

When I first started reading this, I thought it was one type of novel (for whatever reason) so I was really surprised and excited by the twists and turns in this one. It's definitely a short, but satisfying, graphic novel.

Last of the Sandwalkers by Jay Hosler

Review by Lauren

Source: copy for review; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Nestled in the grass under the big palm tree by the edge of the desert there is an entire civilization--a civilization of beetles. In this bug's paradise, beetles write books, run restaurants, and even do scientific research. But not too much scientific research is allowed by the powerful elders, who guard a terrible secret about the world outside the shadow of the palm tree.

Lucy is not one to quietly cooperate, however. This tiny field scientist defies the law of her safe but authoritarian home and leads a team of researchers out into the desert. Their mission is to discover something about the greater world...but what lies in wait for them is going to change everything Lucy thought she knew.

Beetles are not the only living creatures in the world.

Review: You can definitely tell that Hosler is a biology professor. This is a book that I could really see lovers of science enjoying, especially younger boys, as it follows a group of beetles (led by Lucy) who enter the desert outside their home to see if anything else exists. Obviously, they find quite a few other animals and species that widen their minds about what their world actually includes.


I loved the reasoning behind why the elders do not want the beetles to know much about the outside world, and you learn bits of this as the book goes on. What I didn't really enjoy were the spiders in the book. They appear randomly throughout, and I'm someone who is freaked out by photos. The drawings weren't too bad, and everything is in black and white, so that helped make it seem less realistic too. Besides that, Hosler does a great job depicting the bugs and landscapes. Since it is all in black and white, sometimes it can be difficult to pinpoint all the characters, but overall, very well done.

This wasn't the best fit for me, as I'm not that interested in science and the like, but it was still interesting nonetheless. You learn a lot of cool facts within the story, so this would be a great literary addition to science classes! Plus, the book ends with annotations that breaks down all the chapters by page number when the author has extra facts/information he wants to share!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

If You Feel Too Much by Jamie Tworkowski

If You Feel Too Much by Jamie Tworkowski

Review by Lauren

Source: copy for review; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: In 2006 Jamie Tworkowski wrote a story called “To Write Love on Her Arms” about helping a friend through her struggle with drug addiction, depression, and self-injury. The piece was so hauntingly beautiful that it quickly went viral, giving birth to a non-profit organization of the same name. Nine years later, To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) is an internationally-recognized leader in suicide prevention and a source of hope, encouragement, and resources for people worldwide.

Jamie’s words have been shared hundreds of thousands of times online. They’ve shown up on T-shirts and posters and even tattoos. Now, for the first time, Jamie’s writing is available in the form of a book. If You Feel Too Much is a celebration of hope, wonder, and what it means to be human. From personal stories of struggling on days most people celebrate to offering words of strength and encouragement in moments of loss, the essays in this book invite readers to believe that it’s okay to admit to pain and it's okay to ask for help.

Review: I have known about To Write Love on Her Arms for years now. So many of my favorite bands would wear the t-shirts and you could find everyday people doing the same. It was a wonderful movement that offered support and understanding to those that were dealing with addiction, self-injury, depression, and more. Reading this book (a collection of blog posts, etc. from Jamie) showed me that it's a lot more than that too. This is a book, a belief, for everyone. We all have bad days and hardships and it's important that we realize that this is life. It's okay to step back and get help. It's okay to ask for help because this is our one life and it is important.
do not own photo - source
I hadn't been following Jamie's blog posts, so none of these stories were anything I had read before. Regardless, I think it's nice to have one full collection of thoughts and stories. This is a book that you can read chapter by chapter, or jump around to one that seems to suit you best at that moment. Because this book was essentially written over many years, there are repeated thoughts and ideas. This might be repetitive if you're reading the book straight through - like I did - but at the same time, these are thoughts and ideas that should be repeated over and over. Some people need to hear them on a regular basis because it's easy to forget.

do not own photo - source
If You Feel Too Much is a relatively slim book, but it's full of power and hope. It's a gift that anyone could love.

