Book Review: Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell

Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: August 27, 2019
Source: Purchased

Deja and Josiah are seasonal best friends.

Every autumn, all through high school, they’ve worked together at the best pumpkin patch in the whole wide world. (Not many people know that the best pumpkin patch in the whole wide world is in Omaha, Nebraska, but it definitely is.) They say good-bye every Halloween, and they’re reunited every September 1.

But this Halloween is different—Josiah and Deja are finally seniors, and this is their last season at the pumpkin patch. Their last shift together. Their last good-bye.

Josiah’s ready to spend the whole night feeling melancholy about it. Deja isn’t ready to let him. She’s got a plan: What if—instead of moping and the usual slinging lima beans down at the Succotash Hut—they went out with a bang? They could see all the sights! Taste all the snacks! And Josiah could finally talk to that cute girl he’s been mooning over for three years . . .

What if their last shift was an adventure?

In case you weren’t aware, I am a huge Rainbow Rowell fan. I’ve previously reviewed Fangirl, Carry On, Attachments, Eleanor & Park, and Landline on this blog. Pumpkinheads was one of my more anticipated books of the year. I’ve been a little wrapped up in my move, though, so I didn’t even realize that it had already released until I found my preorder in my mailbox. I read the whole thing that same night.

Here’s the thing. This is definitely a Rainbow book. The characters are cute. The story is cute. The pumpkin patch is cute. The art is cute. Everything about it is cute. I want to go to this pumpkin patch. I want to eat literally everything in this book and go on every ride. But if everything was so great, why am I only giving it three stars?

The biggest reason for my rating is the fact that I predicted the entirety of the plot on about page three. The plot is very simple, which isn’t always a bad thing, but I just wanted a bit more from this book. I feel like I can’t say anything about the plot because one sentence could give it all away.

I might not have adored this book as much as I’d expected to, but it was still a fun read! Now the countdown to Wayward Son begins…


Have you read Pumpkinheads? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Drama by Raina Telgemeier
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 1, 2012
Source: Purchased

PLACES, EVERYONE!

Callie loves theater. And while she would totally try out for her middle school’s production of Moon Over Mississippi, she can’t really sing. Instead she’s the set designer for the drama department stage crew, and this year she’s determined to create a set worthy of Broadway on a middle-school budget. But how can she, when she doesn’t know much about carpentry, ticket sales are down, and the crew members are having trouble working together? Not to mention the onstage AND offstage drama that occurs once the actors are chosen. And when two cute brothers enter the picture, things get even crazier!

Drama is one of those books that I’ve seen floating around the bookish universe a lot. I see it on blogs, I see it on Goodreads, and I see it on lists of frequently challenged books. When I found it at my library’s used bookstore for only $2, I figured I didn’t have much to lose by buying it. I read it over the course of about 45 minutes and while it was fine, I didn’t love it.

To be fair, I don’t read a ton of middle grade books, and especially middle grade graphic novels. I appreciated a lot of the themes in this book — being comfortable with yourself, the normalization of pre-teen gay and bisexual characters, and following your passions. As someone who did tech crew for several plays and musicals in high school, I enjoyed the fact that much of this book takes place behind-the-scenes at a middle school production.

That said… this book was just so dramatic. And I guess that’s to be expected. I mean, the title of the book is literally Drama. While I had expected play-related drama, I hadn’t expected so much romantic drama. The main character, Callie, is absolutely fixated on finding herself a boyfriend. She falls for multiple boys over the course of this 238-page book. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but I expected that this story would be more about the play than about this seventh grader attempting to get a boyfriend.

Another thing that didn’t sit quite right with me was the insinuation that romantic relationships should be a big part of middle school. Time to get personal for a second — I didn’t go on my first date until I was sixteen years old, and I didn’t get into my first actual relationship until I was eighteen. One of the characters in this book is referred to as a “late bloomer” because, at twelve years old, he’s never had a girlfriend. Is that really considered abnormal now? I had to keep reminding myself that these characters are supposed to be pre-teens, because their romantic entanglements (and the responsibilities they’re given for the play!!) make them feel more like high school upperclassmen.

Overall, this book was a lot of fun to read, but the sheer amount of romantic drama kept me from rating it any higher than three stars.


Have you read Drama? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: Been Here All Along by Sandy Hall

Been Here All Along by Sandy Hall
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: August 30, 2016
Source: Borrowed

Gideon always has a plan. His plans include running for class president, becoming head of the yearbook committee and having his choice of colleges. They do not include falling head over heels for his best friend and next-door neighbour, Kyle. It’s a distraction. It’s pointless, as Kyle is already dating the gorgeous and popular head cheerleader, Ruby. And Gideon doesn’t know what to do . . .

Kyle finally feels like he has a handle on life. He has a wonderful girlfriend, a best friend willing to debate the finer points of Lord of the Rings, and social acceptance as captain of the basketball team. Then, both Ruby and Gideon start acting really weird, just as his spot on the team is threatened, and Kyle can’t quite figure out what he did wrong . . .
 

