Blog Blitz Review: Being Sloane Jacobs

This review is for the Being Sloane Jacobs blog blitz. The book comes out on January 7, so check it out!

Title: Being Sloane Jacobs
Author: Lauren Morrill
Publisher: Delacorte
Publication Date: January 7, 2014
Pages: 352
Genre: Contemporary
Source: NetGalley
Rating: 4/5

Meet Sloane Emily Jacobs: a seriously stressed-out figure-skater from Washington, D.C., who choked during junior nationals and isn’t sure she’s ready for a comeback. What she does know is that she’d give anything to escape the mass of misery that is her life.

Now meet Sloane Devon Jacobs, a spunky ice hockey player from Philly who’s been suspended from her team for too many aggressive hip checks. Her punishment? Hockey camp, now, when she’s playing the worst she’s ever played. If she messes up? Her life will be over.

When the two Sloanes meet by chance in Montreal and decide to trade places for the summer, each girl thinks she’s the lucky one: no strangers to judge or laugh at Sloane Emily, no scouts expecting Sloane Devon to be a hero. But it didn’t occur to Sloane E. that while avoiding sequins and axels she might meet a hockey hottie—and Sloane D. never expected to run into a familiar (and very good-looking) face from home. It’s not long before the Sloanes discover that convincing people you’re someone else might be more difficult than being yourself.

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Being Sloane Jacobs is a fun, cute take on what it means to find yourself. Lauren Morrill’s fresh, light voice made me really enjoy this story though I wasn’t sure about it at first. I don’t usually go for books about athletes, but Morrill made me fall for both of the Sloanes anyway.

Something in particular that stood out to me about this novel was the expert way in which Morrill showed each Sloane’s passion for their respective sport. Instead of being really technical and focusing on the game like some other sports books I read, Morrill focused on how ice skating and hockey kept her characters ticking. Rather than being something that kept me from liking the story, the character’s passions for their sports actually helped draw me into the story.

Another thing I liked about the book was watching each Sloane grow. To be honest, I did see more growth in Sloane Emily than Sloane Devon, but that didn’t bother me too much. I liked watching Sloane Emily gain more confidence through hockey, and also found her side of the story a bit more believable than Sloane Devon’s. I could see the transition to figure skating to hockey happening because it paralleled Sloane Emily’s growth into a stronger person. I thought Sloane Devon’s figure skating career seemed less plausible because of her injury, personality, and the time frame of the story, but that was probably the only thing I didn’t like about the book.

I also found myself rooting for both of the romances. I think I myself would have gone for Nando, but I felt Matt was equally charming. I liked that the romances didn’t overwhelm the story as well.

Another thing I noticed about this story is that it brings up a lot of interesting, serious issues: infidelity, alcoholism, the pressure of family expectations, what happens when you your passion becomes something that hurts you, and classicism. Though all of these things appear in the novel, none are discussed in enough depth to be overwhelming. Morrill did a great job of keeping her book fun without making it too fluffy.

Fans of contemporary romance who want something a little different will love this book and wish for a sequel after finishing the last page.

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January 2014 Lust List

This is going to be a super long post, as there are many books coming out in January 2014 I’m excited about. Thankfully I already have ARCs of a bunch of them, so I can get started on 2014 early and hopefully keep on top of my TBR list for once.

January 7

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January 14

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January 21

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January 28

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January 30

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Waiting on Grasshopper Jungle

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine, and specifically spotlights upcoming novels we can’t wait to read. This week I’m excited for…

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

Sixteen-year-old Austin Szerba interweaves the story of his Polish legacy with the story of how he and his best friend , Robby, brought about the end of humanity and the rise of an army of unstoppable, six-foot tall praying mantises in small-town Iowa.

To make matters worse, Austin’s hormones are totally oblivious; they don’t care that the world is in utter chaos: Austin is in love with his girlfriend, Shann, but remains confused about his sexual orientation. He’s stewing in a self-professed constant state of maximum horniness, directed at both Robby and Shann. Ultimately, it’s up to Austin to save the world and propagate the species in this sci-fright journey of survival, sex, and the complex realities of the human condition.

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This book sounds bizarre and hilarious, a perfect combination. I loved Andrew Smith’s The Marbury Lens and expect great things from him in Grasshopper Jungle. Praying mantises, teenage hormones, and saving the world? How could it NOT be good?

Top Ten Best Books of 2013

Top Ten Tuesday is an original meme created by the wonderful blog The Broke and the Bookish.

I really tried not to repeat too many titles from my list of top ten new-to-me authors of 2013, but it was hard because those really were the standouts for me this year. Still, I did my best to talk about books I haven’t discussed yet on any of my top ten lists of 2013 bests.

