YALLWEST 2016

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Fellow nerds, rejoice. The line up for this year’s Yallwest has just been announced and it’s beyond spectacular. It’s specmazing. It’s amtacular. You get the point.

What is Yallwest, you ask? Only the best YA book festival on the West Coast (it’s a sister event to the much beloved Yallfest, a book festival I’ve been secretly jealous about for years).  This is only the second year, and while last year felt very new and therefore a little bumpy, it was awesome. We had the best time. Based on this year’s author list, I’m sure to be making a fool of myself having a blast the whole weekend. I mean, Jenny Han is going to be there. JENNY HAN (among other amazing authors, some of whom I had the pleasure of meeting last year. But Jenny Han).

Locals, mark your calendars now. April 30-May 1 at Santa Monica High School. This is not some stuffy day where you barely get to meet your favorite authors. No, your favorite authors are organizing the event and handing out your passes and getting lunch off the grilled cheese truck with you. They’re standing outside, walking around between panels and signings, talking to fans and taking pictures. Because, in the end, they’re just bookworms like we are, right? (Even though they’re really our version of a rock star, Jenny Han).

Here is the basic info, per the event website:

 

SATURDAY OPENING KEYNOTE

Rainbow Rowell

STORY/MAKER KEYNOTE

Sana Amanat

MIDDLE GRADE KEYNOTE

Soman Chainani & Melissa de la Cruz

SATURDAY CLOSING KEYNOTE

Matt de la Pena & Jason Reynolds

SUNDAY OPENING KEYNOTE

Marie Lu & Tahereh Mafi

Authors

RENEE AHDIEH

ADI ALSAID

MT ANDERSON

JOSIE ANGELINI

JENNIFER ARMENTROUT

BRODI ASHTON

VICTORIA AVEYARD

LEIGH BARDUGO

DAVE BARRY

ROBIN BENWAY

HOLLY BLACK

FRANCESCA LIA BLOCK

GWENDA BOND

PSEUDONYMOUS BOSCH

JENNIFER BOSWORTH

ERIN BOWMAN

ALEXANDRA BRACKEN

NATHAN BRANSFORD

LIBBA BRAY

CECIL CASTELLUCCI

SOMAN CHAINANI

SUSANE COLASANTI

BRANDY COLBERT

ALLY CONDIE

ARWEN ELYS DAYTON

MELISSA DE LA CRUZ

MATT DE LA PENA

HEATHER DEMETRIOS

DEBRA DRIZA

SIMONE ELKELES

SETH FISHMAN

AIMEE FRIEDMAN

MICHELLE GAGNON

KAMI GARCIA

STUART GIBBS

ALEX GINO

DAPHNE GOTTLIEB

MICHAEL GRANT

SHANNON HALE

DEAN HALE

JENNY HAN

CYNTHIA HAND

HARRIETT HAPGOOD

AARON HARTZLER

KIRSTEN HUBBARD

J.R. JOHANSSON

ALAYA DAWN JOHNSON

AMIE KAUFMAN

KODY KEPLINGER

JESSICA KHOURY

JESSI KIRBY

ISAAC KLAUSNER

JAY KRISTOFF

STEPHANIE KUEHN

MERCEDES LACKEY

NINA LACOUR

CHRISTINA LAUREN

EMMY LAYBOURNE

DAVID LEVITHAN

ALEX LONDON

MARIE LU

TAHEREH MAFI

SARAH MCCARRY

KIMBERLEY MCCREIGHT

RICHELLE MEAD

JODI MEADOWS

SARAH MLYNOWSKI

JULIE MURPHY

JENNIFER NIVEN

ALYSON NOEL

ELLEN OH

DANIELLE PAIGE

MARY PEARSON

RIDLEY PEARSON

DAVID J. PETERSON

SARA RAASCH

BRENDAN REICHS

JASON REYNOLDS

RANSOM RIGGS

GARY ROSEN

VERONICA ROTH

RAINBOW ROWELL

PAUL RUDNICK

MARIE RUTKOSKI

AISHA SAEED

ROBYN SCHNEIDER

JEFFREY SELF

NEAL SHUSTERMAN

ADAM SILVERA

EVELYN SKYE

HOLLY GOLDBERG SLOAN

SHERRI L. SMITH

SONYA SONES

AMY SPALDING

SCOTT SPEER

WENDY SPINALE

JESSICA SPOTSWOOD

NOELLE STEVENSON

MARGARET STOHL

TAMARA IRELAND STONE

ELISSA SUSSMAN

SABAA TAHIR

VALERIE TEJEDA

AMY TINTERA

SIOBHAN VIVIAN

SCOTT WESTERFELD

JOHN COREY WHALEY

KIERSTEN WHITE

NICOLA YOON

BRENNA YOVANOFF

SARA ZARR

Hope to see you all there!

 

Me Before You

15507958Me Before You
by Jojo Moyes

Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.

Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.

What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time. (Goodreads)

So, I know I have tons of other books to review at this point, but I just finished this book last night and I have to tell you about it NOW.

And I can’t say too much because that would basically ruin the whole thing.

Here’s the basic story:

