Welcome to yAdult Review, a space where two girls review novels from across the genres, from YA and MG, to fantasy and sci-fi, to historical fiction and mystery, with a sprinkling of non-fiction too. We hope you enjoy your stay here as much as we enjoy ours.

The Heir (The Selection #4) by Kiera Cass

22918050The Heir (The Selection #4) by Kiera Cass
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: starstarblank_starblank_starblank_star
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound

Twenty years ago, America Singer entered the Selection and won Prince Maxon’s heart. Now the time has come for Princess Eadlyn to hold a Selection of her own. Eadlyn doesn’t expect her Selection to be anything like her parents’ fairy-tale love story. But as the competition begins, she may discover that finding her own happily ever after isn’t as impossible as she always thought. – Goodreads

Review:

I actually would have read this quickly after the original trilogy; however, the audiobook hold list often leads my fate. The Heir begins about two decades after The Selection and is the story of America’s first born, a daughter, named Eadlyn. Eadlyn is very much the opposite of America. She’s not warm, friendly, and doesn’t really have a thought outside of the box much like America did. America is very concerned about sunning outside, dress making and generally herself. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, the fact she is the next person to rule the country it’s semiproblematic when she does not worry about the fate of others.

Eadlyn is the first girl to rule her country and yet all she can do is complain about the fact that she’s older than her twin brother by seven minutes and those seven cruel minutes make her the older one that leads. Something she doesn’t want. She doesn’t care about those that live in the country. She doesn’t work. There isn’t one scene in The Heir in which she works. She’s proudly doesn’t work. While she’s not working, her father, Maxon, is proudly changing the country that America and him grew up in.

However, everyone is not so happy with the changes the King and Queen have made. There are many who are actually upset with the lack of caste system and because of this there is a bit of uproar occurring, much like the one that occurred in the original trilogy. Because of this uproar, King Maxon has begun to encourage Eadlyn to begin her own selection process.

To put it nicely Eadlyn fails at the selection process. Whatever she thinks is right, is wrong. Whatever she thinks is wrong, is right. And I get where Eadlyn is coming from. I have those own moments in my life often. It makes her human, but it also makes her seem like an ass to the public and she has no idea what they public hates her (they throw things at her on a parade).

I spent a lot of this novel wishing Cass would have focused on the true love story. I felt I called end game very early in the book and I would have preferred a story focused on them. I think The Heir could have been a better book if it would have stayed focused on them.

Will I read/listen to the next book? OF COURSE I WILL.

Bloggers and ALA.

I have been going to ALA since 2013. As a professional librarian this is nothing of real note, ALA is part of work and I happen to work for a library that enjoys sending me. What I have noticed in the past two years however is more and more bloggers are going.

Things I have heard bloggers state while at this conference: “why are there so many librarians here?” “I’m just here because I couldn’t afford BEA.” “Since BEA is moving, I’m just going to do ALA instead.”

Here’s the thing: ALA and BEA are not interchangeable.

ALA is also not meant for bloggers to post their hauls, to do giveaways, or to be rude to librarians while at the conference, a conference that is meant for librarians. The original point of the exhibit only pass from ALA was for local librarians to bring in teens, or a local librarian who couldn’t afford the whole conference.

I came home from San Francisco, location of the most recent conference, to a post from a blogger who was very concerned about the looks that librarians were giving bloggers at ALA. This made me chuckle for various reasons. Mostly however that while at the conference, some of the rudest people I talked to, where bloggers. I get it. Conferences are rough. You’re hot. You’re tired. Your feet are killing you. Conferences are exhausting. My roommate knows that when I get bitchy it’s not because of her, it’s because I’m exhausted and need to lash out at someone who still will love me.

However, during my multiple times at ALA, bloggers have camped out in lines. They cut lines. They didn’t understand why they could only have copy. They were grabbing books just for giveaways (which was made clear when they had more than one copy of book) and confused to why people were upset and generally did not respect librarians. I mean, they’re just free books, right? The amount of ARCs that popped up in the #booksfortrade hashtag, while still at the conference, sickened me.

Conferences like this are more than that to many librarians. Last year at ALA, I saw a librarian on the verge of tears because she worked for a small rural library and her kids never get things like that. Librarians are often juggling panels and the conference floor. How are they supposed to go to a panel and that awesome signing when people have been camped out in that line for two hours?