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1. Reality Boy – A. S. King
By far my favorite book of the year. Reality Boy was totally different from everything else I read this year. I read it in October but still find myself gushing about it to friends and family. Gerald’s story is disturbing, haunting, and hopeful, but I never wanted it to end. This book was on my new-to-me authors list too, but it’s completely worth mentioning again (and again and again and again).

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2. Heartbeat – Elizabeth Scott
I haven’t reviewed this yet, but as I will say later, Heartbeat is Elizabeth Scott’s best book. It tackles issues I’ve never read about and could be a difficult read at times, but reading it was a truly rewarding experience. This book will make you cry, but it will also remind you of the beauty of love.

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3. Splintered – A. G. Howard This vivid fantasy became a favorite from the very first page. I loved the Wonderland Howard built and her rich writing style. Everything about this novel is absolutely gorgeous inside and out. I’ve already pre-ordered Unhinged and can’t wait until January 7th to get it!

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4. Pretty Girl-13 – Liz Coley
I don’t even know how to describe this book. It was amazing and disturbing and messed with me in ways I have never been messed with before by a YA novel. If this novel is any indication, Liz Coley is going to be big.

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5. The Murmurings – Carly Anne WestI loved this book from the first sentence. It was beautifully written and thrilling in all the right ways and left me craving more YA horror.

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6. Test Taste – Kelly Fiore
This was one of my most anticipated debuts of 2013, and it did not disappoint. Taste Test was simply a delight to read. It did have its corny moments, but overall it was so much fun I didn’t care.

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7. Fire With Fire – Jenny Han & Siobhan VivianThis book gets the award for biggest book hangover of 2013. I liked Burn for Burn alright, but Fire With Fire has left me chomping on the bit for Ashes to Ashes. I literally screamed about this book, but won’t tell you why because I don’t want to give away the major spoilers.

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8. The Elite – Kiera Cass
This book is kind of a given. Kiera Cass can do no wrong. The Elite was super fun and exciting with plenty of drama and romance. I especially liked how she made me question if I wanted America to choose Aspen or Maxon, because before the book I really had my heart set on the latter. I am ridiculously excited for The One and will drop anything else I happen to be reading at the time to start it the second it comes out.

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9. Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets – Evan Roskos
Another repeat from my best new-to-me authors list. I was nervous about this book because I so wanted it to be amazing, but thankfully it exceeded my expectations. Roskos brought up a lot of interesting issues related to mental illness I’ve never read about in a YA book before and captured James’ anxiety and experience perfectly. Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets is a beautiful, sad, and funny debut that I hope more people read.

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10. Scarlet – Marissa Meyer
I did not like Cinder. I thought it was okay, but didn’t really understand the hype around it. Still, something about it compelled me to read Scarlet, and I’m very glad I did. Scarlet was much better than Cinder. It was fun and quirky and I absolutely adored Wolf. So excited for Cress!

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Bonus #11: Mind Games by Kiersten White
I couldn’t decide whether to put this book or Scarlet, so this list gets a bonus book. I bought it because I was auto-approved for a review copy of Perfect Lies and didn’t expect much from it. I haven’t read a lot of paranormal books this year, but after reading this I definitely want to change that. It was really well-written and different and I ended up loving it.

Two Boys Kissing

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Title: Two Boys Kissing
Author: David Levithan
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 27, 2013
Pages: 208
Genre: Contemporary
Source: Purchased
Rating: 3/5

New York Times  bestselling author David Levithan tells the based-on-true-events story of Harry and Craig, two 17-year-olds who are about to take part in a 32-hour marathon of kissing to set a new Guinness World Record—all of which is narrated by a Greek Chorus of the generation of gay men lost to AIDS.

While the two increasingly dehydrated and sleep-deprived boys are locking lips, they become a focal point in the lives of other teen boys dealing with languishing long-term relationships, coming out, navigating gender identity, and falling deeper into the digital rabbit hole of gay hookup sites—all while the kissing former couple tries to figure out their own feelings for each other.

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To be honest, I still can’t figure out how I feel about this book, despite having read it weeks ago. There were definitely a lot of cool things about it, but there were also some things that kept me from connecting with it as much as I thought I would.

Let’s start with the good:

First things first: no one can ever accuse David Levithan of not being creative or original. The Lover’s Dictionary probably tops his most-creative-novels list, having told the story of a couple through dictionary entries, but Two Boys Kissing is certainly not far behind. For this book, Levithan chose to narrate the story through a Greek chorus made up of gay men who had died from AIDS. I can honestly say I’ve never come across a book written this way for young adults, and it was definitely an experience to read it.

Secondly, Two Boys Kissing acts as a diverse celebration of what it means to be a gay man (I will come to that distinction later). Levithan presents a variety of stories about gay teens, some intertwining, some not, and gives voice to many different experiences faced by gay and transgender youth today. There was a wide range of experiences on the happy-sad spectrum, and I felt Levithan handled each story with grace without overwhelming the reader.