Will Traynor–successful business man, adventurer, lover of life–was in a major accident two years ago and is now quadriplegic.

Louisa Clark just lost her job at a local cafe. She’s looking for work, willing to take almost anything as jobs are hard to come by in her tiny town, and her family (mom, dad, grandfather, sister and nephew) depend on her financial help to get by. She’s sent by an employment agency to interview for a position as a caregiver and companion to Will.  Lou feels completely unqualified, but somehow she’s hired. Will makes it very clear from the start that he isn’t interested in getting to know Lou. He barely acknowledges her, and when he does it’s with obvious contempt. But Lou comes to realize that she’s been hired to watch over Will, essentially to keep him safe. And slowly, little by little, she manages to chip away at his hard edges. She brings life and light into his world again by just being her honest, quirky self. She takes him on adventures and she tries to show him he has a reason to keep living.

My Thoughts:

Um, wow. I loved this book. I adored it. I never wanted it to end.

It is sad, yes, make no mistake about that. I cried. I yelled at the characters. But most of the time I was crying because it was so perfect or because it was so sweet. This story hits every note perfectly, from reminding us how it feels to be young and without a plan or any sort of direction in life, to giving us a picture of love and loss, to portraying family life with all it’s humor and pain.

Louisa Clark is a heroine you’ll understand. She’s someone you’ll want to get behind. She understands all of your awkwardness, all of your questions about life, and she lives out loud, no apologies, no pretenses. And Will Traynor. Sweet mercy, you’ll love him. You’ll be angry at him. You’ll hurt for him and all he’s lost. But you’ll be charmed by him, by his massive heart, and by his wicked sense of humor.

This book deals with some heavy theme but it is not, in my opinion, depressing. It’s about hope and loss and love and choices. Read it. You won’t regret it.

Crush Intensity: 5/5 One of the best books I’ve read in a very long time and definitely one of my all-time favorites.

Where’d I Get It: I borrowed a copy from my sweet friend, Marlene. I think I need to buy it now.

Extra Awesomeness: The movie comes out this year. The trailer came out TODAY. AAAAHHH!!! And it looks wonderful.

Well Hello There, Stranger

I know. It’s been a long time. Like, a looooong time. Life, as you know it, gets so busy. I mean, it gets so busy that sometimes it even slows down our reading. WHAT?? I hate that, I know, but it happens.

I done some reading, some writing, some making merry, some family stuff, some Disneyland stuff, some (okay, alot) of time freaking out about Star Wars (you guys!)…but not a ton of review writing.

Here’s a quick glimpse of some books I’ve read recently:

 

9780804139021_p0_v1_s192x300The Martian by Andy Weir– Yeah, LOVED. You should read it because it’s so funny. I can’t wait to Redbox the movie.

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Emmy & Oliver By Robin Benway– So sweet. Review to come.

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The Summer Of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler– So many feelings. Review to come.

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Sophomore Year is Greek to Me by Meredith Zeitlin– Hmm. Review to come.

23009402Saint Anything

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen– I liked this book, but I remember nothing about it. This may pose problems for the whole review process.

PS I Still Love You

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han– OMG. Review to come.

The Kanin Chronicles by Amanda Hocking– We need to discuss these.

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Open Road Summer by Emery Lord– This cute. Review to come.

