Dec 8, 2017

Review: Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King


Title: Please Ignore Vera Dietz
Author: A.S. King
Publisher: Knopf Books
Rating: 3/5 Stars
Paperback, 326 Pages
Published October 2010

Summary: Vera’s spent her whole life secretly in love with her best friend, Charlie Kahn. And over the years she’s kept a lot of his secrets. Even after he betrayed her. Even after he ruined everything. So when Charlie dies in dark circumstances, Vera knows a lot more than anyone—the kids at school, his family, even the police. But will she emerge to clear his name? Does she even want to? 

I was introduced to A.S. King earlier this year when my school's summer reading assignment was one of her previous books, Ask the Passengers. (And you can read my review of that book by clicking here.) As soon as I finished that book, I realized that I'd found an author whose style I was really interested in, and I was immediately looking for more. It ended up working out that I also had to read Still Life With Tornado for one of my other classes, which instantly made me even more interested. And then I got to meet the author herself at several school events (she even was a guest in my YA Fiction Writing class!), and I immediately added the rest of her books to my TBR and made a promise to myself to start working through them, and here we are with Vera Dietz!

As the summary explains, Vera loses her best friend and her one love, Charlie -- and the way he dies is surrounded in mystery and all sorts of danger. So Vera is struggling to come to terms with that while also juggling a job, a failing social life, and a super protective father. With such a life on her plate, coming clean about what happened the night that Charlie died seemed like the last thing on her mind. But then the circumstances get hard to ignore, and Vera knows that she has to do something. The question is, what will she end up doing? 

What I really liked about this book was all the different perspectives that came into play. While the main narrator was Vera herself, you also got to hear from her father, Charlie, and even the inanimate pagoda that served as a beacon for their neighborhood. It was a really interesting experience to see how the consciences of all these different people and objects came together to form one cohesive story, and sometimes the commentaries ending up making me laugh out loud. They added a refreshing element to a story that was very heavy and contained a lot of dark, serious material, which I appreciated.

My favorite character in the entire story was the pagoda. Although those chapters were rare and brief, they were always funny and had little quips that seemed to coincide with Vera's thoughts. It was just a refreshing little twist to the story that kept me on my toes and made me smile throughout the entire narrative, even when there were parts that felt really heavy and upsetting. I love stories that work in perspectives of inanimate objects (such as the bench in Sandy Hall's A Little Something Different), so that was an added bonus to reading this book!

As for what I wasn't crazy about in this book, Charlie as a character pissed me off from start to finish. I'm not sure if it was intentional or not, but he definitely got on my nerves and I didn't really ever feel any sympathy for him, especially when he would be so mean to Vera. Maybe that's just me as a reader, and we are really meant to feel bad for him -- or maybe we aren't. Who knows? All I know is that I really disliked him as a person from start to finish, even when he was friends with Vera. Some of the things he did or said were pretty horrible and then Vera let him continue without apologizing, and while I know the background for why she may have done so, it still made it tough to swallow at times. But hey, that's just me.

(Minor spoilers ahead. Please skip to the next paragraph if you haven't read the book yet!) When the ending of this book is revealed to the reader, it's safe to say that I was a little bit shocked. Burning down a pet store? That's pretty screwed up -- but perhaps more screwed up than that was Jenny Flick herself. I was kind of hoping we'd get to see what would become of her once the truth was out, and even though A.S. King intentionally left that part of the story out, I'm still itching to know. I'm super impatient like that!

Overall, Please Ignore Vera Dietz was a good read about a girl struggling to find herself while also attempting to make amends with her past. It was super easy to get through and I ended up breezing through this book in just a few days because I kept wanting to read the next chapter and I couldn't put it down. While this certainly wasn't my favorite of A.S. King's books, that does not in any way mean that it's bad -- you should totally check it out and give it a try, because you never know what book may end up being your cup of tea! This wasn't a bad book by any means -- it just didn't leave me shocked and awed the way that some of her other books have before. But overall, this was a very good book, and I'm really glad that I got the chance to read it. :-)

Hats off to another good read from A.S. King -- I'm so glad that I found a whole new section of books to work my way through!

Dec 6, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking The Spine where we highlight some of the upcoming books we can't wait to read!

Jessica's Waiting on:

Title: Leah on the Offbeat
Author: Becky Albertalli 
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: April 24th, 2018 

Summary: Leah Burke—girl-band drummer, master of deadpan, and Simon Spier’s best friend from the award-winning Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—takes center stage in this novel of first love and senior-year angst. When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon. So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended. 

