Love a la Mode by Stephanie Kate Strohm

Have I told you all how much I love Stephanie Strohm?!? So much love for her and her books. This is a great and very Stephanie book. Taking place in Paris at a cooking school for teenagers, Love a la Mode is filled with love, love-triangles, jokes, and so so so many sweet treats. I don’t think I stopped smiling the entire time I was reading this book (except when I was worried for the characters and who in the triangle they were going to choose). The characters are such real teens and I am pretty sure that I could taste every food item from just reading Stephanie’s great descriptions. I can’t wait to see this book turned into a cake (a cake ON A CAKE) at Stephanie’s launch!

5-stars

Miss You by Kate Eberlen

I recently went on vacation and wanted to take a fun “beach read” but I usually hate beach reads. I was really excited to see this on my bookshelf. And it was exactly what I wanted! Miss You is not a typical rom-com. Following two characters for over 10 years of missed connections, it made me respond out loud on many occasions. “Come on, guys! Just meet!” Eberlen’s writing is delightful. I’m always looking for well-written fun books and this is definitely one of those. I read it at the perfect time because I can’t wait to start recommending it for the summer.  Also, it is so delightfully British, another fun plus.

4-stars

What Should Be Wild by Julia Fine

Maisie Cothay was born cursed. Each living thing she touches dies or comes back to life. She lives in seclusion from the world until one day, when she is 16, and her father goes missing. As a Pushing Daisies fan, I was pulled in to the plot immediately and then couldn’t stop giggling with joy with the occasional reference.  Beautiful, lyric writing is matched with an amazing plot filled with twists and turns that kept me guessing. Magic blends beautifully into a very real world, creating a modern day fairy tale. I have found a reason to talk about this book everyday since I finished it.  I want to write a lot about this book so you will believe me and pick it up but I don’t want to ruin anything!  So just take my word for it and read this!

5-stars

Whiskey When We’re Dry by John Larison

I am doing the Book Riot 2018 Read Harder Challenge this year and one of the requirements was to read a western.  I am not a big western reader (I am incredibly squeamish and don’t handle blood and violence very well) so I was daunted by this one.  That was, until our Penguin rep, Brian, came into the store and said, “I have a book I need you to read.  It’s a Western.”  I jumped on the opportunity.

What I got was Whiskey When We’re Dry, a western that focuses on Jessilyn, a 17 year-old girl who finds herself alone in the world following the death of her father.  What I really enjoyed about this book is that nothing came easily to Jessilyn.  She doesn’t just happen to magically be the best sharpshooter.  She doesn’t just happen to survive shootouts.  She doesn’t succeed because of happenstance, which is the feeling I’ve gotten from other genre fiction like westerns (including westerns).  This book felt very realistic while still telling the story of an awesome kickass girl who involves herself in a world that is actively against her.  I am so glad there is a character like Jessilyn out there.  We need more of her.

4-stars

Heart Spring Mountain by Robin MacArthur

I wanted to like this book.  It’s a gritty, dysfunctional family drama, which is usually my cup of tea.  But this book just didn’t work for me.  It wasn’t bad, it wasn’t great, it just didn’t work for me.

I think part of that has to do with the fact that I listened to the audiobook.  Parts of this book felt very overwritten and the narrator of the audiobook read in a very histrionic way, making things feel more dramatic than they needed to be.  The combination made for some eye-rolling on my part.  Yes, I understand that this is a rough time the main character is going through but it doesn’t need to be this dramatic.

The book jumps through a variety of perspectives and I did actually really enjoy that aspect.  MacArthur jumps through time and does a good job of dropping lines that get picked up and pulled into other perspectives.  I liked the story and the way the plot was crafted.  My problem mostly came from the writing itself.  If you don’t mind overwriting, which I know not everyone minds, then definitely check this book out.  Otherwise, don’t worry about it.

3-stars

Enigma Variations by Andre Aciman

I loved Call Me By Your Name and so I knew that I needed to check out Andre Aciman’s other work.  I decided to read his most recent book, Enigma Variations, in which he tells the story of Paul, a man who tries to discover himself at different points in his life.  The story is broken up into five different periods of time.  I loved being able to see Aciman use his deep and amazing understanding of the human experience to follow one person over a lifetime, especially since he focused on such a short period of time in Call Me By Your Name.