This isn’t to say that all bloggers are horrible. Of course they’re not! Many don’t go for the giveaways and actually go because they homeschool or because they’re teachers and they aren’t using it as a “faux-BEA.” I wish I could say I was joking, but I see so many tweets about bloggers who are concerned that BEA is leaving NYC and they will comfort themselves with going to ALA. But they aren’t the same. ALA isn’t meant for bloggers. It’s meant for librarians.

ARCs lately in the blogger world seem to be the holy grail and my friend Lauren wrote a great post about why she hates ARCs and I honestly agree with it. Do I use ARCs for this blog? Of course I do. Do I also use them at my job? Yes.  They are who sends me to ALA, not my blog.

Damage Done by Amanda Panitch

19542831Damage Done by Amanda Panitch
Release Date: July 21, 2015
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Source: ALA2015
Rating: starstarstarblank_starblank_star (3.5)
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound

“Exceedingly clever and surprisingly unsettling, Damage Done is an unforgettable read.” –Melissa Marr, New York Times bestselling author of Made for You

“In her incredible debut novel, Amanda Panitch leaves you on the edge of your seat. Prepare to be stunned. Prepare to be torn apart.” –Roxane Gay, New York Times bestselling author of Bad Feminist

“A brilliant thriller. Gillian Flynn for the YA set.” –Amy Christine Parker, author of Gated

22 minutes separate Julia Vann’s before and after.

Before: Julia had a twin brother, a boyfriend, and a best friend.

After: She has a new identity, a new hometown, and memories of those twenty-two minutes that refuse to come into focus. At least, that’s what she tells the police.

Now that she’s Lucy Black, she’s able to begin again. She’s even getting used to the empty bedroom where her brother should be. And her fresh start has attracted the attention of one of the hottest guys in school, a boy who will do anything to protect her. But when someone much more dangerous also takes notice, Lucy’s forced to confront the dark secrets she thought were safely left behind.

One thing is clear: The damage done can never be erased. It’s only just beginning. . . . – Goodreads

Review:

This book was everything that I expected and nothing that I expected. I went into it quickly realizing that Julia is not the person she is leading, us the reader, to believe.  As a twin, Julia has always had this close relationship with her brother. I know, you’re thinking that’s not weird, siblings are often close. But these two are really close. They sleep in bunk beds together, they hold hands, the essentially cannot be separated from each other. If they can’t do it together there is no point in them doing something.
Then, everything changes. Julia’s brother goes on a killing spree and she ends up being forced to leave town and become Lucy. Julia doesn’t mind being Lucy. She doesn’t have the killer brother, she excels in school again. Life is fine. Until her brother wakes up from a coma and disappears.

Lucy’s life comes to a halt and she becomes a bit paranoid. Between the cute swimmer and her best friend she tries to grapple a bit of normality while her murdering brother is running around. Of course her BFF and the cute swimmer have no idea that she has this past.

Lucy is an exhilarating character. She is why I kept turning the page until the wee hours of the morning. She lead me to wanting to know more, because really, I never trusted her. Through flashbacks we get bits and pieces of her previous life and see how much of Lucy is Julia and how much of Julia really disappeared.
But no matter how much I thought I knew what was going to happen and to be fair, I thought I called a lot of twists, but I was never once confident enough to think “I should stop this book. I’ve called it all.” And I’m so glad I waited until the end…because DAMN.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (II)

  • keeperThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
    Release Date: January 13, 2015
    Publisher: Riverhead Books
    Source: Library
    Rating: starstarstarstarblank_star
    Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good? – Goodreads

Review:
This is going to be one of those books that’s hard to review, because it’s suspenseful, a mystery, the plot is twisty and the timeline shifty. It’s hard to know what details to give away and what to keep secret, what minor event will become a catalyst for something bigger, whether sharing it will ruin the surprise. So we’ll start with the basics. Rachel is a thirty-something divorcee, an alcoholic with an overactive imagination who has been divorced and living in a university friend’s spare bedroom for two years. She rides the commuter train from Ashbury to London everyday, and she watches Number Fifteen, the home of Jason and Jess, which coincidentally is also only a few doors down from the house Rachel shared with her ex-husband, Tom. Rachel makes up elaborate stories about Jason and Jess and avoids looking at her old home, where Tom is still living with his new wife, Anna, and their baby. Details unfold about Rachel’s new life and the one she lost that make you feel sorry for her, feel she’s been dealt a bad hand, but she is also strange, sort of creepy with her imagination, with her obsession with strangers and her own past.

