NetGalley Reads: Postcards for a Songbird

NetGalley Reads: Postcards for a Songbird

NETFLIX TALK_.png

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

NETFLIX TALK_ (1).png

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: 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

NETFLIX TALK_ (2).png

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

NetGalley Reads: The Dog Walker’s Diary

NetGalley Reads: The Dog Walker’s Diary

NETFLIX TALK_ (3).png

Hello and happy Friday. Usually, when I’m reading a book and I change my mind about it, it’s for the better, but sometimes I’m reading something awesome that all of a sudden turns out to be less than. This is what happened to me with The Dog Walker’s Diary by Kathryn Donahue, a book that was sent to me for reading and reviewing purposes. I’d like to thank NetGalley, the author and the publisher for this opportunity.

I read this book between October 9th and October 11th, 2019 and gave it three stars. There’s this distasteful “joke” at the beginning about the main character’s behavior being similar to the one of a person with Tourette’s, schizophrenia, and Asperger. Oh, and “anorexic” is never an appropriate adjective. Look, if as an author, you can’t find enough adjectives to describe someone’s behavior that you must make fun of mental illness and neurodiversity, maybe you shouldn’t write at all. If that alone is cause for you not to read this book, I get it. I, however, kept reading and found myself drawn to the story…until halfway through. I’ll further explain this later.

The main character of this book is a man in his forties who has two dogs and finds himself hiring this dog walker. Besides his narration, we get his and the dog walker’s/ love interest’s entries in a “dog diary,” which is their way to correspond. I thought this was super original and it was a nice way to see, and not be told, how the relationship between the characters evolved. The characters are called Daniel and Annie, by the way.

Daniel is strange, and he admits to this. He is very superstitious and awkward, and he admits to being incapable of falling in love. He is also afraid of redheads, which is very unfortunate considering Annie is a redhead. However bad he might seem, he is absolutely adorable with his dogs, which to me helped redeem him as a character. Annie is very smart and witty, and in her diary entries, he writes stories to Daniel about his dogs’ past lives, which I found amazing.

If you’re reading this expecting a traditional romance novel, look elsewhere. Although the relationship between Daniel and Annie develops throughout the first half of the book into a romance, this is not really the center of the plot. You see, Daniel is a literary agent, and he becomes interested in Annie’s stories but is also weary at the fact that maybe she contacted him with the sole purpose of getting them published. We also read about this subplot in which Daniel gets a client who wrote a masterpiece and he wants to publish it.

Because the story alternates between what Annie and Daniel writes and his narration, I got Big Fish/ My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry Vibes, where you have this fantastic story with other-worldly characters, but it has some truth to it. So far I’ve been talking wonders about the first half of the book, but what really troubled me was the second half.

There’s also a potential love triangle that has the characters fake-dating each other at some point, but I was down for that since I knew they were perfect for each other and would end up together.

A little over halfway through, the story starts focusing way more on Annie and Daniel’s romance, and for a person who’s read so much, I know that nothing good comes from two characters who get together when we still have 50% of the story to read. Also, I didn’t like that Annie’s stories stopped abruptly and we didn’t get them anymore. I know that by having the characters be a couple, the written correspondence didn’t need to happen, but it would’ve been nice to have a story thrown here and there.

So, the characters do get together and then it was like someone had changed the book I was reading because the plot didn’t make any sense. We start getting these silly plot twists and time jumps, and honestly, it was as if the author had gotten bored with the story and wanted to end it in any way possible. It would have been better to have the two halves of the book divided into their own separate books, in which case I wouldn’t have read book two.

Have you been negatively surprised by a book you loved at first? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy reading!

Love, Miss Camila

 

 

NetGalley Reads: The French Impressionist

NetGalley Reads: The French Impressionist

NETFLIX TALK_.pngHello and happy Friday. I’m super distracted this morning, but that needs to change right now because today I bring you a NetGalley rant. NetGalley in a way is like online dating. There are these books that you wouldn’t be too impressed about based on the cover and description, but then you read and you’re absolutely amazed. And there are this shiny pretty covers that are super promising but that don’t amount to anything. That being said, I’m always happy to have access to free books and to be able to share my thoughts on them with you.

I read The French Impressionist by Rebecca Bischoff between October 14th and October 19th, 2019 and gave it one star. The basic premise of this book, and what we find out on the very first page is that the main character has lied so that she could travel to France during the summer. She’s staying with this family she refers to as “her new family” and as the first chapters progress we are told that she is actually running away from her home in the States and that, although she has somehow tricked a bunch of people to believe she’s only going to spend the summer abroad, her plan is to stay in France forever.

