NetGalley Reads: Postcards for a Songbird

NetGalley Reads: Postcards for a Songbird

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Hello and happy Friday. This will be my last NetGalley review of January because I have to start focusing on February and trying to plan how everything’s going to go considering my vacation is over. Today I want to talk to you about a book I fell in love with almost immediately and an author that I certainly want to read more of in the future. I’m talking about Postcards for a Songbird by Rebekah Crane. This book was sent to me via NetGalley for reading and reviewing purposes, so as always, I’d like to thank them, the publisher and the author for the opportunity.

I read this book between December 23rd and December 25th, 2019 and gave it four stars. I’ll spoil this review a bit and say I’d totally planned on giving it five stars, but there was one detail towards the end that made me change my rating. It was silly, but not silly enough for me to let go of.

This is the story of Wren, whose mom left when she was a baby and whose sister and best friend Lizzie, just recently left as well. At the beginning of the book, we see that Wren is clearly overcome by absence, and her dad is so worried about her that he thinks it would be best for her to go live with her aunt in another city. The whole deal about the sibling who left gave me Where Things Come Back vibes at first, but as I keep thinking about it, it’s more like Paper Hearts by Ali Novak, since Lizzie left the house voluntarily and, as we discover, starts sending Wren postcards, hence the title of the story.

Wren’s dad is a police officer who works nights, so we don’t see those characters interacting much. We can see the effort he makes to have her kid live a “normal” life despite everything that’s happened to them. I really liked him as a character and I thought that we could witness a bit of development in his relationship with Wren. The plot twist I didn’t appreciate has to do with him and I honestly think his whole character was ruined by it.

The story takes place during the summer, and what we read about is Wren inadvertently taking her life back and in a way moving on from the burden of her mom and her sister. She starts realizing that there is a world outside of the bubble she and Lizzie used to live in, and that leads her to meet an amazing group of people. Besides that, she starts texting her next-door neighbor, a boy who cannot leave the house because he’s super sick and afraid of everything. Don’t worry, they don’t fall in love, although there is some romance.

One of the characters is physically abused by her father, so trigger warning for that. Overall, this is an emotionally charged story, and though we see growth and there are happy moments, it might not be the best choice for someone suffering from depression. To me, this book did what Jandy Nelson failed to do with I’ll Give You the Sun, which I didn’t really like.

Do you like books about siblings? Let me know in the comments.

Happy reading!

Love, Miss Camila

NetGalley Reads: Tweet Cute

NetGalley Reads: Tweet Cute

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Hello and happy Wednesday. I can tell someone out there is taking me more seriously as a book reviewer because I actually got asked to review today’s book. Not just that, but it’s part of a blog tour or something like that.  As always, I’d like to thank NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for this opportunity. By the way, if you’re a regular here, this book does not fit the theme of titles I’m reading for January; I simply decided the post the review today because the book was released yesterday.

I read Tweet Cute by Emma Lord between November 11th and November 17th, 2019 and gave it three stars. Let me tell you, I was honestly kind of scared to read this because it was so hyped I really wanted to genuinely like it. Based on my rating alone you can draw your own conclusions, but I’d like you to keep reading so that I can explain where the rating came from.

Most of the young adult books I currently read are backlisted titles, so when I read them I consider the fact that they were published years ago. Tweet Cute, though, is a 2020 release, so it is a current take into young adult romance. My expectations, of course, were high, since I think readers have become more critical throughout the years and expect their books to portray healthy romances, realistic characters, and to subvert tropes that are straight-up wrong. What I found, however, was a cookie-cutter story, at least at the beginning.

I’m going to say this now so that it doesn’t lead to confusion or eye rolls on your part: I know this is a re-telling of You’ve Got Mail, but I haven’t watched the movie (gasp) and I believe that, as an original piece of literature, it should stand on its own, so the comparison to the movie is unnecessary to me. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I’ll proceed to explain why I thought it was cookie-cutter.

You know a story is going to be predictable when the love interest is introduced in the first few pages of the story. In the case of this novel, our quirky main character with a silly nickname mentions her nemesis on page two, which led me to believe that this would be an enemies-to-lovers kind of story. Now, I must be fair to the novel and say it sort of was but it sort of wasn’t. Yes, there was rivalry, but the characters weren’t really enemies, more like the guy used to tease the girl and she got annoyed, but then they become friends.

