Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes [twitter • website]
Publication Date: March 24, 2015
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: teenager disappearance, thriller, Internet dating
Format Read: ARC from Publisher (Thank you!)
Summary: Max, Preston, and Parvati form a small underground business developing lies for their classmates to get what they want at school; business is going great until Preston asks Max to cover up for him so he can go to Las Vegas to meet his Internet girlfriend he’s never mentioned before.
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Told from an independent, tends-to-be-kind-of-a-loner’s perspective, Liars, Inc. reveals how Max and his best friend, Preston, and girlfriend, Parvati, start a small but lucrative side business creating cover-ups and forging permission slips at their school.
One thing leads to another and all of the lies build up to the moment Max finds himself camping on the beach to cover up for Preston skipping town to meet his older Internet girlfriend that no one has ever heard about before.
And Preston never returning.
Preston is a Senator’s son so his disappearance escalates quickly and is taken very seriously. Initially, Max lies to the officials because he’s positive Preston will suddenly reappear; he thinks that Preston decided to extend his stay or had just a little bit too much fun. The official’s turn their attention on Max but he’s dug himself so deep with all the lies; he follows Parvati’s advice (because of course she’d know things since she wants to be in the CIA one day) though he’s not always confident he should and he begins looking more and more suspect by the minute.
Liars, Inc. turned out to be a much different story than I was anticipating. I felt like a lot of the synopsis focused on their business venture so when that was really just a stepping stone to the greater story of Preston’s disappearance, I was pretty excited. I really get into the mystery/thriller stories trying to figure them all out, and lemme tell you, I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. Stokes kept me guessing and second guessing myself. I did a lot of flipping back and forth when I wasn’t sure I was remembering something correctly; the ending really surprised me because there were so many elements I just couldn’t have predicted. (Score!)
I read an ARC of Liars, Inc. and felt like things were really tight, but Paula and I connected afterward and she shared the ways with me that she’d tightened up the story even more for the final copy. That means I’ll need to get my hands on it for a re-read, of course. (Note: if you’ve read an ARC, read Paula’s article about her changes. If you haven’t read it yet, don’t click that link because of spoilers.)
Aside from feeling really entranced by a great whodunnit, I really admire that Stokes managed to weave in elements to make it a great Dive into Diversity contender as well: Parvarti taught me a lot about being interracial. Max was a foster kid who was adopted into a great, loving family. He showed me one side of what it’s like to not completely feel like you belong, but to be extremely grateful to be out of the foster system. Oh, and he has a younger (also adopted) sibling that has a disability; there’s an amazing description of him getting into some trouble because he’s protecting her, and it just made this former foster-momma so, so happy. (I mean, boo violence and those mean bullies, but yay bonding.)
I can’t really think of a reason that Liars, Inc. shouldn’t be on your to-read lists this spring. What are you waiting for, guys?
Add LIARS, INC. to Goodreads • Amazon • Barnes & Noble
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Hello, again, friends! We’re participating in the Broke and Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday this week where we’re discussing the books that are at the top of our to-read lists this spring. Estelle’s list includes a couple of library books she just took out and some review books, while mine includes the next five books on my review schedule (because I have become a little more regimented with my reading so I don’t miss deadlines and release dates). Here’s our collaborative list:
All the Rage • Things We Know by Heart • A Court of Thorns and Roses
Every Last Promise • Finding Paris • My Best Everything
LOL • Making Pretty • Scarlet Undercover
The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley
> > > < < <
What are you looking forward to reading this spring?
What are you most excited about on our TBR?
Thanks for joining in! Don’t forget to check out more Top Ten Tuesday lists linked up at The Broke and Bookish!
The Winner’s Trilogy is the best example I can think of when it comes to books I wouldn’t normally pick up but I was completely convinced by the lovely people in this community that I needed to. I’m addicted to contemporary fiction but even I couldn’t deny my intrigue when I saw all the 5-star reviews pop up on on Goodreads for The Winner’s Curse. Even though I was expecting some kind of dragon or weird creature in this series (Harry Potter has done this to me), I didn’t move from my couch until I got through it. So very good, and even better — the second book in the series was just as great.
I find it so hard to talk about series on a blog. I don’t want to alienate those who haven’t read it yet, but I also don’t want to skip chatting about it if it’s worthwhile. I’m going to do my best to toe that line with five reasons you should pick it up — especially those of you who favor more realistic fiction.
1. Even if its set in this lush, divided fantasy world, these books dive into relatable issues. Ever torn between pleasing a parent and hurting your heart? Did you ever fall for the very wrong person? Have you ever lost connection with your best friend? I loved that Rutkoski explores all of these conflicts in The Winner’s Curse. It doesn’t matter when or where you live — we all go through these things.