Monday, June 15, 2015

One Good Egg by Suzy Becker

One Good Egg: An Illustrated Memoir by Suzy Becker

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from library; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: For the first twenty-three years of her life, Suzy Becker was sure she would have at least two babies. Then it took another fifteen years to decide to go ahead and have just one. One Good Egg is the funny, warmhearted story of her journey to fertility and becoming a mom, illustrated throughout with hundreds of her clever and charming cartoons.

Suzy Becker found professional success in her twenties, and by her thirties, she decided she had everything she needed—the home, the savings, the friends, the family, and the gumption—to have a baby alone. At age thirty-nine, she joined the ranks of the six million women who need medical help to conceive. In One Good Egg, she chronicles her travels through the maze of fertility treatments, constantly considering and reconsidering how far she was willing to go, inwardly convinced none of it would ever work. She learned she was pregnant on her way to tape an essay for NPR, and five months later married her true love.

Review: I had previously read Becker’s illustrated memoir I Had Brain Surgery, What’s Your Excuse? and really fell in love with her style. One Good Egg’s events take place after the previous title, so I was excited to come across the book at my local library. Instead of being in the biography section, it was shelved within non-fiction pregnancy titles. You just never know where to look sometimes!

sample page - source

One Good Egg is the story of Becker’s journey to get pregnant. She starts off wanting to have a baby alone, but then she ends up marrying one of her best friends (who had an older son of her own). Newly married, the two of them continue on this baby path together through all the disappointments, excitements, and more. 

The title comes from something Becker hears a lot on her journey – “you only need one good egg” to get pregnant. Eventually, she does get pregnant, but it really is about the struggle to get there and all the delights and worries that come along with that. I ‘m not a mom myself, but I know a lot of people that are, and I know that sometimes it’s not easy to get pregnant. It was interesting to go along on Becker’s journal and I love that she illustrates her memoirs. It just adds a lot of personality to an already sincere memoir.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Favorite Color Swap Reveal!

Chaotic Goddess Swaps hosted the Favorite Color Swap and I'm here to share the lovely GREEN themed items I received.

My partner was Marlene from Book Mama Blog and since she knew that I love to swim in the summer, she decided to pick green "beach themed" items. Isn't that awesome? You all know I LOVE themes! She likes the color pink, so I sent her a mix of some cute items in that color that I really hope she loved too!

She got me this adorable beach bag (the inside is all green), a tumbler, a fun candle, chapstick, a beach towel, and adorably fun socks!

The beach bag will be great when I visit our local water park this summer - and the towel as well! I also need to remember to use chapstick more because my lips get really dry. I LOVE fun socks - I don't even worry about matching socks to my outfit most of the time. I just go crazy. And as I write this, I'm drinking out of my tumbler, so all in all, fun package to get in the mail!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Locke and Key Graphic Novel Series by Joe Hill

Locke and Key graphic novel series, written by Joe Hill and illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez

Review by Lauren

Source: copies from library; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Locke & Key tells of Keyhouse, an unlikely New England mansion, with fantastic doors that transform all who dare to walk through them, and home to a hate-filled and relentless creature that will not rest until it forces open the most terrible door of them all!

Review: Having read and loved Horns by Joe Hill, I knew I wanted to check out more of his work and since I love graphic novels, I figured it was about time I checked out his series Locke and Key. The entire story is collected in six graphic novels, but it’s a fairly quick read overall. Locke and Key is about the Locke family, who after a tragic event, move back to the family home, Keyhouse. The Locke children – Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode- live in the house with their mother who is abusing alcohol and essentially not paying much attention to what her children are going through. 


Being at Keyhouse is supposed to be a new start, a refuge of sorts, but it’s obvious early on that something strange is occurring around the house. The series starts with a big focus on Bode, the youngest Locke child, as he begins to explore the house and find keys that do all sorts of magical and intriguing things (like a Head Key that opens up your head so you can remove memories or add information). As the series continues, readers learn more about Tyler and Kinsey, as well as a host of other secondary characters who are pertinent to the story.


There is a dark force around Keyhouse that is desperate for one particular key and it’s important that they never find it. The past, especially the Locke family history, plays an integral role in the story, but Hill carefully distributes information across the books. With Rodriguez’ amazing illustrations, this is one graphic novel series that I would love to read again, and even own personal copies of for future perusal.