I'm a huge fan of Becky Albertalli, both as a person and a writer -- she's super sweet and she writes great books like Simon v. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and The Upside of Unrequited! So, needless to say, when I found out that this book was coming out and that it was a companion novel to Simon, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. And I mean, look at that cover! Isn't it great?! (Also, totally random, but I absolutely love the name Leah, so I'm all over this.) Super excited for this book to come out -- April can't come fast enough!

What are you waiting on this week? Leave your links so I can stop back! 

Dec 5, 2017

Excerpt & Giveaway: The Upside of Falling Down by Rebekah Crane

The Upside of Falling Down
Rebekah Crane
Publication date: January 30th 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult

For Clementine Haas, finding herself is more than a nice idea. Ever since she woke up in an Irish hospital with complete amnesia, self-discovery has become her mission.
They tell her she’s the lone survivor of a plane crash. They tell her she’s lucky to be alive. But she doesn’t feel lucky. She feels…lost.
With the relentless Irish press bearing down on her, and a father she may not even recognize on his way from America to take her home, Clementine assumes a new identity and enlists a blue-eyed Irish stranger, Kieran O’Connell, to help her escape her forgotten life…and start a new one.
Hiding out in the sleepy town of Waterville, Ireland, Clementine discovers there’s an upside to a life that’s fallen apart. But as her lies grow, so does her affection for Kieran, and the truth about her identity becomes harder and harder to reveal, forcing Clementine to decide: Can she leave her past behind for a new love she’ll never forget?
My composure cracks when I’m safely tucked in a stall in the bathroom. Everything shifts, my real need coming into focus, like a caged bird that knows it doesn’t want to live behind bars anymore.
I need to get out of here.
How can I see my dad and not love him? What is wrong with me? Everything I thought would happen hasn’t.
I press my sweaty head against the cool stall door. I wish I could be who Stephen wants me to be, a fearless girl willing to fight through this. More importantly, I wish I could be who my dad wants me to be. Clementine Haas. But I can’t. To go home with him like this would mean that every day he’ll wake up and want Clementine there, and instead, every day it will be me—whoever I am. We’ll both live in a constant state of disappointment.
I can save him from that.
I come out of the stall, focusing on myself in the mirror.
“Jane,” I say to my reflection. “I’m Jane.”
Stephen surely won’t help me get out of here. He wants to keep me safe in the hospital, which is still surrounded by camera crews and reporters. But there’s another way.
The hallway is clear of my dad and Stephen when I poke my head out from the bathroom. My heart races as I walk swiftly away from my room and toward the staircase at the other end of the hall. Once the door closes behind me, and I’m safely tucked out of sight in the stairwell, a moment of relief comes, but it’s brief.
The railing keeps me steady as I make my way down the steps and onto the first floor. My legs are weak, slow, but it’s not an option to stop at this point. Stop and I get caught. Move and I might find freedom.
In the courtyard, Kieran sits at the table where I left him, his feet up on the bench, a book in his hands. I check out the cover. It’s clearly a romance novel.
“You like romance novels, too,” I say. “We have something in common. Though I wouldn’t peg you as a romantic.”
“I’m full of surprises.” He squints in the sunlight. “I’ve never understood why guys go for fast cars and guns when these books have fast women and sex.”
“Honesty again. That’s a good thing.”
Kieran dog-ears the page he’s on and closes the book, setting it down on the table. “You ran away from the dare.”
“I didn’t run away.” I take back my seat. “I had to do something.”
“What was that?”
“It doesn’t matter. I’m ready now.”
“Are you sure, Jane?”
Kieran is just full of good questions, but debating the answer with myself would take too much time.
“Jane Middleton,” I say, holding out my hand. “That’s my last name.”
“Very royal sounding.” He places his warm hand in mine and says, “Kieran O’Connell. It’s nice to meet you.”
“Very Irish sounding, Kieran O’Connell.”
“Half-Irish, on my mother’s side.”
“And your dad?” I ask.
“Technically, he’s British, but he’s more asshole than anything.”
“Honesty again.” I reach for the last container of Jell-O on his tray. “I’m ready for my dare. Spoon, please.”
Kieran holds one up but doesn’t hand it over. “Are you sure you want to do this, Jane? It’s pig and cow parts.”
This is so much more than Jell-O. This is my life he’s holding in front of me.