 

That’s just a few. Let’s not forget that I’ve spent many hours rereading books I love. That’s at least half of my reading time. So, I’ll start to review these. I may have to…gasp…reread them first. My memory is really bad. Unless you need someone to recite random movie lines and song lyrics from the 80’s, I’m usually at a loss.

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The Distance Between Us

The Distance Between Us by Kasie West

Distance Between UsSeventeen-year-old Caymen Meyers studies the rich like her own personal science experiment, and after years of observation she’s pretty sure they’re only good for one thing—spending money on useless stuff, like the porcelain dolls in her mother’s shop.

So when Xander Spence walks into the store to pick up a doll for his grandmother, it only takes one glance for Caymen to figure out he’s oozing rich. Despite his charming ways and that he’s one of the first people who actually gets her, she’s smart enough to know his interest won’t last. Because if there’s one thing she’s learned from her mother’s warnings, it’s that the rich have a short attention span. But Xander keeps coming around, despite her best efforts to scare him off. And much to her dismay, she’s beginning to enjoy his company.

She knows her mom can’t find out—she wouldn’t approve. She’d much rather Caymen hang out with the local rocker who hasn’t been raised by money. But just when Xander’s attention and loyalty are about to convince Caymen that being rich isn’t a character flaw, she finds out that money is a much bigger part of their relationship than she’d ever realized. And that Xander’s not the only one she should’ve been worried about. (Goodreads)

The Story:

Caymen Meyers lives in posh resort area where, according to her, there are two types of people: those who are extremely wealthy and used to being catered to, and those who wait on them. Caymen falls into the latter group, working regular shifts at her mom’s struggling antique doll shop.

Xander strolls in one day to pick up a doll for his grandmother and Caymen is immediately turned off because, cute and charming as he is (he even laughs at her jokes!), she knows to be wary of the other side. Her mom has spent years warning her about the super rich and how they only care about money. Mom’s life reads like an after school special: girl meets boy, girl falls in love, girl gets pregnant, boy leaves. All she has to show for it now is Caymen and their struggling business.

Xander doesn’t seem bothered by any of it though. He keeps coming around, looking for reasons to visit Caymen, finding ways to get her to walk to school with him in the morning. They develop a fun, flirtatious friendship, but Caymen struggles to trust him, all the while wondering about his real intentions, and hiding from her mom the truth about who she spends her time with.

My Thoughts:

Holy cow, this book is adorable.

First off, Caymen is hilarious in like, an awkward sort of way. She has this really dry sense of humor and she had me giggling from the first pages. Then there’s Xander. He is so sweet. He  clearly has a thing for Caymen (and she’s clueless). He doesn’t care about money or about how they may be different. In fact, he sees their similarities. And that boy is determined to get the girl.

My biggest issue is not really big at all. I had a hard time with Caymen’s mom. She was not very open-minded or forthcoming about herself and some major things going on in their lives.  Caymen’s mother is really fixated on the class differences between the uber rich and people like her, and to me, it felt a little too over the top. Too Pretty in Pink. Now, because Caymen and Xander were so likable I was willing to look past it, but that element and her mom’s dogmatic views felt a little forced. On top of that, the issue of Caymen’s father (who is he? They have zero contact) is raised several times, but is never really resolved or delved into deep enough.

I was so sad when this book ended. It was the perfect, beachy summer read that made me feel good with the turn of every page.

Crush Intensity: 4.5/5

Where’d I Get It: The library

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (Book #1) by Jenny Han

This cover. Love it.

This cover. Love it.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all. (Goodreads)

The Story:

Lara Jean Song has loved a handful of boys in her lifetime. Each time she gets over one of them she writes him a heartfelt letter he’s never meant to read and stores it in a hat box in her closet. She’s just written one to Josh–boyfriend of her older sister, Margot, and Lara Jean’s super-secret crush. Margot has recently dumped Josh in an effort to make a clean break before she leaves for college in Scotland. Josh is understandably devastated. He’s been like a part of the family for years, adored by the entire Song family, and Lara Jean can’t help remembering that years ago, before Josh fell for Margot, Lara Jean fell for Josh.