Locke and Key is a dark, magic-fueled series, but one I would highly recommend. It was placed in the YA section at my library, but overall, this is a mature series.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Book Expo America 2K15: The Recap and The Books

Random shot of the Javits Center floor (near the autographing area)
I attended Book Expo America 2015 this past May. I'm just now a bit more settled in since returning from NYC, so I thought I would share my adventures with you all. I have been to BEA once before, but I didn't get to attend more than one day (and even that was about half a day) so it was really exciting to go this time around. I hope to make it back next year when it's in Chicago because it's closer to where I live and we could probably just drive there instead of dealing with flying.

My sister and I were supposed to fly out of Louisville on Wednesday, May 27 and go through Detroit to make it to NYC. Well, due to bad weather, our flight kept getting delayed and then our new flight straight to NYC was canceled around 9 that night. They put us in a hotel and we left around six the next morning, going straight to NYC. What really sucks about this is that we got there late and by the time we found our hotel and checked in, I had missed the Harlequin Teen breakfast. This was the only fun event I was invited to so I was really bummed to have missed out. Anyway, the rest of the day went well. My feet were killing me, but I had a couple meetings and met some fun authors, etc. throughout the day.

We attended BEA again on Friday and I don't know how I was able to walk (I have bad feet in general, but somehow I got blisters all over them so it was tough...). Again, I met some cool authors and was able to get a ton of fantastic sounding books. My sister had a really good time too and she found quite a few books she hopes to read/review for the blog sometime in the future. There are also plenty of books we both want to read like These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly.

My sister, Kari, and I at Dylan's Candy Shop (I'm in the red shirt)
I was in NYC on Saturday, May 30 but it was my birthday so neither my sister nor I attended Book Con. Instead, we did some other fun tourist things and generally just had a nice, relaxing day. We went to Ellen's Stardust Diner for dinner where the waiters and waitresses are all Broadway type singers who take turns singing the whole time. It was great! Then a friend of mine from Brooklyn picked us up and we got some ice cream at Dylan's Candy Shop and just had a great time hanging out.

Waiting for Disenchanted!
Other things I did in NYC this time around was visit Magnolia Bakery (great cupcakes) and see the amazing, hilarious off-Broadway musical, Disenchanted. I highly recommend it! It's about the Disney princesses and how their lives are quite different from the Disney versions.

Anyway, back to BEA. Here are some of my highlights, as well as pictures of MOST of the books I got while there.

These two photos are Kunal Nayyar from The Big Bang Theory. I was late that day but my sister was able to take a couple good photos of him meeting with fans for his upcoming memoir, Yes, My Accent is Real.

*On Thursday, I hurried to Kate Scelsa's signing. Scelsa wrote Fans of the Impossible Life, which I'm so excited to read. I told her she was my first for BEA and she wrote that in my book!

*The only other signing I waited in line for on Thursday was for Will Walton, author of Anything Could Happen. It was really cool to meet him - he seems super sweet and I love the sound of his novel. Authors Julie Murphy and Adam Silvera were also in line to say hello, so it was cool to be right behind them as well!! The above photo is Will Walton (blue plaid, glasses on the left) and David Levithan - who is the publisher and therefore he was there to help support Will and he was the one going around with post-it notes so that Will knew how to spell your name.

While I was there a bit longer on Thursday, I feel like more happened on Friday for me. I got more books signed (random in-booth signings for the most part) and I received more books to take home. I didn't take a suitcase so my sister and I shared carrying totes of books around and then we shipped it all home at the end of the day. I paid for two boxes, and yeah, it's expensive, but I think it was worth it and it all came in the mail nice and neat the next week.

My sister and I waiting for the shuttle on Friday afternoon at BEA
What I liked about BEA was that there were books in piles on the floor so it makes it easier to see what is available to take. I did ask people if certain books were allowed to be taken though, when they were on a desk or something. Every time I asked, the answer was yes, so that was cool. I also liked when books were being dropped at certain times. I came across a couple of these by random and jumped in the line. One of these is where I got These Shallow Graves (score!) It seemed like everything was well organized and I honestly spent most of my time walking around, visiting booths, and having conversations with publishing companies, etc than worrying too much about making a certain signing.