Aciman is a poet.  His writing is lyrical and beautiful while still being gritty, raw, and incredibly honest.  He doesn’t hold back on any topic, making you absolutely love Paul at some points and making you hate him at others.  He is an author I will definitely be tracking, waiting for what he has for us next.

4-stars

American Panda by Gloria Chao

Don’t let the cover fool you.  This is not a light, fluffy read that will make you feel like you are smiling and drinking a hot chocolate.  American Panda tells the story of Mei, a 17 year-old who finds herself as a freshman at MIT.  As well as starting at a new school, she is dealing with the fact that her brother has been kicked out of the family due to the woman he has decided to marry.  On top of all that, Mei finds herself confronted with her culture and her parents who want her to go to school, marry a nice Taiwanese boy, and become a doctor.  But Mei doesn’t want any part of that life.  She wants to dance and avoid germs.  She wants to date the cute boy she sees around campus.

This book is so out of my realm of experience but it was fascinating to get to read it and enter this world for a while.  I have met Gloria and she writes from a very real place.  This book walks through a lot of things she dealt with growing up and she allows Mei to say the things she was never able to.  (She was a dentist, y’all.)

Gloria’s writing is wonderful and she has really created a three dimensional world that I enjoyed climbing into.  Each character has a full range of emotions and a backstory.  When she wants to be funny, she’s hilarious, and when she wants you to feel emotions, she makes you cry.   So grab a hot chocolate and curl up with this book.

4-stars

The Philosopher’s Flight by Tom Miller

Shout-out to Pam Parker for telling me to read this one!  This book completely blew me away.  The cover blurb made me nervous.  Magic and science in one book?  That probably isn’t a book I would enjoy.  But boy was I wrong.

Miller has created a fascinating story placed in the midst of the very real history of WWI.  He calls out the gender issues that were in place by turning the tables.  Sure, women weren’t allowed to do things at the time but that is because they were women and it was the turn of the century!  Instead of going with this view, he flips it, following a male character who isn’t allowed to help out with the war efforts due to the fact that women are the only one with the magical abilities to do so.  And this isn’t just a book that sets out to prove a point.  It is a well-written, fascinating story that I didn’t want to leave.  I was actually shocked to find myself at the end of the novel.  I didn’t want to let these characters go.

5-stars

#ChiYAFest2018- Stephanie Strohm

Stephanie was one of my first ever author friends and I am so lucky to have gotten to know her and read all of her awesome books!  She is one of the biggest nerds I know and never fails to make me smile.  And her newest novel, Prince in Disguise, is the cutest, most Stephanie book ever.  I love it so much.  So of course I had to get her to answer my silly questions!  Also, she has been doing our social media for the Chicago Young Adult Book Festival and will be talking romance and all things YA on Saturday!

Somehow Stephanie and I haven’t taken a photo together (which is CRAZY) so here she is with my roommate Abi and King Duckan

Q: What attracts you to the YA genre?

A: There are SO MANY REASONS, but probably the main one is that my favorite thing about writing love stories is all of those wonderful moments of firsts – first meeting, first kiss, the first time you see someone in a new light, and YA really lends itself well to firsts. I’m also really proud to write for teens because I have met so many incredible, awe-inspiring teens. It really bothers me when people underestimate, devalue or dismiss teens and their opinions – but I’m hopeful that’s starting to change.

Q: What is your pump-up song?

A:  Well, it’s kind of weird, but “The Night that Goldman Spoke at Union Square” from the musical Ragtime. I guess I find early 20th century anarchists extremely motivating.

Q: What is your favorite procrastination technique?

A: Walk the dog! Or cuddle the dog. Or smoosh the dog’s face. Basically, I just bother my dog. Lorelei is extremely integral to my writing process.

Q: If you were a shoe, what shoe would you be and why?

A: If I were a shoe, I would be a pink sneaker with sprinkles on it, like these bad boys: https://www.modcloth.com/shop/shoes/loly-in-the-sky-pastry-royalty-sneaker/157876.html

Q: What is your favorite guilty pleasure TV show?

A: Most of my favorite TV shows – like Jane the Virgin, Outlander, Riverdale – are categorized as guilty pleasures, but I don’t feel guilty watching them. The only thing I really feel guilty about watching is The Bachelor/ette/Bachelor in Paradise etc. If you are a feminist with complicated thoughts about certain reality TV shows, I suggest you read Bachelor Nation by Amy Kaufman – it’s a fantastic book!