“Where’s Waterville?” I ask, pointing to his hat.
“South of here a few hours.”
“Is it by Cork?” I ask, remembering the map and trying to sound like I know a thing or two.
“Not exactly. A bit more west.”
“Is that where you live?”
“For the summer months.”
I point to his T-shirt. “Then you go back to Trinity College?”
“And where is that?”
“It’s in Dublin.” Kieran looks at me oddly. “Have you not heard of Trinity College?”
“Of course, I have. I just forgot for a second. It’s in Dublin. Right.”
“What about you?” he asks. “Are you on break from college as well?”
The question throws me. I have no idea if Clementine is in college. But I’m also not sure it matters. The part of me that keeps searching for Clementine needs a break. Jane can be whoever she wants. “Yeah, sure,” I say.
“What are you studying?”
“Undecided,” I say quickly. “You?”
Kieran rolls his eyes. “Business.”
“You don’t sound happy about that.”
“Not everything in life can be happy, Jane.”
The spoon rests in Kieran’s hand. No, sometimes life beats you down. Sometimes life deserts you, and your only choice is to find another path. “Are you going to give me that spoon or what?”
“You know, you don’t have to do this,” he says. His blue eyes hold mine. He knows this is more than just Jell-O, too. That’s what a dare does. It taunts you to take a different direction, to do something you never thought you could do, to jump, knowing that a million consequences could be on the other side of that dare, but that if you don’t do it, you’ll always wonder. And sometimes wondering is worse than consequences.
“I’m doing it,” I say. And I shovel a spoonful of pig and cow parts into my mouth.
Kieran sits back, a broad grin growing on his face. When I’ve eaten the container clean, he claps.
“I wasn’t sure you had it in you.”
I have to choke down the last bits of Jell-O, then I put my empty container on the tray with his, only partly satisfied.
“Why are you here?” I ask. “It can’t possibly be for pig and cow parts.”
“I come up to volunteer. Help out my fellow man and all. The food is just an added bonus.”
“That’s nice of you.”
“People need help,” Kieran says coolly. “It’s the least I can do.”
“People do need help,” I agree. “And now it’s my turn.”
“For what?”
“Truth or dare?” I say.
A glimmer comes to Kieran’s eyes. “That’s my line of questioning.”
“It’s not fair that I answer the question and you don’t.”
“Life isn’t fair, Jane. It’s all Jell-O, remember.”
I lean across the table. “Are you chicken or something?”
My confidence is surprising. Kieran seems to bring out something natural in me, or maybe he brings out more faith that the girl I was is still with me, just waiting to come out. Our eyes are fixed on each other’s. Kieran crosses his arms over his chest.
The clucking starts first. Then I start to flap my arms like chicken wings. Kieran glances around at all the other tables, and then he starts to laugh.
“OK. OK.” He holds up his hands in surrender.
But as soon as the clucking stops, someone drops an entire tray of dishes onto the concrete sidewalk. They break with a loud crash. I startle, freezing in my seat. It chokes the breath right out of me. A head rush comes on so suddenly that I’m worried I’ll faint right in front of him. Blood sinks to my feet. My hands go clammy. I start to sweat.
“Are you OK, Jane?”
Kieran talks, but I can’t see him. My head rests in my hands. Sound reverberates through me, and an intense pain creeps up behind my eyes. For a second, I swear I feel someone grab my hand. I expect to see fingers intertwined with mine, but they’re gone, and I’m left with a horrible empty feeling inside my chest.
“Are you OK?” Kieran asks again.
“I’m fine.” If I faint, this is over. With ragged breath and shaking hands that he can’t see under the table, I say, “Truth or dare, Kieran?”
“We don’t have to do this.”
“Truth or dare?” I say again more forcefully.
Kieran shakes his head. “It’s a Catch-22. Neither is easy. They both have consequences.”
“Do I have to start clucking again?”
He pauses for too long, and then he says, “Fine. Dare.”
The blood returns to my hands and head. The sweat dries on my forehead. This time, my voice doesn’t shake as I speak.
“I dare you to get me the hell out of here.”

Author Bio:
Rebekah Crane is the author of three young-adult novels—Playing Nice, Aspen, and The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland. She found a passion for young-adult literature while studying secondary English education at Ohio University. After having two kids and living and teaching in six different cities, Rebekah finally settled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains to write novels and work on screenplays. She now spends her day carpooling kids or tucked behind a laptop at 7,500 feet, where the altitude only enhances the writing experience.


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