Review The Edumacation of Jay Baker by Jay Clark

A few “sexy” bullet points about Jay: 
– He is in love with a cheerleader named Cameo “Appearance” Parnell 
– He is forever losing “Love-15” to tennis-playing goddess Caroline Richardson 
– He rocks a touche array of pop-culture references, jokes, and puns 
– His family-life cookie is about to crumble. 

Live vicariously through Jay as he faces off against his mortal enemy, gets awkward around his dream girl(s), loses his marbles in a Bermudian love triangle, watches his parents’ relationship implode, and, finally, learns to get real and be himself(ish).

Genre: YA Fiction
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Release Date: January 31, 2012
Page Count: 272
Source: My copy.
Rating: 3/5

I really liked this book. I liked Jay and his quirks, and loved (most) all of the supporting characters. He suffered from some serious teenage boy syndrome during his rival with Mike and the bad choices he made where Cameo was concerned, but he made up for it in character so that was okay.

I had a real hard time connecting with Cameo, who is mostly responsible for the loss of rating. I know the author tried to portray her as a mistake-prone girl with good intentions, but I just wasn’t buying it. She wasn’t sincere to me.

Caroline, however, I loved. I was able to picture her perfectly and could definitely see myself being friends with her. I know that the author’s fiancee is named Caroline (and he is Jay), so one can only hope that she is like Caroline in the novel, because she is really down to earth. I do wish that we could have experienced the development in their relationship though, rather than “it’s one month later and we’re dating”.

Ms. Lambert was probably my favorite character though. Funnier than even Jay, I thought she was witty and very intelligent. Anyone who has a teacher like this, who cares about their students as much as she did, is really lucky.

I knew going into the novel that its main plot point was a love triangle (which I usually stay away from at all costs) but it wasn’t overdone so it turned out okay. Plus, it was told from a boy’s perspective which is not as common, so I was interested to see how that would play out.

Wholly, The Edumacation of Jay Baker is a humorous, witty contemporary that does deal with some real issues (divorce, etc.), but is not a tearjerker or anything like that. I would recommend it for a pretty light read.

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Review Lucid by Adrienne Stoltz & Ron Bass

What if you could dream your way into a different life? What if you could choose to live that life forever?

Sloane and Maggie have never met. Sloane is a straight-A student with a big and loving family. Maggie lives a glamorously independent life as an up-and-coming actress in New York. The two girls couldn’t be more different–except for one thing. They share a secret that they can’t tell a soul. At night, they dream that they’re each other.

The deeper they’re pulled into the promise of their own lives, the more their worlds begin to blur dangerously together. Before long, Sloane and Maggie can no longer tell which life is real and which is just a dream. They realize that eventually they will have to choose one life to wake up to, or risk spiraling into insanity. But that means giving up one world, one love, and one self, forever.

This is a dazzling debut that will steal readers’ hearts.

Genre: YA Psychological Thriller
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: October 2, 2012 (my brother’s birthday!)
Page Count: 342
Source: My copy.
Rating: 5/5

If I went with my first instinct, I would want to give this book five stars. Ideally, for me, I would give this book two ratings: one for the first half (three stars) and one for the second (five stars). But that’s just not how it works so I’ll go with four. (You’ll notice I rated it five stars. I’ll explain that later.)

This book was really two different books for me. Somewhere in the second half, without warning, it went from the story of two teenagers falling in love to a mind-bending psychological thriller. Shutter Island wasn’t as terrifying, and I really wasn’t expecting that from this book.

Lucid started out with two teenagers just trying to find their place in the world. I loved Maggie and quickly disliked Sloane (and her name). Maggie was a free-spirited, outgoing, driven young person, a girl I had to keep reminding myself was seventeen. She rose to the challenge and acted so far beyond her years it was astonishing to me. I admired her strength. Sloane, on the other hand, was an angst-ridden teenage girl who only cared about a cute boy she didn’t know, as opposed to her dead best friend. She swore to God after proudly professing her atheism and seems to care only about having a boyfriend who drives a Porsche. Which okay, is realistic. Sometimes, these are the things that teens care about. But when you put them side by side like that: Maggie, pursuing an acting career, stepping up to take care of her sister, and Sloane, ditching her brother when he really needs her because all she wants to think about is this boy (with whom her relationship is, frankly, kind of obsessive), it’s really kind of pathetic. Mostly, I just wanted to slap some sense into this girl. I wanted to wave Maggie in front of her face and yell, Pay attention! You could learn something.