And then there is Megan, whose name is not Jess, who does not come close to living up to the image Rachel has built up in her head. Megan, who is married to Scott, not Jason, who has panic attacks and extramarital affairs, who has no direction and a selfish heart. We jump back and forth in time with these two. Megan is in the fall of 2012 and Rachel is in the summer of 2013, and I think these jumps are complementary. When I was first beginning the book, I believed we were seeing the aftermath of Rachel’s downfall and the buildup to Megan’s. This book has been compared to Gone Girl, which makes me wary, not of the comparison, but of the twisty nature of that book. I spent a lot of time trying not to be fooled, trying to pick out clues from the prose. Because, at some point in Rachel’s timeline, Megan goes missing.

So, first, this book is like Gone Girl in that all the characters are pretty terrible humans, though at least in this novel, they have some redeeming qualities. I had a feeling from the very beginning that not a single one of the many narrators was reliable, which usually means they’re all lying as they tell the story, or covering up, or being misleading. Nova Ren Suma does a great unreliable narrator, and so does Hawkins. I am the first to admit that I’m not always very good at figuring the mystery out early on, especially not in books, so I am not one of the people who figured out very early on. At around the halfway mark, I looked back and wondered who it could be, if I had missed something, but I still had no idea. Mostly I found myself worried about the baby, the way one worries about the dog in any film, wondering if the dog will make it to the end of the movie. It wasn’t until I was almost three-quarters of the way through the book that I started having suspicions. And the last 10% or so of the book was very stressful to read, because even though everyone was horrible and I didn’t exactly like them, I was worried about our narrators.

Hawkins does a great job at keeping you in suspense while also keeping the story moving at a good pace. I think the book is good because all the characters are reprehensible and yet you can’t look away, you have to know what happened to Megan, what happened to Rachel, what happened to Anna. The story jumps back and forth in time, but it unfolds and reveals quickly. I liked this story because it kept me on the edge of my seat, kept me interested. I was unable to stop reading. That is always the mark of a good book to me.

And finally, a quote from the beginning of the book that I really liked:

  • “Life is not a paragraph and death is no parentheses.”

Map to the Stars by Jen Malone

PrintMap to the Stars by Jen Malone
Release Date: July 14, 2015
Publisher: Epic Reads Impluse
Source: Edelweiss
Rating: starstarblank_starblank_starblank_star
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound

Author Jen Malone draws on her real-life experiences as a movie studio publicist to bring you an insider peek at love, Hollywood-style.

The California dream was supposed to give seventeen-year-old Annie Shelton a fresh start far removed from her dad’s unusual betrayal. But when things don’t go according to plan in La La Land, Annie’s mom snags a last-minute gig as makeup artist to a teen movie idol and finagles a spot for her daughter on his European promotional tour.

Down-to-earth Annie would rather fangirl architectural sights than an arrogant A-lister. That is, until behind-the-scenes Graham Cabot turns out to be more sweetly vulnerable than she could have imagined.

Too bad falling for a poster boy isn’t all red carpets and star treatment, especially when you factor in obnoxious fans, an overprotective assistant, a stage mom/manager, and a beefy bodyguard.

But it isn’t until the paparazzi make an appearance that things get really sticky… – Goodreads

Review:

What happens when your mom forces you to leave that small town that you know and love because your father did something horrible? Now don’t ask what that thing is because as a reader, it takes quite sometime to find out, but that’s what happens to Annie. Annie’s mom decides to leave small town Georgia after her father fucks up and goes out to Los Angeles.

Los Angeles of course changes Annie’s life. While her mom does make up to the stars, this creates a jetset life and the next thing Annie knows she is in New York City with the hottest teen star of the present day. Who accidentaly caught her in his bed. Not at all awkward, right?

While this was a quick, cute, read, things fell into place almost too easy and I got slightly annoyed at how young and naive our main character, Annie was. She really didn’t think about anything, particularrly on a large scale and often made poor life choices. But I could forgive those as someone from a small town and being a teenager. Plus, it worked as a plot device. I got it.

I didn’t expect to like Graham as much as I did, but I still thought him and Annie fell in love too quickly to be realistic and not instalove. While I believe this story had a lot of promise of a good story, it ultimately fell flat.

