Blame It On the Mistletoe by Beth Garrod

Things I loved about this book:

it opens with Holly reading a letter she wrote to herself at the end of Christmas the previous year. As an avid 5 year diary keeper and writer of letters to my future self (end of school year, to beginning of next year) I think this is a SPLENDID idea and can’t believe I don’t already do this. I love this idea of starting the holiday season by reading a letter from the previous year. (I have occasionally left myself notes in the decorations.)

the descriptions of adorable British Christmas

Things I didn’t love about this book:

Sometimes it was actually hard to keep track of the characters. The point of view switches back and forth between the Brit in America and the American in England. It really shouldn’t have been that complicated to keep them straight, but somehow it was. Does that mean the characters weren’t different enough?

The American brother’s “secret” was not very believable. Basically all the family stuff seemed dumb.

OK, I suppose there were a lot in this book that was fairly silly, or just too shallow in terms of its place in the story. So, not the best. BUT I did really enjoy the holiday spirit and it’s not like it was a taxing read. I also found the idea of a teenager trying to have thousands of followers on IG and have her account be a thing just kind of nauseating. But the jolly holiday spirit triumphs and the playlist at the back is fun.

Your Life Has Been Delayed by Michelle I. Mason

Read: 11/20-11/21

This caught my eye at the library the other day because when I read the description I said “This is that tv show-Manifest!” That was the show about a plane that took off and when it landed it was years later. The people in the plane had no idea, but everyone in the outside world thought the plane vanished without a trace and everyone was dead. Fascinating premise! Alas, we only lasted like 2 episodes before giving up. This book, on the other hand, totally hooked me and I couldn’t stop reading it until it was done. I’m so curious about the age of the author and whether she intended the things I found most deeply interesting to be so interesting. 
In the story it is 1995 and Jenny is 17 when she boards her flight from NYC to St. Louis. She has a new boyfriend, a best friend, and just had a great time staying with her grandparents and planning to attend college in the city. She’s ready for her first kiss and her senior year. It’s a short flight but when they land there is a bit of a kerfuffle with the air control tower. They land and are ushered into a room where they are told the astonishing news that it is now 2020. 
The rest of the book is really about Jenny adjusting to 2020, trying to cope with the fact that her best friend is now a mom and basically the age her own mom was when she left. Her own parents are now grandparent age. The choice of years and ages are perfect for this story. Now, I wasn’t 17 in 1995-I was 23-but I’d say for understanding this story I’m part of Jenny’s generation. Much like the saying of the frog in boiling water-when you live through 25 years you adjust to things as they happen and it’s not such a big deal. But when you jump the 25 years and see things that have changed-it’s like jumping into boiling water. It’s hugely different. I really hope lots of teens (including my own) read this book and maybe get some insight into how the world has changed since their parents were teens: school shootings, 9/11, fashion (she is perplexed at people wearing work out clothes in public, at how revealing clothing is), cell phones (the internet existed, but cell phones being used as cameras and having the internet on them is mind blowing to her.) and the two most interesting things: social media and conspriacy theorist rabble rousing idiots having any kind of platform at all.  Jenny voices things that I do think about and wish we could turn the clock back on. I’m sure morons and conspiracy theorists existed in 1995 but without social media they didn’t have a voice. And yes, they have changed the world for the worse. (see in particular: the past six years.)

Now, this is a YA book so there’s a little romance angle and some stuff I was less interested in, but whatever. I really thought this was great and I’m sure coming at this as an adult reader relating to Jenny I found it overall more thoughtful and melancholy and reflective than it actually is or is meant to be, but there you have it.

Friends Forever by Shannon Hale

Read 10/4/21

Highly anticipated as I loved the first two and was eager to see how Shannon continues to deal with adolescent friendships. I was not quite prepared for this one to be quite a bit more mature than the first two, although it obviously makes chronological sense. I mean, it is her life and she is getting older.
Shannon does reflect on and refer to the friendship groups she had in the first books, she once again seamlessly mentions her faith (Jesus seems like a nice pal of hers), but now there is a lot boy-girl relationships that she faces, as well as a real mental health crisis. Some boys (and girls) seem willing to make out with anyone, but she’s pretty sure that’s not for her. She’s also realizing that 1980s Utah is super sexist and experiences anxiety/depression that no one seems to really notice. [I really wanted to step into the book and have a word with her parents.] She also has an icky experience which adult Shannon addresses in an afterward.

I really felt badly for her and while it’s terrible knowing that that’s what went on in her life, as least you know she DOES grow up to become a very successful and happy author.

Secrets of Camp Whatever by Chris Grine

Earlier this summer I was at Girl Scout camp. While my unit was doing origami I saw that one of the other counselors had left a graphic novel on the table. I picked it up and happily read half of it. Took a pic of the cover and put the book on hold so that when we got home I could finish reading it.
This was terrific (and I see it’s a vol. 1).
I could definitely see this having high appeal for kids who like Gravity Falls and Over the Garden Wall. It’s got gnomes, people disappearing, vampires about rumors, and kids on a self contained island at a camp with a reputation.

Very enjoyable.

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

I LOVED this. When I told my friends about it they all immediately said too sad, not for me, etc. But for a story about two main characters who you know will die at the end (it’s right there in the title) this was remarkably uplifting and sweet and hopeful and not maudlin.