And so I suffered through Sloane’s chapters because I wanted to learn more about Maggie and her glamorous, albeit lonely, life. Alongside her, I wanted to walk Jade’s dog and go to auditions and fall in love with Andrew. And her side of the story was all at once beautiful and sophisticated, told intelligently from the perspective of a seventeen year old girl turning twenty-six. And that’s not to say her life was perfect because it definitely was not, she just happened to rise to the occasion and make the very best of it, where Sloane could not.

And as I’m writing this review, I thought about changing my review to a three because of how much I disliked Sloane (and her name) and the way the ending went, but by doing that I just proved to myself how deep the psychology of this novel goes and therefore the rating will stay. Because it’s fucking brilliant.

Oh, man. I gotta give this book five stars.

Explaining the depths of this novel and how far it goes to fuck with your head is really difficult without spoiling it. There’s a word I want to say to try to explain, but I can’t even say that word because I’m afraid that will spoil it. (I even looked at other reviews. They didn’t say the word.)

Let me just say this. Everything in this novel is a piece. You may not think it is as you’re reading it and you may just think its another angst-ridden YA novel, but it’s not. It is, but it’s not. It is because it’s not. Or it’s not because it is? DO YOU SEE WHAT I MEAN.

Read it. Just give it a chance. It will seriously fuck with your head, terrify you to the bone, and leave you feeling breathless. And (like me), you’ll realize (hopefully not in the middle of writing a fucking review!) how brilliant it really is. I’m a bit sad that I can’t explain how passionately I feel about it for fear of spoiling it, but if you’ve read it you’ll understand. And if you haven’t, you should.


Rot & Ruin (Benny Imura #1) by Jonathan Maberry

In the zombie-infested, post-apocalyptic America where Benny Imura lives, every teenager must find a job by the time they turn fifteen or get their rations cut in half. Benny doesn’t want to apprentice as a zombie hunter with his boring older brother Tom, but he has no choice. He expects a tedious job whacking zoms for cash, but what he gets is a vocation that will teach him what it means to be human.

Genre: YA Dystopian
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: September 14, 2010
Page Count: 458
Source: My copy.
Rating: 3/5

This book began with some serious eye-rolling from me. I mean, the monsters were called Zoms (is the word zombie so long that it warrants abbreviation?), and our main character was a lazy, angst-ridden teenager who had no appreciation for the cozy world he lived in or the people who worked hard to keep him safe. I said in one of my status updates that Benny had better undergo some serious character development for me to even remotely get along with him, and thankfully, he did. The problem is, I just don’t feel invested in these characters. Or maybe I do. Maybe I just don’t like them very much. But I don’t think that is entirely their fault. The problem is, that the people, the adults that belong to this town of Mountainside shelter themselves and their children so much, that they have no idea what life is really like outside the fences. I mean, really, Benny thinks killing zombies is fun and there are fucking zombie cards. This is not a game. Surviving in the zombie apocalypse is not fun. It’s fucking terrifying. And the adults of this novel are so, so stupid (and Tom you are not exempt because you did the same thing). I just… I can’t even. I can’t wrap my head around the stupidity and negligence of these people. No one wants to talk about anything with each other or with the children, and yet they think it’s okay to send their children out to something that’s called the “Rot & Ruin” when their fifteen. Fifteen. Which, okay, is not that young, especially in the apocalypse, but at least prepare them! I mean, shit, one of your own kids thinks the local factory is producing soda when it is in fact producing cadaverine or whatever the name is… zombie juice. I mean, it makes you smell dead. So, yeah. Not soda. But how could you let your own child walk around that oblivious to everything? I’ve never encountered anything so foolish in my life.