My Life Next Door (My Life Next Door #1) by Huntley Fitzpatrick

17290400My Life Next Door (My Life Next Door #1) by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Release Date: June 1, 2012
Publisher: Dial Books
Source: Audio from Library!
Rating: starstarstarblank_starblank_star
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound

The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, numerous, messy, affectionate. And every day from her balcony perch, seventeen-year-old Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs her terrace and changes everything. As the two fall fiercely in love, Jase’s family makes Samantha one of their own. Then in an instant, the bottom drops out of her world and she is suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?. – Goodreads

Review:

What do you do when your family is perfect and you’re not? That is something that Samantha deals with on a daily basis, being the black sheep of her family and that is why the Garretts, her next door neighbors fascinate her. They are loud, messy, they all love each other, something that Samantha doesn’t know much about. Samantha’s mom, who is also a Republican State Senator, is very orderly, and her sister, Tracy, is the same way. They don’t understand the appeal of the Garretts, who are loud and numerous.

Samantha’s mom is extremely hard core. Sam was late one night, in the middle of summer, by a few minutes and her mom acts like it is the end of the world and reminds her that with an election coming up everything is on the line. Sam loathes the amount of pressure that has put on her, understandably. As hard as her mom is on her, Samantha still loves her, it’s her mom. She has no dad in the picture, her mom doesn’t bring many guys home. It’s always been her mom, sister and Samantha. Throughout this summer, Samantha begins to miss her mom. Her mom is running for election and her campaign manager has become close to her mother and her mom is slowly not the mom she remembers.

What Samantha doesn’t expect is Jase next door. Jase who’s completely different from her. College isn’t a guarantee for him. Money is tight with his family. Jase has a completely different life from Samantha and she loves it..and..him? Their relationship grows slowly, organically, and with constant interruptions they don’t move too quickly. But his family is completely different from hers. His house is always loud, hers is always silent. There is always left over food in her house, and his family makes sure food is on the table but not many left overs. What did surprise me from this novel was the character of Tim. A character who at the beginning of the novel I wanted to slap, to the end where I wanted to hug him from the growth that occurred.

This book should have worked for me. I logically know it should have but so many parts of it just fell a bit flat for me. While I enjoyed the family dynamics and the friendships (as I do), the book just fell flat for me. I did appreciate that Samantha realized that not everyone is as perfect as she thought they were. From her BFF who is going through her own shit, to her friends that judge the Garretts for being mid-to-lower class, to a very dramatic turn that occurs throughout about 70% of the novel. I also enjoyed how sex was handled in this novel. I found that aspect to be extremely realistic. Even with all of this love, My Life Next Door still fell flat for me. I wanted more resolution to the novel!

From an audiobook point of view, I found this interesting because as I just finished The Selection series, this had the same narrator and I was thrown by that. But it didn’t ruin my enjoyment of My Life Next Door and the Sarah Dessen/Stephanie Perkins feels that I had throughout this novel.

This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

keeperThis Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
Release Date: August 6, 2009
Publisher: Orion
Source: Library
Rating: starstarstarstarblank_star
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound

The death of Judd Foxman’s father marks the first time that the entire Foxman family—including Judd’s mother, brothers, and sister—have been together in years. Conspicuously absent: Judd’s wife, Jen, whose fourteen-month affair with Judd’s radio-shock-jock boss has recently become painfully public.

Simultaneously mourning the death of his father and the demise of his marriage, Judd joins the rest of the Foxmans as they reluctantly submit to their patriarch’s dying request: to spend the seven days following the funeral together. In the same house. Like a family.

As the week quickly spins out of control, longstanding grudges resurface, secrets are revealed, and old passions reawakened. For Judd, it’s a weeklong attempt to make sense of the mess his life has become while trying in vain not to get sucked into the regressive battles of his madly dysfunctional family. All of which would be hard enough without the bomb Jen dropped the day Judd’s father died: She’s pregnant. – Goodreads

Review:
This is a rare instance in my life where I saw the movie before the book. I couldn’t pass up a Jason Bateman/Adam Driver collaboration, plus Tina Fey was sort of the icing on the cake. My mom heard I’d seen the movie, and, having read the book in our family book club, recommended it pretty highly to me. She doesn’t recommend many books to me, because she knows I tend toward the supernatural and the YA, and she definitely does not, but she recommended Gone Girl to me a few years ago and I loved that book, so I listened. And from the very start, this book had me hooked. It’s hard to hook me these days, which I think is the result of a variety of factors, not least of which is having a very active nine month old who doesn’t let me sit still or take my eyes off of him for more than 15 seconds. Makes book reading hard. I think I’m also in a place in my life where reading about the adventures of teenagers makes me feel disconnected and vaguely jealous, because my life is so far from that right now, and it’s a life stage I’ll never make it back to. So, adult contemporary fiction it is.