*When we arrived on Friday morning, my sister joined the Kelley Armstrong signing for The Masked Truth and got a copy signed. I was going to try and join the line for Black Widow but it was way too long. However, later that day I got in the line for Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld which was awesome and the wait wasn't too long, so that's even better.

Another waiting for the shuttle shot
And now...a look at most of the books I got while at BEA. Anything Could Happen and Fans of the Impossible Life are not included here, nor is These Shallow Graves and a few others my sister brought to her house. This is most of it though!

The above books are June, July, and August ARCS. I'm excited about The Gratitude Diaries - that was an in-booth signing I randomly came across and I'm really excited I did. So that one is autographed.

These are my September ARCS- The Story of My Tits is a graphic memoir about breast cancer (it's signed - random in-booth signing). Dream Things True was a galley drop and the author happened to be in the booth so that one is signed as well.

These are the October ARCS and it's full of some good titles. City on Fire is one I'm excited about - the author had an in-booth signing, but I missed it, so it's cool they had extra copies later. Nine Lives is another in-booth signing I attended. I'm also really excited about Illuminae. The floors leading up to the main floor of BEA were designed to look like the cover. Photo below:

These are my November ARCS, and it's slowed down a bit, which is nice. September and October are some busy months! I'm excited about D.C. Trip in particular.

This is my one and only December ARC but I'm really pumped. I read an excerpt from this one and it sounds great - by the way, the main character is blind if you didn't already know!

And these are January 2016 ARCS - it will be difficult not to read these sooner since I have so many other titles to get through. I was excited that my sister was able to get a copy of The Expatriates since I didn't make it to the author's in-booth signing. I'm also excited for The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend.

And finally, these last two photos are books that are finished copies. I assume that means that all of them have already been released, but I hope to read some of these in-between reading the various ARCS I got. The Ables sounds great and it's one that I got signed as well.

My other final copies! I'm excited to read Emergency Contact, which is an M/M romance I had seen online before. Point Hollow and The Dead Hamlets are both thrillers that sound awesome.

So that's about it! If you have any questions about BEA or these novels or my time in NYC, please let me know and I can do another post answering them!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Life, Some Assembly Required by Kaje Harper

Life, Some Assembly Required by Kaje Harper 

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: After spending the first part of his life chasing pretty girls, love has finally come to Ryan in the form of John, a tall, lanky, red-headed landscape architect with wide shoulders and a five-o’clock shadow.

For the first time in his life, love feels easy. Hell, he even ran into a burning building for John and his son, and he’d do it again if he had to. But telling his father and brothers “I’m gay. I’ve met a man”? That’s a bumpy ride he’s not looking forward to.

For John, loving Ryan is as natural as breathing. Now if only the rest of his life would fall into place. Dealing with his teen son is complicated enough, but with his ex-wife causing trouble and his daughter wanting to move in, John’s house—and his relationship with Ryan—threaten to split at the seams.

Would one month without a new surprise knocking him upside the heart be asking too much? If the sound of Fate’s laughter is any indication, the answer must be yes…

Review: This was listed as the second book in a series, but I tend to find most of these are companion novels and not direct sequels. I guess I was wrong with this one because the beginning of Ryan and John’s relationship is obviously detailed in the first novel. Regardless, Harper did a great job recapping the previous events and I never felt like I missed anything. I really just want to read the first book now because I loved the characters so much.

Life, Some Assembly Required is about medical student, Ryan, and landscape architect, John, who have fallen in love after only ever dating girls. John even has an ex-wife and two teenage children, one of whom is living with the guys. Despite the obvious difference in the lives they used to lead, both guys do their best to make the most of it. They know they love each other and that’s most important.

This book is not without its fair share of drama though. John’s ex is pregnant with her new husband and John’s daughter now wants to live with him. Ryan’s family doesn’t know he’s gay and he’s not really sure how they will take it, seeing as he was known for going through girls pretty quick. I think Harper did a good job blending the drama and romance of this story so that it never felt like too much in either direction.