Jonathan Maberry can write a sentence. There’s no doubt about that. I found beauty in normality every few pages. Having said that, the book still reads like a B Movie. I don’t know if that’s a zombie thing or what (this is my first zombie book). I watch The Walking Dead, which is, to me, very real and not B movie-ish at all, but the dialogue and inner monologue here kind of killed me. I couldn’t help but think that people don’t really think like that and definitely (at times) don’t talk like that. It was kind of corny, some of it. So, yeah. I’m not experienced in zombie matters so I don’t know if that’s what zombie-lovers look for (my husband LOVES “corny zombie movies”), but it stood out for me. And the cover and spine are sort of B movie-ish, too. Like I said, I don’t know if that’s just “the thing”.

Besides the stupidity of the characters, the novel was pretty predictable. There were at least two instances where I said to myself, I totally saw that coming. I thought it was drawn out. I went into this novel expecting a suspenseful adventure and that’s not really what I got. At all. It was more of a slow and steady kind a novel. Which is fine, in some cases, but this being a zombie book, I expected more action & adventure. I think I would have been a lot more invested if it was a non-stop thriller kind of thing. Instead, by page 300 (just over halfway through), I wanted to be done with it. Finishing the book was more of a chore for me.

The characters do develop eventually, especially Benny, Nix, and even Tom, so they get easier to deal with. Nix mostly annoyed me with her overwrought emotions, but she is a badass chick who can hold her own, so there’s that. And Maberry did a good job with the bad guys, I truly hated them and wanted them all to die. Wholly though, I just didn’t find myself being very invested in the story or its characters. It was kind of a meh book for me where I didn’t love it or hate it and that’s not the kind of story I really look forward to revisiting. I am conflicted about reading the sequel though. Lilah, though everyone thinks she’s crazy, to me, is the most sane character out of all of them. And the second book seems to focus on that. So I may pick it up. I haven’t decided yet.


Review The Coincidence of Callie and Kayden by Jessica Sorensen

There are those who don’t get luck handed to them on a shiny platter, who end up in the wrong place at the wrong time, who don’t get saved.

Luck was not on Callie’s side the day of her twelfth birthday when everything was stolen from her. After it’s all over, she locks up her feelings and vows never to tell anyone what happened. Six years later her painful past consumes her life and most days it’s a struggle just to breathe.

For as long as Kayden can remember, suffering in silence was the only way to survive life. As long as he did what he was told, everything was okay. One night, after making a terrible mistake, it seems like his life might be over. Luck was on his side, though, when Callie coincidentally is in the right place at the right time and saves him.

Now he can’t stop thinking about the girl he saw at school, but never really knew. When he ends up at the same college as Callie, he does everything he can to try to get to know her. But Callie is reserved and closed off. The more he tries to be part of her life, the more he realizes Callie might need to be saved.

Genre: New Adult
Publisher: Independent
Release Date: December 13, 2012
Page Count: 296
Source: My copy.
Rating: 2/5

Can I just say how much I hate fucking cliffhangers? Because, really, there’s a cliffhanger, and there’s a Cassandra Clare cliffhanger, and then there’s this cliffhanger. And the first two I can deal with, but there’s something very immature and noncommittal about ending a novel in the middle of the story. And that’s exactly what the author did here. She did not finish the story. And, series or not, that is unacceptable.

Two stars seems harsh for this book, especially since I liked the characters and the story they had to offer me, but two stars is for “it was okay”, and, with the amateur writing, the book turned out just okay for me.

I thought this novel could use an editor. Between the constant knitting of eyebrows and the lack of originality (see “knight in shining armor” or “think with your head and not with your dick” – so cliche), I thought the language could use some work.

This is one of my first experiences with New Adult and I thought that went alright. I fully expected it to read like a YA book but it didn’t – it fully encompassed the elements of a new adult’s life. So that was good. Like I said, I liked the characters and thought their connection was believable. I thought Kayden could be a little bit over the top at times, and despised Callie for expecting Kayden to do something about his life while she was on a downward spiral herself, but these were forgivable instances. Most of the time, I really liked them as human beings and felt for their circumstances and the pain they went through.