As the summary says, this is a story about Judd Foxman and his sad, but hilarious misadventures navigating this horror story we call life. His father has recently passed away from cancer, and his wife is newly pregnant by way of an affair with Judd’s boss. So the story is told from Judd’s point of view, but we get insights into the lives of his family as well. There’s Paul, whose dream of playing college baseball was crushed by a Rottweiler to the arm, who is married to Alice, a woman struggling with infertility who also happened to be the first girl Judd ever slept with. Wendy is the oldest, a stay-at-home mom to three unruly children based in LA, married to Barry, a douchey finance guy with an ever-present Bluetooth earpiece. Phillip is the youngest and possibly the most screwed up, being 9 years younger than Judd and the one babied through life. He is also a playboy and currently dating his former therapist, a woman 15 or so years his senior. The Foxman mother, Hillary, is a psychologist, and true to the theme of children growing up with parents involved in psychology, seems to have given her children more complexes than the average mother. We know little about the Foxmans’ deceased father except through stories told by the kids and through Judd’s somewhat warped memories. Judd’s father, an atheist by belief but a Jew by birth, has requested that his children sit shiva when he dies.

This book isn’t overburdened by dialogue, and it has just lovely, down-to-earth, yet flowing prose that is so very readable and draws you right in. Judd and his family are easy to relate to in that the dysfunction seems so familiar. Tropper’s portrayal of marriage, or any long-term, live-in relationship, really, is very accurate and, again, very relatable. We follow Judd, and through him, the Foxman siblings, through the stages of grief, through their neuroses and insecurities, and we get to watch them either stay the same or be reborn. That makes it sound haughty, but it’s all very human.

The hardest part for me to read was when Judd details the third trimester pregnancy loss he and Jen experienced. The baby, a boy, died after his cord wrapped around his neck, and let me tell you, almost every pregnant woman I’ve ever met has this fear. I had it. Is the baby moving enough? Why haven’t I felt the baby yet? As someone who had a completely uncomplicated pregnancy and delivered a healthy boy, the explanations and details of this part of Judd’s life just broke my heart. Judd sees and recognizes this moment as the beginning of the end of his marriage, a pivotal moment in his life that set him off on another course. So, just know that there will be details, and moments spent in an exam room, and if this kind of thing is triggering for you, just skip chapter 21 entirely.

The only thing that truly bothered me about this book was how Tropper used his skill with description to really go to town on women’s bodies, especially the older ones. Men were usually passed by with descriptors like “bald” or “rail-thin,” but women had their varicose veins and double chins described in painful detail. At one point, he refers to a group of them as “melting ice cream bars.” I just felt that in a story about family and the disillusionment life can bring, it was all so very unnecessary. Women’s bodies are the focus of so many articles and criticisms, and while I assume Tropper is describing the mind of a random thirty-something male very accurately, I wish it hadn’t been deemed necessary at all. Aging is something that happens to all of us, and men are given more of a pass than women for something we humans can’t avoid, and whether someone is seen as aging gracefully or not is their own business. What is done to your body, or isn’t, is up to you, and no one else really deserves an opinion. There is a point in this book where Judd ruminates on the fact that our thoughts are frequently selfish and unkind, and that if someone else were to hear them, they’d know we’re all just assholes in our heads, and to a point, I think that’s true. But it’s something of a pattern in this book, and it stood out to me in a way that seemed unneeded. The other thing that I noticed, but that didn’t bother me quite so much since it seems so prevalent, was that Judd is basically a Nice Guy. He’s only friends with Penny because he thinks she’s beautiful and he likes her, and he gets all upset when he sees her dating guys Judd deems unworthy of her. It’s okay to be just friends with a woman, Judd. Nothing wrong with being her shoulder to cry on while not also simultaneously wanting to get into her pants.

I liked this one a lot. So much. Such a quick and easy read, such an interesting journey to follow, such a great cast of characters. I recommend this one highly.

Finally, some quotes that I just loved:

  • “marrying [my mother] was like joining the chorus”
  • “[my father was] a lifelong member of the Church of Shit or Get Off the Can”
  • “you get married to have an ally against your family”
  • “at some point you lose sight of your actual parents; you just see a basketful of history and unresolved issues”
  • “You never know when it will be the last time you’ll see your father, or kiss your wife, or play with your little brother, but there’s always a last time. If you could remember every last time, you’d never stop grieving.”

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