If I had to describe Been Here All Along in one word, that word would be “cute.” This is a book with cute characters who do cute things. Even the main conflict of the book is barely a conflict. Add to that the fact that this book is basically the m/m version of Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me” and, you know what? CUTE. I want to be absolutely clear when I say that my rating of three stars is because of the cuteness and because this book is incredibly easy to read.

The actual plot, though? To be completely honest, it doesn’t really exist. It’s really just about two friends who realize they’re in love with each other. There’s a smidgen of coming out drama, which is barely even a thing, and a kind of random aside about a side character’s financial situation. For some reason, there are four POVs in this book, which is a little much for a book that’s only 200ish pages and made it difficult to fully connect with the characters. (Also odd since two of the POVs are not main characters.) Aside from all of that, everything develops fairly predictably and with the least amount of drama possible.

I read the majority of this book over about an hour while I waited at my local library. It’s so easy to read and such a quick read that I’d definitely recommend it if you’re trying to get out of a reading slump. If you’re looking for something with a lot of depth, though, I’d steer clear.


Have you read Been Here All Along? What’s the last light, fluffy romance you read?
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Mini Review: Soppy by Philippa Rice

Soppy by Philippa Rice
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: December 2, 2014
Source: Borrowed

True love isn’t always about the big romantic gestures. 

Sometimes it’s about sympathizing with someone whose tea has gone cold or reading together and sharing a quilt. When two people move in together, it soon becomes apparent that the little things mean an awful lot. The throwaway moments in life become meaningful when you spend them in the company of someone you love. 

SOPPY is Philippa Rice’s collection of comics and illustrations based on real-life moments with her boyfriend. From grocery shopping to silly arguments and snuggling in front of the television, SOPPY captures the universal experience of sharing a life together, and celebrates the beauty of finding romance all around us.

So fun, fact, I actually didn’t check this graphic novel out from the library, my boyfriend did! And it was just sitting there, so, because I’m me, I just went ahead and read it. I think it took all of maybe thirty minutes to finish and it was absolutely adorable.

I guess the first thing to mention is that this isn’t so much a book as it is a collection of moments from the author’s life with her boyfriend. It’s the little things in life that she illustrates here — napping on the couch, doing the dishes together, deciding whether to cook or go out to eat — and it made me smile so much. But that’s not all! Rice also illustrates the little arguments (and subsequent apologies) that are so common in relationships.

If you need a graphic novel to cheer you up and give you faith in love, this is it. If you’re already happily in a relationship, it’ll probably put a big smile on your face. But if you’re not into romance, you should probably avoid it, because all the couple-y happiness will probably make you roll your eyes.


Have you read Soppy? Can you recommend any cute graphic novels?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: The Music of What Happens by Bill Konigsberg

The Music of What Happens by Bill Konigsberg
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: February 26, 2019
Source: Borrowed

Max: Chill. Sports. Video games. Gay and not a big deal, not to him, not to his mom, not to his buddies. And a secret: An encounter with an older kid that makes it hard to breathe, one that he doesn’t want to think about, ever.

Jordan: The opposite of chill. Poetry. His “wives” and the Chandler Mall. Never been kissed and searching for Mr. Right, who probably won’t like him anyway. And a secret: A spiraling out of control mother, and the knowledge that he’s the only one who can keep the family from falling apart.

Throw in a rickety, 1980s-era food truck called Coq Au Vinny. Add in prickly pears, cloud eggs, and a murky idea of what’s considered locally sourced and organic. Place it all in Mesa, Arizona, in June, where the temp regularly hits 114. And top it off with a touch of undeniable chemistry between utter opposites.

Over the course of one summer, two boys will have to face their biggest fears and decide what they’re willing to risk — to get the thing they want the most.

Sometimes I come across a book that I just need to read, and The Music of What Happens was one of those books. I mean… two teenage boys running a food truck by themselves during the middle of an Arizona summer? Complete opposites with a ton of chemistry? Contemporary YA touching on serious issues without being over-the-top about it? SIGN ME UP.

I’ll start off by saying that I loved everything about the food truck. I mean, as it is, I love food trucks. But the idea of two teenage boys with absolutely no idea of how to run a food truck actually doing it — and doing well at it, at that — was a lot of fun. I’m not entirely sold on their food menu, but the drinks? Goodness. Can I have a frozen mango habanero lemonade right now?

And let me just say that I loved Max and Jordan. Or maybe I should say that I finished this book loving both Max and Jordan, because while I liked Max from the beginning, it took a while for Jordan to grow on me. Because Jordan is, above all else, extremely dramatic. One of those people that responds to a tiny criticism by screaming and crying and thinking that everybody on the entire planet must hate him. But as the book goes on, he mellows a lot and we also come to understand why he acts the way he does. And Jordan’s not the only character with good development. As the book goes on, Max learns to open up and talk about his feelings and not keep everything bottled up inside.