This review is probably all over the place but so was the novel, so I feel like I must go back and forth when sharing my thoughts. The story is told from the perspective of Pepper, the female main character, and Jack, the male main character. Like I said, Jack sort of teases Pepper at school and she can’t stand him, but that’s at the very beginning of the book. On top of that, both Jack and Pepper’s families have food businesses: Jack’s family owns a deli that’s pretty much a staple in their neighborhood, and Pepper’s family owns a fast-food chain. Pepper is often in charge of the restaurant’s Twitter account, and she’s also into blogging. Judging by this information, and the title alone, we know that there’s going to be an online romance.

Although in theory, I like elements that are present in this novel, like the dual perspectives or the potential online romance, I felt that the chapters were too long, the perspectives weren’t really alternated in a way that made sense, and the romance was just one more plot device from a list of random events and situations presented by the author. It was just too much for a book that was supposed to be cute and lighthearted.

There was also a potential love triangle, which again, was introduced very early on. In a way, I feel like the author just handed the reader a bunch of drama that was going to be developed and resolved throughout the story, instead of introducing it as the plot progressed. We got all these things: Pepper’s grades, a Twitter feud between Pepper and Jack’s families, something about the swim team, Pepper and Jack’s online relationship and the fact that they didn’t know they were corresponding with each other…it wasn’t overwhelming but it was all over the place.

One thing that I noticed and despised was the fact that whenever a same-sex couple was mentioned, the only thing they were doing was making out. Even the people talking about them said that the only thing they did was making out. Ethan, Jack’s brother, had a boyfriend, and all the conversations regarding Ethan went like this: “Where’s Ethan?” “I don’t know, probably sucking face with his boyfriend.” It was okay the first time, but I noticed a pattern and I think it completely defeated the purpose of making this a diverse book.

I liked Jack way more than I liked Pepper, and I’ll acknowledge that as a me-problem. However, I think both characters were unrealistically portrayed when it came to their pop culture references. I found it odd, for example, that Jack talked about High School Musical, not because he’s a guy, but because that’s a movie that was relevant to people from my generation, people who are at least eight years older than Jack and Pepper.

When you get past all the initial drama that is thrown at you,  the story actually becomes enjoyable. I totally rooted for both characters and I think their relationship involved from kind of enemies to friends to a couple. I must say, though, that it takes so long for them to be “something else” that at times I thought I would’ve been just as happy if they ended up as friends or maybe the story ended with the possibility of more.

Overall, I’d make this story 100 pages shorter. I think there was too much drama added towards the end when everything seems to be resolved. This story made the same mistake as Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, in which the characters are completely unaware that they are talking to each other online. I found this even harder to believe in Tweet Cute since they’re actually getting closer in real life. I feel like that’s an indication that they don’t really know each other if they can’t even deduce from the texts they’ve been exchanging that they are talking to the other person. I don’t know. I just feel that I’d know who my man is even if he had a lame username. 

The whole miscommunication drama towards the end was absolutely unnecessary. I was finally enjoying my reading experience and all the conflicts were being resolved nicely, and then that happened. I could’ve totally done without it.

Do you have any cute online romance recommendations for me? Tell me about them in the comments below.

Happy reading!

Love, Miss Camila

NetGalley Reads: A People’s History of Heaven

NetGalley Reads: A People’s History of Heaven

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Hello and happy Wednesday. November and December of 2019 were good months for me blog-wise because I got four different requests to read and review books, which happens but not that often and not all at the same time. I was invited to be a part of a blog tour for A People’s History of Heaven by Mathangi Subramanian and of course I said yes because I’m always open to reading new books and sharing my thoughts about them with you, especially if they represent identities that are often invisibilized. Let me tell you, if you want diversity, read this book. I would like to thank NetGalley, the publishers and the authors for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour.

I read this book between December 30th, 2019 and January 1st, 2020 and gave it five stars. I actually interrupted my reading of other books to devour this one because I was captivated from the very first page. The very first page is a list of the characters with a brief description of them, and I love it when I get that because I feel that I can get to know the characters even before the beginning of the story. Right from that very first page, I felt similarly about this book as I felt towards The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock; I felt cozy, I felt like I was part of the characters’ lives and I felt like they would be a part of mine from then on.