The world is pretty much like now except that between 12-3am each night those who will die in the next 24 hours receive a phone call letting them know this. How? Handily glossed over with one of the phoners saying they don’t even know where the info comes from.  Industries and social norms have sprung up around this-people have funerals that they can be present at, there are online forums and twitter feeds to follow Deckers’ updates throughout their day (Deckers-those who will die), and they can have all kinds of final experiences (virtual skydiving, travel, etc.) You don’t know the time of death or method.

Our story follows Rufus and Mateo, just 17 and 18 years old, and their final day. Both use Last Friend, an app that pairs people together on their last day. I think this would have been sadder for me if I had to see their parents knowing their children were going to die, but some plot conveniently made that not happen.

As they go through the day together it becomes a story of friends helping each other become their best, live their last day with purpose, and finding the right person knowing it will end at any moment.

This was a beautiful story and I loved it all. Again, sweetly uplifting rather than tragic and maudlin.

We Are Inevitable by Gayle Forman

(Thank you to Netgalley & Penguin Teen)

I was super interested in this story because 1. Gayle Forman and 2. set in a bookstore. Unfortunately for Aaron, the bookstore is failing. Like, really failing. Every since his brother died (drugs) and his mother left, his father has been delicate and frail and seems pretty checked out from the reality of this failing business in this very small town. Aaron is in an interesting stage-out of high school, didn’t go to college, sort of at loose ends, and also being the only one who seems worried about money and their failing business. I mean, there just doesn’t seem to be a happy ending here. There’s another guy in town he went to high school with who was a real bro type guy that Aaron didn’t like. After an accident (extreme sports?) that guy is in a wheelchair. Somehow he ends up getting Aaron to take him to a club to see a band and it’s there that Aaron meets the girl he instantly falls for.
This is definitely not a sweet happy love story. The whole thing felt sort of moody and sad, even though it was tempered by the humorous bits about these older guys taking on the bookstore as a renovation project. Aaron resists help and friendship and it’s frustrating to see him be that way and to see what has become of his family ever since his brother’s death.
I feel like everything I wrote makes it seem like I didn’t like this story-but that’s not true. Forman is a great writer and I was sincerely interested in Aaron and what would happen to him. I wanted the romance to work out, but more than that I wanted Aaron to find some hope in the world and I wanted that bookstore to succeed.

This is not the Jess Show by Anna Carey

I read this all the way back in March, which feels like a lifetime ago. At the time, on Goodreads, I said “Compulsively readable. I love stories with this sort of plot. I am a little surprised to see this is a #1, meaning there will be a sequel.”

Stand by that brief review! I’d like to say more, but it’s all spoilery. So scroll down for plot details.

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This was totally a Truman Show story, which you pretty quickly figure out. What interesting is how Jess figures things out and also the role that her show plays in the world.

Girl on the Run by Abigail Johnson

Good grief, I read this back in April (3 months ago). I’m not sure I have more to add here than in my extremely brief GR review: “I’m not a big thriller reader, so this YA entry in the genre was just right for me-very fast paced, not too long, and not graphically violent (although there is plenty of beating up.) They mystery is a little far out, but I enjoyed it enormously.”

Kind of like the Naturals series by Jennifer Barnes–I’d rather read this type of story for a YA audience than an adult thriller. In this story the title tells it all-mysterious never making connections with people, moving a lot, suddenly racing out of the house on the run, the mom clearly has secrets galore, who should she trust??

The Overthrow series by Kenneth Oppel

Bloom, Hatch, and Thrive are the individual titles in the Overthrow series. This was a lot of fun to be able to read one right after the other, rather than spaced apart. The action dramatically changed from the first half of book one to the end of book three. In fact, the world changed so much that iwas almost hard to remember how different things were in book one.
This was some kooky science fiction adventure. As our house is always fighting a battle against invasive mugwort, I found the idea of alien invasive plants relatable. But thank goodness my mugwort is not a carnivorous weed nor trying to eat me.
In book one three teenagers who are oddly unaffected by the alien plant invasion try to figure things out and fight back. Book two ratchets up the doomsday vibe of Earth as reasons for the invasion become clear. Book three is, of course, and all out battle.
This was one of those sci fi stories where you think from time to time “even if they win the world is still ruined and a LOT of people died.” Because man, did those alien plants have the upper hand.
This was pretty exciting and all fast reads. I enjoyed this trilogy!

Posted June, read May/June 2021

Leviathan trilogy by Scott Westerfeld

I first read Leviathan back in 2011 (a decade ago). I loved the trilogy and eaglery awaited each installment. This March it was a treat to be able to read all three right in a row. It was also fun because Paul read them too (his first time) and so it was fun to be able to discuss them with him.
As before I loved the steampunk adventure, the WWI historical details (and was grateful for the end notes to let me know what was real and what wasn’t), and just what a great adventure it was. Here’s a fun thing–for many years (apparently 10!) I had remembered a scene in a book featuring Nikola Tesla but I could never remember what book it was. Imagine my delight when I came across that in this trilogy and was able to scratch that itch of remembering.

HIghly recommended!

(posting, June: read, March 2021)