There are some sexual scenes, but it doesn’t overpower the story and I always appreciate that. A good story is first and foremost in my book.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

An Age of License by Lucy Knisley

An Age of License by Lucy Knisley

Review by Lauren

source: copy from library; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Acclaimed cartoonist Lucy Knisley (French Milk, Relish) got an opportunity that most only dream of: a travel-expenses-paid trip to Europe/Scandinavia, thanks to a book tour. An Age of License is Knisley’s comics travel memoir recounting her charming (and romantic!) adventures. 
It’s punctuated by whimsical visual devices (such as a “new experiences” funnel); peppered with the cute cats she meets along the way; and, of course, features her hallmark—drawings and descriptions of food that will make your mouth water. But it’s not all kittens and raclette crepes: Knisley’s experiences are colored by anxieties, introspective self-inquiries, and quotidian revelations—about traveling alone in unfamiliar countries, and about her life and career—that many young adults will relate to.

Review: I have read Knisley’s graphic memoir Relish and immediately fell in love with her whimsical drawings and fun stories. When I saw An Age of License at the library, I knew I had to check it out. This is one of those books that you can easily read in a day, but it’s also something to look back on and ponder. Knisley is growing up and dealing with big decisions in her life. 

This book chronicles a trip to Europe, where she talks about the food and the fun she had, but she also thinks about her relationships and her career. She is lucky to have a job she loves, where she can draw and create stories, but it’s not always easy and there is always the fear of ‘what comes next?’ At the same time, everyone needs to live their life for them, go on adventures, fall in and out of love, and essentially…give yourself license to experience the world before truly settling down.


I refer to this book as a graphic memoir but it doesn’t look like a traditional graphic novel. Instead, the book is full of colored drawings, with a story weaved around it in a scrapbook style. Reading Knisley’s books make me wish I had the ability to draw so I could capture moments in my life the way she does.

In all, I know that I will read more by Knisley. She currently has two other graphic memoirs that I must read (French Milk, Displacement).

Friday, June 5, 2015

Bunbury 2015: A Look At This Weekend's Artists

Today is the first day of Bunbury 2015- the annual music festival in Cincinnati, Ohio. The image above gives you a list of who will be attending the festival, though you'll have to visit the website to see which artist plays what day/time. I am going to go everyday but it's a packed weekend, so I won't be able to spend as much time as I have in the past. However, I thought I'd start the weekend sharing some videos of a few of the artists I do hope to see live this weekend. I'll keep updating the blog in the next week or so with photos, recaps, and more!

Friday: Walk the Moon

I'm sure this will be a big crowd as Walk the Moon is a Cincinnati band. I've never seen them live, though, so I think it would be a really fun show. Check out songs such as "Shut Up and Dance" and "Anna Sun". Video for "Shut Up and Dance" below.

Saturday: Kacey Musgraves

The song I included for Kacey is called "Follow Your Arrow" and I love how it's all about "damned if you do, damned if you don't" so you should just be yourself. She's a country singer, but I think a lot of people would like it. I was surprised to see she'd be at Bunbury, but I'm excited!

Sunday: Brand New

I have never seen Brand New live, so this would be a great opportunity as I really love a lot of their music. Picking something to share is a bit difficult but here we go...The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows.

So there you go, a brief preview of what is to come at Bunbury 2015! If you're nearby, think about grabbing a ticket for this weekend, and if not, I hope you enjoy these posts and maybe you'll think about joining us for 2016.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Go Ahead and Like It by Jacqueline Suskin

Go Ahead and Like It by Jacqueline Suskin

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from Blogging For Books; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: This scrapbook-style art book is an invitation to write lists of things you like: small things that bring delight, intriguing things that excite, and meaningful things that make every day special. It's a how-to guide, writing prompt, model for self-discovery, and beautiful inspiration for daily gratitude, with poet Jacqueline Suskin's personal lists intertwined with photographs, illustrations, and instruction. It's a self-help book for people who might not be drawn to standard self-help, and it's creative thinking for people who might not identify themselves as creative thinkers (What does it mean to "like" something in today's digital age, anyways?). Above all, it presents a simple, dependable method to notice the good that's all around us--even in a traffic jam or waiting in line--so we can inhabit our world more fully and smile more in the process.