All in all, I thought the story flowed well and the writing needed work. I hated the ending (or lack thereof) and am kind of on the fence about reading the sequel. Like I said, it was okay.


Review Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by David Levithan & Rachel Cohn

It all starts when Nick asks Norah to be his girlfriend for five minutes. He only needs five minutes to avoid his ex-girlfriend, who’s just walked in to his band’s show. With a new guy. And then, with one kiss, Nick and Norah are off on an adventure set against the backdrop of New York City;and smack in the middle of all the joy, anxiety, confusion, and excitement of a first date.

This he said/she said romance told by YA stars Rachel Cohn and David Levithan is a sexy, funny roller coaster of a story about one date over one very long night, with two teenagers, both recovering from broken hearts, who are just trying to figure out who they want to be;and where the next great band is playing.

Told in alternating chapters, teeming with music references, humor, angst, and endearing side characters, this is a love story you’ll wish were your very own. Working together for the first time, Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have combined forces to create a book that is sure to grab readers of all ages and never let them go.

Genre: YA Fiction
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Release Date: August 26, 2008
Page Count: 208
Source: My copy.
Rating: 4/5

Having seen Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist The Movie, and loving it (except the emphasis on Norah’s non-orgasms, that was weird [and I’m glad there was only a single mention of it in the book]) I really wanted to read this book. I also liked Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares (mostly), which made me want to get my hands on this book even more. And I really did enjoy it. Even more than I did Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares.

I could see how the overuse of the word “fuck” or any variation of it could make readers want to shy away from this novel (especially being teen fiction and all), but I thought it was appropriate. My views on swearing and sex in teen fiction is this: teens swear. A lot. And sex is part of their lives as much if not more so (with the pressures that go with teen life) than adults. And I don’t think the adults writing the teen fiction should censor these novels to a point where the elements of these teens’ lives are not present. And so, the passionate swearing in this novel worked for me. I think both characters were really passionate in their lives and it made sense for them to express themselves with such passion. But I’ll tell you right now, if the word “fuck” bothers you, you’re not going to want to read this book.

I thought, at times, that Nick was a bit sensitive for a teenage boy, but he had just broken up with his girlfriend so it wasn’t totally unwarranted. But I absolutely loved Norah. She was strong, yet aware of her weaknesses and the mistakes that she made. She had loving parents, which was refreshing – I realize not all teens have that perfection in their lives where parents are concerned, but the reality is that some do, and it was nice to see that. I think Nick and Norah had amazing chemistry – especially in that one scene, whew! – and I enjoyed seeing their relationship develop. Somehow the authors did not enter insta-love territory, despite the fact that the entire novel is the course of one night, they kept it classy – these teens were actually interested in getting to know one another. I loved the backdrop of the music scene – it all felt very genuine. The novel was really short, but not too short to develop the characters. I thought the whole thing was executed brilliantly.


Review Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore

Nimira is a music-hall performer forced to dance for pennies to an audience of leering drunks. When wealthy sorcerer Hollin Parry hires her to do a special act – singing accompaniment to an exquisite piano-playing automaton, Nimira believes it is the start of a new life. In Parry’s world, however, buried secrets stir. 
Unsettling below-stairs rumours abound about ghosts, a mad woman roaming the halls, and of Parry’s involvement in a gang of ruthless sorcerers who torture fairies for sport. When Nimira discovers the spirit of a dashing young fairy gentleman is trapped inside the automaton’s stiff limbs, waiting for someone to break the curse and set him free, the two fall in love. But it is a love set against a dreadful race against time to save the entire fairy realm, which is in mortal peril.

Genre: YA Fantasy
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Release Date: February 1, 2010
Page Count: 225
Source: My copy.
Rating: 2/5

I did not like this book. I rolled my eyes a lot. Fantastically, the second half was better than the first, but there was still eye-rolling. And that ending!