The problem is that somehow Lara Jean’s former crushes receive those old love letters. Someone–not Lara Jean–has mailed them. When Peter Kavinsky, former eighth grade crush and resident hot guy, confronts her about his letter, Lara Jean is pretty sure she’s going to die of embarrassment. That is, until she realizes that Josh–Margot’s ex-boyfriend!– will be getting a his any day now, and then he’ll know the truth. And then not only will she never be able to face him again, Margot will know, and Margot will never forgive her. Peter and Lara Jean make a deal that they’ll fake date in order to convince Josh that she’s over him, and to make Peter’s ex-girlfriend jealous. It’s a win/win.

Josh and Peter’s ex, buy it beautifully. But the lines of Peter and Lara Jean’s relationship start to get a little blurry. Lara Jean is finding herself more and more attached to Peter and she has to keep in mind that it’s all for show.

My Thoughts:

I read this book when it first came out last year and I adored it. In fact, I loved it so much I just couldn’t quite put it into words. Hence, the lack of review. Since then I’ve read it several times (most recently to prepare for the sequel) and I’ve loved it every single time. Because OMG, Jenny Han, first you slay me with Belly and the Fisher boys (The Summer series, which I read faithfully, at least two times a year), and now this.This book and its precious characters always make me happy. It sounds silly, but it’s like a warm hug. If that warm hug had charming hot guys, lots of baking (Lara Jean is all up in the kitchen), and sisters.

Han has created such a fantastic, likable girl in Lara Jean. She’s unique and cute. She’s innocent and bright. She’s willing to pour her heart out and take a risk, and she’s unapologetic for being the inexperienced, conservative girl she is. She bakes and does scrap booking. She wears vintage clothes and braids her hair. And it’s not because she’s super-cool; it’s just who she is. She loves her sisters and her dad, and she’s okay staying in on a Friday night. I love this girl.

And Peter Kavinsky, they don’t get much cuter. What makes Peter so perfect is that he’s so imperfect. He’s charming and thoughtful, but still hung up on Gen, his ex. It’s endearing how he can so clearly care for Lara Jean, but struggle so much with taking a step away from his past. He was so charming.

Crush Intensity: 5.0/5 I love this book. Absolutely LOVE it.

Where’d I Get It: I own it (so I can read it over and over again).

The Fill-In Boyfriend

The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West

fill in boyfriendWhen Gia Montgomery’s boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she has to think fast. After all, she’d been telling her friends about him for months now. This was supposed to be the night she proved he existed. So when she sees a cute guy waiting to pick up his sister, she enlists his help. The task is simple: be her fill-in boyfriend—two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies. After that, she can win back the real Bradley. The problem is that days after prom, it’s not the real Bradley she’s thinking about, but the stand-in. The one whose name she doesn’t even know. But tracking him down doesn’t mean they’re done faking a relationship. Gia owes him a favor and his sister intends to see that he collects: his ex-girlfriend’s graduation party—three hours, zero commitment, a few white lies. Just when Gia begins to wonder if she could turn her fake boyfriend into a real one, Bradley comes waltzing back into her life, exposing her lie, and threatening to destroy her friendships and her new-found relationship. (Goodreads)

The Story: Gia’s boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot just before the beginning of prom. I know! Gia’s a fast-talking, pretty, popular girl but she knows that if she walks into that prom sans Bradley, her friends—and worse, her frenemy, Jules—will think she’s been lying about the existence of her college boyfriend. She grabs the first guy she sees in the parking lot, someone sitting in his truck reading a book, and practically begs him to pretend to be Bradley. Fake Bradley goes along with the plan. He even manages to charm Gia’s friends. And when the two stage a quick breakup in front of everyone, Gia’s clan buys it hook, line, and sinker. Fake Bradley and Gia part with a distant promise that Gia owes him one. In the days following, it’s not her ex-boyfriend that keeps crossing Gia’s mind, but Fake Bradley. She doesn’t even know his name! And when he finally calls in his favor they dig themselves a deeper hole of lies. Now, Gia is filling in to make Fake Bradley’s ex jealous. Only guess what? It’s fun. She enjoys him and she has to keep reminding herself that this is all just a favor and not real. She doesn’t know how to be honest with her friends, especially as the lies keep piling up, and she doesn’t know how Fake Bradley (otherwise known as Hayden) truly feels about her.