2. Rutkoski is unafraid to write a dark, bloody book. Sometimes I wonder why it takes me longer to get through fantasy books compared to contemporary. I’m sure one part of the reason is that the terrain is different but there’s always this — it’s not so easy to get through a book that is so doggone sad and bleak. With families separated, empires are at war, and secrets by the handfuls, it’s not easy to get through so much manipulation, betrayal, and death. (It’s worth it though.) This author wants you to experience the full picture from the best moments to the difficult ones. (Might be why this series might be good for those who are apprehensive about picking up YA.)
3. Unexpected allies. There are two characters I really enjoyed in The Winner’s Crime that I wasn’t expecting to. I love being surprised in my reading, and I absolutely enjoy being forced to see another side of a person when I think I have their number already.
4. The beauty of this world. Despite the blood, inequality, and lies, I wish I could jump into the pages of these books and see these grand balls, Kestrel’s beautiful dresses, and oh gosh even her makeup sounds amazing. A lot of bad might be going on, but these moments of grandeur only add to the epic feel of this series.
5. A kick ass heroine. Many times during my reading, I found myself wishing I was as smart and sharp as Kestrel. Holy crap. She’s fiercely independent; she’s brilliant at strategy and god, she must have the best poker face in the business. As I continue to wax poetic about her, let’s talk about her selflessness. She does so much for the better of everyone else even if it sacrifices her own relationships and happiness. I would follow her anywhere.
Bonus: The tension between Kestrel and Arin is off the charts. I literally stopped breathing.
The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski ( web | tweet ) | Publication Date: March 3, 2015
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux | Pages: 417
Target audience: Young adult | Keywords: marriage, loyalty, war, betrayal
Format read: ARC from Publisher. (Thanks!)
Add THE WINNER’S CRIME on Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Hi, again! I’ve got a stack of new children’s books that will be coming out in the next few months sitting next to me. I sat down and picked a few of my favorites I wanted to highlight that I strongly feel should be on your radar over the coming months when they’re released. I noticed there was a trend though: they all deal with feelings in some capacity. Not all in the same way, but I liked that this tied them all together. I’ll explain more below…
Butterfly graphic from DoKity
My Pop is a Pirate (3/1/15)
This sweet book is a dedication to grandfathers and touches on how special they are to grandchildren because they seem invincible. (Hint: this one might be a good one for Father’s Day this year!)
The Fun Book of Scary Stuff (8/11/15)
It’s about the things that frighten little kids and how to become brave — with super cute illustrations and a dog who helps the little boy tackle his fears.
What James Said (6/9/15)
Misunderstandings, at all ages, are no fun. Especially when they deal with rumors and friendship. This is my personal favorite from this month’s selections because people of all ages can benefit from the message!
Wild Feelings (8/4/15)
Children have quite a plethora of emotions and sometimes they don’t understand why they feel the way they do. This is a lighthearted book that provides a little bit of insight for them.
Never discount the dog; maybe when everyone’s fumbling around trying to calm the screaming baby, we should take note of the dog who has the answers.
Luna & Me (8/2015)
This is a sweet story about a little girl who doesn’t want one of the oldest trees to be cut down so she climbs up high and lives in it. Gorgeous drawings + an extremely loving tale.
Here are two sample pages from My Pop is a Pirate, thanks to the publisher!
Thanks for stopping by for Little Kids to talk feelings!
What are you favorite children’s books that have a great feelings message?
When Joss Met Matt by Ellie Cahill ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: February 24, 2015
Target audience: If you like contemporary romance…
Keywords: post-college, college friends, friends with benefits
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thanks!)
Summary: Joss meets Matt during her first year at college, and after a particularly bad breakup, the two decide to use each other as “sorbet sex” — a way to cleanse their sex palette after a bitter end. They always come away from their nights together as friends, and continue to date other people and fall back on one another when those pairings don’t work out. Their agreement stays and their friendship stays on track — or at least until Joss realizes she might look forward to the sorbet sex more than her actual relationships.
When Joss Met Matt is one of those rare books lately where a female character can like sex (a lot) and not have it be the only thing on her mind. Yet somewhere, amidst the jumps between past (college) and present (grown up life), what could have been a great story was ironed out such that I felt like I was just going through the motions to see how it would all end. Sure, it was sweet and sexy and I thought it was fantastic that Matt and Joss were able to keep up such a strong friendship despite the complications of freebie sex. But here are a few thoughts that popped up in my head as reading:
What is NA, really? I know what NA is (Dahlia Adler wrote us a great post with awesome recs in December) but I was taken by surprise when this book started post-college graduation and into the working years. This book easily could have been labeled as a straight contemporary romance, right? The designation here is confusing me, even if most of the story is told in flashback during those college years… it’s being told in retrospect and that isn’t the same for me.