Page 63, and hello insta-love. Our protagonist has fallen for an automaton. Which is not that far fetched, I guess, considering he is alive, but, up to that point, barely anything has passed between them! They have had like, one conversation, that involved them communicating their names to each other. Which is hardly grounds for true love. I mean, I could even understand the insta-love, the story being set in Jane Austen days (I’m guessing, there were carriages?) but I just expected more from Nimira. She didn’t appear to be one of those girls. She exuded strength, even in the very beginning when times were tough for her, and I expected more character from her. And I could totally see her falling in love with Erris when he is no longer an automaton (well not really an automaton) – I mean the guy is hot. And charming. And a prince. – but not before.

The characters are memorable (even the bad ones), I have to give the author that. The world building was even good – I pictured the story’s setting very easily, especially as the characters moved place to place. And though nothing particularly wonderful stands out about the writing, the story did flow well. But the romance was so, so cheesy.

And that ending! It was terrible. It was one of those endings that tried to be mysterious in leaving the reader to think about it and come to their own conclusions about where the characters end up? But it didn’t work. The most pertinent question that you want the answer to never gets resolved. And as far as I know, there is not a sequel. So if you’re like me, and you can’t stand insta-lovey books that leave you with more questions than answers, I wouldn’t recommend this book.


Review Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by David Levithan & Rachel Cohn

“I’ve left some clues for you.
If you want them, turn the page.
If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.”

So begins the latest whirlwind romance from the bestselling authors ofNick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?

Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have written a love story that will have readers perusing bookstore shelves, looking and longing for a love (and a red notebook) of their own.

Genre: YA Fiction
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date: December 26, 2010
Page Count: 260
Source: My copy.
Rating: 3/5

The simple truth is, I loved this book until That Thing Happened. I thought Dash was an intelligent, unique, rooted boy who I could very easily relate to and I thought Lily was quite charming. I think Levithan and Cohn make a sensational team and frankly, I cannot count on two hands how many times this book made me laugh out loud. Really, laugh.

But the book was a bit pretentious. The reason I say it like that is because I read a review in which the reader rated it lowly because of its pretentious nature and I didn’t really believe it. But now I understand. The story goes from Dash wanting to meet Lily to Lily making a fool of herself to Dash thinking they shouldn’t have met, not because of what Lily did but because they just… shouldn’t? Why? And I don’t know if I’m just being naive or if I just wanted them to work so badly or what, but I feel like I don’t understand his reasoning. I mean, I understand that the girl in his head probably doesn’t exist and if she does, Lily is most likely not that girl, but if he realizes that the girl in his head doesn’t exist, then what is wrong with Lily, if her fault is not her actions. This is where the book felt pretentious to me. I felt like that there was an inner meaning to the whole girl (or boy) in our heads, but I don’t think that inner meaning really shined through in this novel. It was never really achieved.

And Lily. I really liked her, but what she did, how she acted in that one instance that served as a first impression, was unforgivable. Not only was it out of character, but it was as if she had completely given up on herself, not to mention Dash. And she just declined from there. I had gained so much respect for her and her morals, I was completely floored by her. And its in instances like this where my opinion conflicts with that of the entire book population. Sometimes, I don’t feel that a story needs conflict. For me, it would have been okay to tell Lily and Dash’s story without forcing for Lily to do something stupid to delay the whole thing. I think it would have been okay for them to stay true to themselves instead of make the mistakes that they made. And everyone makes mistakes – I understand that – but personally, I can’t stand in books when one person becomes two different people. And because Lily was That Person, I don’t feel that she really was right for Dash, and therefore disagreed with the rest of the book.

Apart from that, I absolutely loved Dash and all of his friends. Especially Boomer. He was one of the most kindhearted characters I have come in contact with in a long time. I think the book had strong world building – I could really picture New York from where I sat – and I really enjoyed the premise of the story. I thought it was executed well, like I said, until That Thing Happened that really propelled the story in the wrong way for me. But in a way, Dash’s character drove it home for me. Despite my disagreements with the story as a whole, I really enjoyed falling into his chapters and getting to know him as a person. He was very interesting.

I would recommend this book for solid writing, to readers who are looking for a light read, and who may be a bit more forgiving of humans than I am.