Now, this book does touch on several really heavy issues. This can be hit or miss for me in a book, but I think Konigsberg handled it really well. The issues are there. They’re almost always present, at least in the background, but they’re not present to the point that they feel suffocating. I guess this is the point in the review where I mention the content warnings for rape, racism, parental neglect, and addiction.

I was really torn between giving this book four and five stars. In the end, I had a little bit of a problem with the ending so I went with four. The problem, for me, was that Konigsberg brought up all of these big issues and, although some of them were dealt with, one of them was really just sort of left hanging. It’s so hard to talk about this without spoiling the ending, but I just felt that one of the issues wasn’t really given the attention it deserved at the end.

All in all, though, I really enjoyed this book and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.

#mm19: diversify your reading


Have you read The Music of What Happens? Is it on your TBR?
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Book Review: Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh

Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: April 1, 2010
Source: Borrowed

Blue is the Warmest Color is a graphic novel about growing up, falling in love, and coming out. Clementine is a junior in high school who seems average enough: she has friends, family, and the romantic attention of the boys in her school. When her openly gay best friend takes her out on the town, she wanders into a lesbian bar where she encounters Emma: a punkish, confident girl with blue hair. Their attraction is instant and electric, and Clementine find herself in a relationship that will test her friends, parents, and her own ideas about herself and her identity.

Way back when I blogged over on Tumblr, a movie called Blue is the Warmest Color came out. Everyone talked about it. You couldn’t escape it. I always planned to watch it and never did, but when I saw the graphic novel that the movie is based on at my library, I decided I had to read it.

It was heartbreaking.

This is the story of a teenage girl discovering and coming to terms with her sexuality. It’s the story of the ups and downs of her relationship with a somewhat older artist. It’s incredibly emotional and very well-written. The illustrations complement the writing perfectly.

The only criticism I have, and the only thing keeping it from a full five stars, is that the ending felt very rushed in comparison with the rest of the story. We got this really detailed history of a relationship and then a surprise plot twist and it was done. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it just made the ending feel a little off.

The only other thing I want to mention is that this graphic novel is definitely not YA. It includes both nudity and sex scenes, and although they’re not particularly explicit, they’re definitely something to be aware of.

#mm19: diversify your reading
#mmd19: a book in translation
#romanceopoly: freedom friars


Have you read Blue is the Warmest Color? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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ARC Review: Technically, You Started It by Lana Wood Johnson

Technically, You Started It by Lana Wood Johnson
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: June 25, 2019
Source: ARC from BookCon

When a guy named Martin Nathaniel Munroe II texts you, it should be obvious who you’re talking to. Except there’s two of them (it’s a long story), and Haley thinks she’s talking to the one she doesn’t hate.

A question about a class project rapidly evolves into an all-consuming conversation. Haley finds that Martin is actually willing to listen to her weird facts and unusual obsessions, and Martin feels like Haley is the first person to really see who he is. Haley and Martin might be too awkward to hang out in real life, but over text, they’re becoming addicted to each other.

There’s just one problem: Haley doesn’t know who Martin is. And Martin doesn’t know that Haley doesn’t know. But they better figure it out fast before their meet-cute becomes an epic meet-disaster . . .

As soon as I heard that Technically, You Started It was going to be a text message-based romance, it shot up to the top of my most anticipated list for 2019. I never got any response to my request for this ARC on Edelweiss (not that I’m surprised) but I did find it at BookCon and almost immediately sat down to read it.

I wanted to love this book so much. As I was reading, I kept telling myself (and saying out loud) that I’m a sucker for books with relationships that develop via text message. But this book didn’t meet my expectations. As much as I wanted to love it, I just didn’t.

Let’s start with the good — I love that this book is told solely using texts. There is not even a single line of description in this book — it’s entirely written in text message dialogue. Surprisingly, I didn’t really feel like I was missing anything from the plot. What was happening came across pretty clearly despite only seeing texts between two characters.

That said, the uniqueness of this book and my love of text-based romances wasn’t enough to save this book.

I think that the first problem I had with this book is that nobody, not even someone like me, a former Linguistics major, texts like that. These kids text in full, complete sentences. No emojis. 100% correct punctuation. No typos. It’s weird. I guess they do address it very briefly at the beginning of the book, but it’s still weird. Maybe they started out talking formally, but as time goes on, I would have thought they’d get more comfortable with each other and that would show in the texts. At least throw in some crying laughing faces or sobbing emojis or something.

The other thing that really bothered me was the constant miscommunication. The whole premise of this book is that Haley is talking to Martin Nathaniel Munroe II, a boy in one of her classes who wants to talk about the class project. The interesting thing here is that there are two boys in her class with that name, one of which Haley is okay with and one of which she hates. It’s painfully obvious from the first few pages that Haley is not talking to the Martin that she thinks she’s talking to. It’s even in the synopsis! This is the main conflict of the book, and it’s both frustrating and boring.

I think that this book would have been better if the entire plot weren’t in the synopsis! That said, I do have to give the author credit for writing an entire book in texts and very casually featuring bisexual and demisexual leads.

#mm19: diversify your reading

Have you read Technically, You Started It? Can you recommend any similar books?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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