Did the structure work? The premise of the book reminded me of a less dark version of One Day by David Nichols but maybe would have worked more for me if the present day just book-ended the book. Knowing up front how Joss felt about Matt made her other relationships feel like a long laundry list you were predisposed to not care about. Frankly, it made me a bit impatient. (Maybe an epilogue would have worked better?)
Who were Joss’ friends? Joss was all about female empowerment (most of the time anyway; we all have our low moments) but it was a little hard for me to keep her friends straight. More development here would have been a slam dunk for me. Matt was one of her best friends but isn’t half the fun of college getting to know your roommates?
Would this make a great movie? The classic will-they-won’t-they premise had me feeling the spirit of Dawson and Joey or Harry and Sally. This is definitely a movie I would want to see with a bit more development and fewer forced drama moments. I liked that Joss was a strong woman but some of her decisions (especially towards the end) added unnecessary angst and served more as another way to keep the characters at odds. Mix in a Joss phobia, and whew. Don’t get me wrong. There is a time and a place for drama but I’m not sure if this was the point to turn it up a notch.
Final verdict: An entertaining read but not the kind I was hoping for. The strongest parts of When Joss Met Matt was the intimacy they built throughout the years and how they could just be themselves with one another.
Add WHEN JOSS MET MATT to Goodreads | Buy on B&N | Buy on Amazon
Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz [twitter • website]
Publication Date: March 3, 2015
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Target Audience: Mature Young Adult
Keywords: eating disorders, theater school, Nebraska, LGBTQ, black MC
Format Read: ARC from Publisher (Thank you!)
Summary: Etta is all of these things: black, bisexual, a former ballerina, lonely, recovering from an eating disorder, and anxious to get out of Nebraska. She and her best friends aren’t getting along anymore and while she’s in search of a way out of Nebraska, she befriends a new group, very different from her, but the gaping holes in her heart start to not feel quite so deep anymore.
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Whew. Etta. She is … a character, a handful, a LOT to take in. She’s a bundle of constant energy with strong opinions, a lot of talent, full of run-on-sentences and rambling thoughts, and a lot of loneliness as she finds herself distanced from her best friends because she started dating a boy.
Yep, a boy. Etta was a part of the Dykes clique at her school, a group of girls who were out and proud of it, and yes, labeled as aforementioned. A group consisting of her very best friends that she dressed up in retro 70s clothing with and went to the town’s only gay club. But Etta’s never felt defined as wanting to date girls OR boys. It’s never been an either/or dilemma for her. So when she meets a nice guy, they date, and her friends abandon and begin bullying her, and Etta feels more lost than she ever has before.
Etta’s broken up with that boy, still not speaking to her ex-girlfriends, is attending weekly meetings for her eating disorder, and begins to meet with a group of people to audition for a New York theater academy. If only she can get out of Nebraska and be some place where there are more people like her, maybe life will improve. It has to. Etta’s new group is very different from her: Bianca is a very young, very sick anorexic, Christian girl with more talent than anyone Etta’s ever met. James is Bianca’s protective, kind older brother with secrets of his own. James’ best friend is Mason who becomes really protective of and enamored with Etta.
I admit it took me a little while to really get into Not Otherwise Specified. It’s written very freely and Etta’s inner monologue is wordy, sometimes all over the place. I suppose I’m also a little more polite and less abrasive than Etta, too, which I had to get over to embrace her. But when I did get into the rhythm of Etta’s craziness to see how all of these factors propelled her to want to get out and find her footing, I couldn’t stop reading.
Not Otherwise Specified is likely one of the most diverse books I’ve read in a long while, and I absolutely loved that we have this main character who is bisexual with a newfound best friend who is a devout Christian. Clearly they have some fundamental differences that separate them, but Moskowitz handled this in such a profound way. Granted, some of this wording may have changed in the final edits, but this section particularly made me happy to see. Etta’s not above trying to understand Bianca’s feelings even though they differ from her own:
“…obviously thinking that gay people are wrong is antiquated and messed up, but that idea is not what Bianca’s worshipping. She’s not in this to hate gay people. She doesn’t hate gay people. She’s just this girl who really loves her God and doesn’t want to do anything to pull herself away from him–sorry, Mason–probably just as much as she doesn’t want to be pulled away from her brother.
…but I don’t think we can just say that something she believes, something that she fundamentally wants to not hurt anybody is something she can, or should, just get over.”
Take a chance on Etta. Challenge yourself and read her story about loneliness, acceptance, moving forward, not feeling like you belong, and befriending people very unlike yourself. It might take a beat to adapt to Etta’s over-the-top personality, but once you do, you’ll anxiously be awaiting to see what happens next.
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