Tangerine by Christine Mangan

It starts out as a nice story. A woman moves to Tangier with her new husband. Suddenly a friend from her past appears, and the perfect exotic-ness of Morocco begins to fall apart. In her debut, Christine Mangan has created a thrilling, page-turning read. Her characters are rich and she takes an interesting look at the psychology of friendship. This book leads you to believe that it is just going to be a traditional piece of historical fiction, from the opening chapter to the cover design.  But boy does it take a turn and become so much more than that.  This book is straight up terrifying at times.  (Not like spooky monster terrifying but a reminder of how messed up people can be.)  I look forward to what Mangan has in store for us next.

4-stars

#ChiYAFest2018- Crystal Cestari

Have you ever been lucky enough to meet a princess unicorn human?  Because I have and that person is the absolutely amazing Crystal Cestari.  She writes hilarious mysteries that reference Buffy and Veronica Mars.  She’s so magical.  And she was kind enough to answer my weird questions!

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Q: What attracts you to the YA genre?

A: I love the hope in YA. Something about that time of life, when doors are opening and possibilities are endless, is very inspiring to me. I love the idea that your life could change at any moment, and the different sub genres within YA really take that potential and explore it in so many creative, challenging ways. 

Q: If you could be any character from any of your books, what character would you be and why?

A: People have told me that Amber’s personality is basically me, but being able to see people’s true loves all the time would drive me crazy. Being a siren like Ivy would definitely make life easier, but I’d promise to use that magic for good (wink wink).  

Q: What is your pump-up song?

A: I have to give it up to Kelly Clarkson, because “Since U Been Gone” has been my go-to jam since it was first released. I do a live performance of this song at least once a week (in my car).  

Q: What is your favorite procrastination technique?

A: I check Instagram way more than is necessary… seriously Crystal, no one has posted in the last 5 seconds, you don’t need to check again. 

Q: If you were a shoe, what shoe would you be and why?

A: I have a pair of gold flats that are my absolute favorites; they bring sparkle and shimmer to all my outfits, and that’s what I aspire to do in life! 

Q: What is your favorite guilty pleasure TV show?

A: I recently binged watched Nailed It on Netflix and laughed so hard… I am not skilled in the kitchen at all so it’s comforting to know I’m not alone in my ineptitude. 

Come meet Crystal and hang out with me at the Chicago Young Adult Book Festival on Saturday!

#ChiYAFest2018- Lauren Emily Whalen

Interview #2!  Same questions, totally different person!

Lauren Emily Whalen has been a regular at the bookstore for a while and I have looked forward to seeing her smiling face at all sort of different events.  So I was so incredibly excited for her when I learned that she had her debut novel coming out.  Satellite is a beautiful exploration of friendship and self discovery.  I can’t wait for her to join us at the Chicago Young Adult Book Festival on Friday!

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Q: What attracts you to the YA genre?

A: I love how YA and its authors are willing to take risks. Both YA and romance (which I also write) are way ahead of the game when it comes to representation and real issues, but its authors also have a sense of humor and fun. It’s the perfect balance!

Q: If you could be any character from any of your books, what character would you be and why?

A: Probably Sara, the ballet mistress in SATELLITE. I’d love to be in the (toe) shoes of a professional dancer and someone who has the inside story on that crazy, beautiful world. Also I admire Sara’s toughness!

Q: What is your pump-up song?

A: I have so many! Right now I’m loving “Mr. Jones” by Counting Crows, which is also my go-to karaoke song, and “Life is a Highway” (both the original Tom Cochrane and the Rascal Flatts cover are so much fun!).

Q: What is your favorite procrastination technique?

A: Bingeing Netflix and Hulu. I’m currently on a “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” kick.

Q: If you were a shoe, what shoe would you be and why?

A: My absolute best Christmas present this past year: flowered Doc Martens. The kind of shoes I’ve wanted since I was sixteen and now they are MINE. I’d be those flowered Docs!

Q: What is your favorite guilty pleasure TV show?

A:I’m a faithful Fuller House viewer, because my sister and I LOVED Full House when we were kids and can still recite whole episodes. I also love Archer, because I want to be as no-nonsense and witty as Malory.

Check out Satellite and join us at the festival on Saturday to pick up a copy and get it signed by Lauren!