From the initial description of the characters, we know that one of them is visually impaired (I’m not sure if this is the correct term to use, but it’s the one used in the book), one is queer, and one is a transwoman. The story is set in India and the story is own voices, so there is also representation for POC. Honestly, reading this book is almost like a must because at least in my case, it drove me away from the same bland setting and the same bland characters and the same bland authors.

Heaven, where the main characters (who are all female) live, is a slum in India that is being demolished by the government and turned into white-washed buildings like huge malls. I read about colonialism in India when I was in high school, of course, but I’d never read a novel that narrated what actual people went through, and it was eye-opening.

Every chapter or set of chapters focuses on one of the characters and alternates between the past and the present. In this way, it’s more like a collection of short stories that are tied up by the events of the present, the seemingly imminent destruction of the slum and the efforts of the women to stop it.

What books that discuss cultures other than the American or the Western one do you recommend? Let me know in the comments.

Happy reading!

Love, Miss Camila

NetGalley Reads: The Long-Lost Secret Diary of the World’s Worst Dinosaur Hunter

NetGalley Reads: The Long-Lost Secret Diary of the World’s Worst Dinosaur Hunter

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Hello and happy Friday. What a mouthful of a title, right? It seems like I’m suddenly obsessed with dinosaurs, but really it’s all part of this month’s theme, have you guessed it? Today I want to share a review of a middle-grade book I found super interesting and easy to read, so much so that I read it all in one day -in one sitting, actually. I’m talking about The Long-Lost Secret Diary of the World’s Worst Dinosaur Hunter by Tim Collins. This book was sent to me via NetGalley for reading and reviewing purposes, so I’d like to thank them, the author and the publisher for the opportunity.

I read this book on December 22nd and gave it for stars. One thing I love about this book is that it is illustrated. To me, illustrations add a lot to the reading experience. As a teacher, for example, I could have my kids read this book and I could use the illustrations to deepen the conversation, to ensure understanding if something in the text was not clear, or simply to provide a visual reference to the story.

The book is written in diary format written by Ann, our main character. Ann is based on Mary Anning, a real “dinosaur hunter.” I love that we have a female main character who is based on an actual historical figure because that challenges many stereotypes that live to this day about boys or men being the only ones interested in or capable of working as paleontologists.

The story starts with Ann digging what she calls “lizard fish” bones where she lives. Her dad sells these bones for almost nothing until someone comes and becomes interested in Ann’s findings. This leads to Ann traveling to London with her dad to talk about the bones she’d been digging to a group of paleontologists and then travel to the New World to continue her expedition and research.

Occasionally, we get these sections titled “Get Real,” which provide factual information to support the fiction we just read about. For example, we get clarification about the type of dinosaur Ann found, or we also get historical facts about the different places she and her dad visit. Like I said, this book has great educational value and I really enjoyed reading it.

What topic would you have liked to learn more about as a kid? Let me know in the comments.

Happy reading!

Love, Miss Camila

NetGalley Reads: The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster

NetGalley Reads: The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster

NETFLIX TALK_.pngHello and happy Friday. I don’t know what happened to me a few weeks ago but I was reading a lot. Among those books I read was one which I found super interesting, quick, and easy to read. I’m talking about The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster by Cary Fagan. This book was sent to me via NetGalley for reading and reviewing purposes, so I’d like to thank the author, NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity.

I read this book on December 23rd, 2019 and gave it four stars. If there were a half-star rating system, I would’ve probably given it four and a half stars. The main character, whose name I can’t remember, lives in a middle-of-nowhere-town and isn’t having a great time in life considering his older brother ran away from home. His family is trying to settle as best as they can with this, so their life is pretty uneventful until our main character goes to the public library and finds this artsy card with a quirky message and a number one.

The main character sets out to collect the other ones, and we all know I love a quest plot. He doesn’t really have much of a quest, considering that Gretchen Oyster, the artist behind the cards, lives in the same town and goes to high school with the main character’s older siblings. We get some chapters from her perspective and it’s interesting to see the process behind the creation of the postcards and what they entail for Gretchen.

I think one of the reasons why I read this book so quickly was the narration style. Think John Green or Adam Silvera; the main character/narration is telling the events as if they were talking to a friend, and I love that because it makes me really connect to the story. The chapters are super short, so they left me wanting to keep going and before I knew it, I was done with the book. I also really liked that we got inserts of the postcards made by Gretchen and since I had a digital copy they were in full color. It added to the experience of reading this novel.