My Thoughts: I’ve become a big fan of Kasie West and this is SUCH a cute summer book. Gia is a little hard to like at first because she’s so concerned about what her friends think. But that all melts away pretty quickly. And Hayden is downright adorable. Even though these two are lying to many of the people most important to them, as the reader I understood why. And more, I loved them for their willingness to do it for each other, especially considering that they were virtually strangers. They have a cute friendship and a sweet connection. I found myself smiling the whole time I was reading. West is definitely trying to send a larger message here about the need for approval from others, about perception vs. reality, and about being happy with yourself, but it’s not a heavy book. This one is pure fun.

Crush Intensity: 4.25/5

Where’d I Get It: The library! Best place ever.

Shopaholic to the Stars

Shopaholic to the Stars (Shopaholic #7) by Sophie Kinsella

Shopaholic to the starsBecky Brandon (née Bloomwood) has stars in her eyes. She and her daughter, Minnie, have joined husband Luke in LA — city of herbal smoothies, multimillion-dollar yoga retreats, and the lure of celebrity. Luke is there to help manage the career of famous actress Sage Seymour — and Becky is convinced she is destined to be Sage’s personal stylist, and go from there to every A-list celebrity in Hollywood! But things become complicated when Becky joins the team of Sag’’s arch-rival. How will charming and supportive Luke deal with this conflict? Is it possible that what Becky wants most will end up hurting those she loves most?(Goodreads)

The Story:

Becky, Luke, and Minnie move to LA when Luke’s PR firm snags an opportunity to manage the career of rising star Sage Seymour. Becky, as usual, wields Lucy Ricardo-like ambition, envisioning herself hobnobbing with stars, soaking up the glittering Hollywood lifestyle. She’s gotten Minnie into THE premiere preschool, is on her way to becoming friends with the other moms there, and aspires to be a personal stylist to Luke’s #1 new client, Sage.

lucy

As is true in all Shopaholic novels, things never go as Becky plans. She fumbles and fibs and spends way too much money, but ultimately she lands an opportunity to be a personal stylist—to Sage’s rival. To make matters worse, the most popular mom at the preschool, the one everyone positively worships, is her former nemesis (Alicia Bitch Longlegs ring a bell?). Nothing in LA is quite as fabulous as it was supposed to be.

My Thoughts:

I love the Shopaholic series. Luke Brandon, with his gorgeous suits, his dreamy eyes, his sexy accent, and those button ripping abilities (Shopaholic Takes Manhattan) AND the fact that he loves a total whackadoodle like Becky? I’m in.

This is how I picture Luke. You're welcome.

This is how I picture Luke. You’re welcome.

Becky is usually adorable, kooky and fun, but at her heart, very sweet. She’s the girl who says and does the things we think but never act out.

I thought Isla Fisher was perfectly cast in the Shopaholic movie.

I thought Isla Fisher was perfectly cast in the Shopaholic movie.

But, as much as it pains me to say this, these books need to stop. The last one, Mini Shopaholic was ridiculous, but I held on because I am a fan of this series. So, I was still really excited to read the latest installment. At this point though, Becky has become trying. Her antics have gone from endearing to annoying. She’s no longer cute and fun; she’s ridiculous and unbelievable. Worse, she’s completely selfish and inconsiderate. And that really sucks because, considering the number of times I’ve read these books, I feel like I’m bad mouthing an old friend.

There were also things that felt so forced. I mean, Suze and Tarkie move to LA for a month-long holiday. Okay. But then Alicia Bitch Longlegs is there, too? Really? And she just happens to be Queen Bee at Minnie’s preschool? Is there no other city in the entire universe?

As much as I love Becky and Luke it’s disappointing to see that Becky has grown very little. It feels as if Kinsella—whose books I am a huge fan of—is dragging the story out when there’s really no more to tell. At the end of this book, when it became clear that another sequel would follow (Las Vegas, everyone!), I actually groaned. And I feel bad saying that, but it’s true.

Crush Intensity: 2.0/5 I tried really hard. I finished the entire book. But I hated it. That 2.0 is generous, based only on past love.