At first, I thought we would have some sort of magic realism thrown into the plot because the main character, whose name is Rosemary, is staying with a family of artists and in her room, there’s this mural that sometimes lights up. It’s not magical realism, but more of the beginnings of a mystery plot that sadly isn’t well developed. I think this is one of those stories that had a lot of potential but the author just made all the wrong choices.

We find out that Rosemary has set up this whole plan to escape her house because her mother is extremely controlling, to the point where, at the age of fifteen, Rosemary has never been around guys her age. Although I liked that plotline and the whole idea of her plan to be free, it was hard to believe that we were dealing with a fifteen-year-old. I think she could’ve been eighteen and the story would’ve worked much better.

I’m inclined to believe this is a debut novel considering some mistakes the author made. For example, we were told what the main character was going through, but it wasn’t like we were experiencing it with her. The main character has some sort of speech pathology, and her diagnosis isn’t even specified until much later in the book, which was odd, but also could have been that the author added this fact to make the story interesting and mentioned a speech pathology after a quick Wikipedia search. Besides that, given her condition, Rosemary cannot pronounce her name properly. We are told this, but we are never told how she pronounces her name or why is her pronunciation incorrect. By the way the whole “communication disorder” was handled, I don’t think this novel is own voices, so I cannot speak about the representation in this aspect.

I thought this book was plain bad and I was going to give it two stars, but then the main character decides she will lie about her mom’s boyfriend abusing her so that she can stay in France forever, and we all know that’s the kind of thing I can’t accept. I don’t even understand how a platform like NetGalley would promote a book with this kind of plot. It is plain wrong and it sends a horrible message to all readers, especially those within the young adult age range. Additionally, the main character’s best friend has cerebral palsy and the way Rosemary talks about her is just disgusting, making fun of her friend’s disabilities. Seriously NetGalley, you can do better.

Do you have any recommendations for stories based on big shady schemes? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy reading!

Love, Miss Camila

 

NetGalley Reads: Under the Dusty Moon

NetGalley Reads: Under the Dusty Moon

 

Hello and happy Friday. Today I tripled my moving goal according to my Apple Watch, and it shows because I am very close to falling asleep as I type. And yes, I’ve already taken a nap on the bus because being a teacher is tough, especially on a Friday. It was also very tough to read Under the Dusty Moon by Suzanne Sutherland, which was provided to me in exchange for a review, so I’d like to thank NetGalley, the author, and the publisher. Let’s get started, shall we?

I read this book between August 3rd and August 8th, 2019 and gave it one star. It’s one of those books that misled me at first and made me think it was a middle grade when it totally wasn’t. Maybe it was the cutesy cover or the title, which to me suggested like a camping adventure among friends or something, or maybe it was the completely juvenile tone the main character had. Anyway, don’t get confused, this is a YA novel and there are mentions of sex and drug consumption. I’m not against the former, but the latter was unnecessary.

Pretty early into the novel, we are introduced to the main character’s mom, who used to be in a famous Canadian band years ago and is now a solo artist. You’d think, like I did, that the novel will revolve around the main character’s relationship with her mom (if I keep saying “the main character” is because I can’t remember her name), but it’s just one of those slice-of-life type of novels in which we just follow a character around for a while. In this novel, we suffer through her issues with her mom, the lamest romantic relationship in the history of trashy YA, and her adventures as an amateur videogame developer. I’m making it sound way cooler than it is.

I think the author had many chances to salvage this story, and she just ignored them. We’ve all read this story before because it’s full of tropes, and on top of that, it’s poorly written. There was no originality whatsoever, no wow factor, and that made the novel pretty boring. The main character, for example, was written to be relatable because, of course, all teenage girls have issues with their moms, but to me, she was pretty much the opposite. She was overly whiny and, honestly, most of the times she hated on her mom for absolutely no reason. We need more healthy relationships portrayed in YA, not the opposite.

The reason why I gave this one star and not two was a “joke” about child abuse made after the mom pokes her daughter or something. No, just don’t. Additionally, there is a comment about how one of the characters’ house is in a nicer neighborhood because the main character lives in a place where there are immigrants. The child abuse “joke” was plain stupid, but the comment about a neighborhood not being “one of the good ones” because immigrants lived there is simply unacceptable.

Do you know of any novels, YA or middle grade, that portray healthy relationships between parents and children? Tell me about them in the comments below.

Happy reading!

Love, Miss Camila