While there are positive aspects to the story being short, you also as a reader have to consider that it will be lacking some depth and development. There’s stuff that’s glossed over, there are situations that resolve too easily or too quickly or none at all.  The characters don’t really grow or change in any way, but then again, I don’t think that was the purpose of this novel. The main character is thirteen years old, so I would say this is a good transition between middle grade and young adult since the contents are hard-hitting and raw at times.

What was the last book you read in one day? Would you recommend it? Tell me about it in the comments below.

Happy reading!

Love, Miss Camila

An Unexpected Find

An Unexpected Find

Hello and happy Wednesday. I’ve been trying to up my middle-grade game for some time now, but I’ve discovered that as a reader I’m sort of prejudging books in this age range. I say this because it’s happened to me a few times now that I’m overwhelmed by how much I end up liking a middle-grade novel as if I had originally thought I wouldn’t. I know that’s a “me” thing, and I know that the more I read middle-grade, the less prejudiced I’ll be towards it. Recently, for example, I read The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm and I was seriously amazed, so much so that I read the whole thing in one sitting.

I read this book on December 22nd, 2019 and gave it four stars. Per middle-grade fashion, it is a quick and easy read, and the chapters are really short. I’ve realized that the reason why I like short chapters is the fact that I feel encouraged to keep reading the next one, and then the next, until, before I realize it, I’m done with the book.

The main reason why I really enjoyed this novel is the fact that it subverts stereotypes or tropes that are present even in middle-grade. Our main character is Ellie, and her parents are divorced but they’re friends, like my own parents. There are no hints or suggestions that they’ll get back together, and Ellie lives a happy life with her mom, talking to her dad on the phone when he’s traveling and seeing him in person when he’s not.

Ellie’s mom is a drama teacher, and this causes her to be constantly arguing with Ellie’s grandfather, who is a scientist. At the beginning of the book, we’re told he’s just discovered the “cure” for aging, which makes him look like a thirteen-year-old. Aside from being a very original premise, I think it’s an awesome introduction to “harder” sci-fi or speculative books, especially for people like me, whose reading tastes are completely realistic.

Because Ellie’s grandpa now looks like a teenager, he starts living with her and her mom, going to school, and living like an actual teen -in his own way. They both form an uncommon bond, but one I like reading about: there’s just something about grandparent-grandchild relationships that warms my heart. Both characters start developing unlikely friendships with other people, like Raj, the goth kid.

The science component and the conversation about family relationships and what it means to age makes this, in my opinion, a great book to transition from middle grade to young adult. What are your general views toward middle grade? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy reading!

Love, Miss Camila

Series Saturday: Every Day

Series Saturday: Every Day

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Hello and happy Saturday. As I was updating my TBR and Wish Lists, I realized that I had started many series, but that I hadn’t finished them. And because I am me, I thought “challenge accepted,” so I looked at my Read Books on Goodreads and came up with a list of titles I’ve read that belong to series. The first Saturday of every month will be dedicated to a different series.

Today it’s David Levithan’s turn. His series Every Day is definitely one of a kind for me. It features A, who is basically a soul that migrates to a different body every single day and tries to leave the life of the person whose body they’re occupying as best as they can. That is until A meets Rhiannon when they must occupy her boyfriend’s body for a day. You get romance and adventures, but especially you get a conversation on love, gender identity and sexual orientation that is still very taboo for YA. Keep in mind that I read Every Day, which was the only book of the series that was out, in 2014, so talking about these matters was even more uncommon.

READ: 

Every Day (Book #1)

I gave it three stars, but to be fair, I was going through a rough patch when I read it, so that might have affected my rating. I read it from June 20h to June 22nd, 2014.

Another Day (Book #2)

This book is from Rhiannon’s perspective, while Every Day was from A’s, so maybe that made me like this book more. I gave it five stars and took the longest time reading it; from September 26th to December 6th, 2015.

TBR; 

There are no books from this series that I own and have yet to read.

WISHLIST: 

Six Earlier Days (Book #0.5)

Someday (Book #3)

Have you read any book from this series? What did you think about it? Let me know in the comments.

Happy reading!

Love, Miss Camila