That said, I did feel like the book was sometimes a little heavy handed in the way it tackled issues faced by gay teens. The Greek chorus really added to that feeling at times for me, and sometimes that part of the narration was just too much and made me want to shout, “Enough already, we get it!”

I was also a little put off by how male-centric the novel was. There were a few female characters, but they only played very minor roles and were mostly the mothers of the teens whose stories were being told. I think what bothered me about the lack of female LGBT characters was that I felt like Levithan was separating the experiences of gay men from other LGBT people a bit too much, even though other genders have had very similar experiences to gay men. Basically, the focus on queer men made me feel invisible as a female pansexual reader. I realize that exploring the experiences of multiple genders may not have been Levithan’s focus with this book, but a lot of the issues faced by the characters, including suicidal thoughts and AIDS, apply to non-male queer people as well.

Finally, I just didn’t feel as emotionally connected to the book as I had anticipated. I think that did have a lot to do with feeling invisible, but I also tend not to like books written in the third-person quite as much, even this very unique third-person.

I would definitely recommend this to queer men and their families due to the breadth of experiences Levithan covers. I think this book could be very important to gay teens as an affirmation, celebration, and recognition of their experiences, despite the somewhat narrow gender lens. Two Boys Kissing continues to mark Levithan as a master writer, and though I was somewhat disappointed by this book, I will be eagerly awaiting his next release.

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In My Mailbox 12/29/13

In My Mailbox is a meme hosted by The Story Siren spotlighting the cool books we receive.

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From NetGalley:
Big Fat Disaster – Beth Fehlbaum

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From Edelweiss:
Going Over – Beth Kephart

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From library:
Lovely, Dark, and Deep – Amy McNamara
The Theory of Everything – Kari Luna

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From Santa:
Where the Stars Still Shine – Trish Doller
Not a Drop to Drink – Mindy McGinnis
Wanderlove – Kirsten Hubbard
Audition – Stasia Ward Kehoe

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Purchased:
The Sound of Us – Ashley Poston

Prophecy

Title: Prophecy (The Dragon King Chronicles #1)
Author: Ellen Oh
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: January 2, 2013
Pages: 312
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Library
Rating: 4/5

The greatest warrior in all of the Seven Kingdoms… is a girl with yellow eyes.

Kira’s the only female in the king’s army, and the prince’s bodyguard. She’s a demon slayer and an outcast, hated by nearly everyone in her home city of Hansong. And, she’s their only hope…

Murdered kings and discovered traitors point to a demon invasion, sending Kira on the run with the young prince. He may be the savior predicted in the Dragon King Prophecy, but the missing treasure of myth may be the true key. With only the guidance of the cryptic prophecy, Kira must battle demon soldiers, evil shaman, and the Demon Lord himself to find what was once lost and raise a prince into a king.

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Confession: I only read this book because I was autoapproved for the sequel on Edelweiss. Prophecy wasn’t anywhere on my original list for the Debut Author Challenge this year, and to be honest I barely gave it a thought because it was fantasy. I haven’t read fantasy probably since I was in middle school. I think I felt like I’d kind of outgrown it.

That said, Prophecy was exactly what I needed to help me through my slump from a few weeks ago. I haven’t read anything like it in so long, and it was a perfect breath of fresh air for me from all the contemporary and dystopian YA I’ve been reading. It’s also made me more interested in finding some other fantasy to spice up my TBR list.

There wasn’t a single thing that I disliked about this book, other than that sometimes I felt like the writing was meant for a slightly younger young adult than I. Kira was the perfect badass heroine, complete with fighting skills and mysterious yellow eyes. I was really drawn in by her story of being an outsider, even though the people she feels separate from and who torment her are the very ones she’s trying to protect. Kira is both tough and loving, and her personal growth throughout the story kept me hooked the whole time.

I also loved the world Oh created. I enjoyed the inclusion of the Korean language since it was something I’ve never seen in fantasy before. I also liked the idea of the seven kingdoms, and the discussion of politics between them. I used to get kind of lost with fantasy politics, but I felt the way Oh wrote about them in Prophecy really added to the story. She used them to create a full, rich world that was unlike any I’ve read about recently.

Add in some demons and a prophecy, and you’ve got the perfect fantasy book for me. I know prophecies are kind of overdone in fantasy, but it’s always been an element I like in that genre, because I like figuring out who’s who in the prophecy. I also really like books involving demon hunting and such, so that was another major plus for me in this novel.

Prophecy is perfect for readers of fantasy who want something a little different and for fans of Daughter of Smoke & Bone, a book with with a heroine just as badass as Kira.

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