Review: I'm one of those people that like lists, but I don't think I've ever sat down and made a list of things that I like. Who knows? Maybe I did as a child. I think when you're younger, it's easier to pick out the things you like - and often, they are quite simple. I like the idea behind this book. Suskin shares how remembering the things she likes often makes her feel better and more calm, and it's certainly something to try out when you're feeling overwhelmed or stressed. After all, with the bad, always comes some good. That's what I believe at least.

page from the book - do not own image - source

The set up of the book really does look like a scrapbook. The lists are often included over photographs or what looks to be pasted in pieces of paper. The whole book is flat, so don't go thinking you can touch any of the lists or photos - but all the same, it looks nice.

This is a quick book if you're just going through and reading. I suppose you have to try some of the advice or make some of your own lists to see how the book really affects you as a reader. As of now, I think it's a nice idea but it's not necessarily memorable unless you are going to use it.

To end though--

I Like:

*the smell of books
*old TV shows
*Elvis Presley music
*driving at night, listening to music
*reading in the pool
*funky socks
*shopping for other people

What do you like?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

A Boy Like Me by Jennie Wood

A Boy Like Me by Jennie Wood

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from author; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Born a girl, Peyton Honeycutt meets Tara Parks in the eighth grade bathroom shortly after he gets his first period. It is the best and worst day of his life. Determined to impress Tara, Peyton sets out to win her love by mastering the drums and basketball. He takes on Tara's small-minded mother, the bully at school, and the prejudices within his conservative hometown. In the end, Peyton must accept and stand up for who he is or lose the woman he loves.

Review: Peyton is a boy, but he doesn’t realize it. He falls in love with Tara the day he meets her in 8th grade, but even then, he just knows that he likes Tara. As he gets older, he’s adamant that he’s not a lesbian, but he’s more afraid of what people will call him or how they will see him than really giving it much though. In the end, he’s not a lesbian. He’s transgender – a boy born in a girl’s body.

I think Wood did a great job getting into Peyton’s mind. He felt real and it was easy to empathize with his thoughts and feelings. At the same time, he’s a regular kid in a lot of ways and he can easily make mistakes. He doesn’t always treat people the way he should, but at the same time, he’s fiercely loyal. He loves music and finds a connection with Tara because of it, as they both join the jazz band in 8th grade. 

A Boy Like Me takes place over a certain amount of years, which allows Wood to show Peyton grow and become the man he feels inside.  LGBT novels are important and there are not that many that deal with transgender teens, so I congratulate Wood on addressing this topic with such finesse. I would definitely recommend for older teen audiences and up.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Sudden Secrets by C. Lee McKenzie

Sudden Secrets by C. Lee McKenzie

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from author; all opinions are my own

Official Summary (Feel free to just read the first couple paragraphs):  

One Secret 

Cleo has struggled to heal after her baby sister’s death, but the flashbacks to the accident won’t go away. With the move, she vows to keep her tragedy a secret and avoid pitying looks. 

One Mystery 

Something’s strange about the abandoned house across the street—flashes of light late at night and small flickers of movement that only someone looking for them would see. Everyone says the house is deserted, but Cleo is sure it isn’t, and she’s sure whoever is inside is watching her. 

Another Secret

In one night, Belleza’s life changes forever. So famous, her only choice is to hide her secret from the world so she can silence small town bigotry. Then Cleo happens.

Review: As I stated before the summary above, you can get by with just reading the first couple paragraphs and letting the book surprise you with the rest. I read the entire summary but I didn’t give it much thought until near the end of the book when I realized it might include a bit of a spoiler. Regardless, this book is definitely full of secrets and the suspense that goes along with that. 

Cleo has moved to a new house with her mom and grandfather after the death of her little sister. They are all grieving and trying to adjust in their own way. Cleo doesn’t feel like she has anyone to talk to and she’s obviously holding on to a lot of grief and guilt concerning her sister. Not helping matters, her father has taken himself out of the country to work in an obvious means of trying to leave the pain behind. This only adds to what the family is already going through.

Eventually, Cleo does make some new friends, but when she mentions the fact that she thinks someone is in the house across from her, which is supposed to be empty, she finds herself in a quest for more information. It doesn’t take long for Cleo to find some answers, but when she does, she’s desperate for her friends to leave the house alone. This book is full of interesting, eclectic characters that all seem to have a story of their own. Secrets abound, and not just those that Cleo hides. 

Sudden Secrets is a book about love and family, heartbreak and grief. It’s also about finding your way in life and making new beginnings.