Mid-Year Summary

Welp, kids, it’s the end of June.  (Seriously, where DID the time go?)  I’ve finally managed to get myself somewhat caught up on my personal 52 books read this year challenge.  I should hopefully be caught up by the end of July.


But here’s what I really wanted to share.  Remember back in January, when I posted the Pop*Sugar 2015 Reading Challenge?  I wanted to show you what I’ve filled in!  Now, I didn’t write reviews for all of them.  And I couldn’t find any place to put Tommy Wallach’s WE ALL LOOKED UP, but I think I’m doing pretty good.  22/50 titles so far!  (Never mind this challenge has taken over my reading life, and I’m trying to read books that would only fit on this…)

Ashley's 2015 Reading Challenge (June Update)

Ashley’s 2015 Reading Challenge (June Update)

Second Look: We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

First of all, before I even start the review, I’m going to give you two disclaimers.

1. When I started reading this, I knew it was going to be epic.  Like, along the same lines as Jay Asher’s 13 Reasons Why and John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars.  I’m not sure if it was the beautiful writing (part of it), the amazing plot line (definitely), or something unnamable.  So, here’s the disclaimer:  This is an epic book.

2. I did not like the ending.  And I’m going to semi-spoil things for you in the review because of it.  However, it’s important to remember (for me, too), that this book isn’t necessarily about the ending.  It’s about everything from the first few pages to the last.  (But I still hated the ending.)

So, here goes.

we-all-looked-up-9781481418775_lgTitle: We All Looked Up

Author: Tommy Wallach

Published: 2015

Genre: Young Adult, Speculative Fiction

What’s It About?  Chances are, you’ve heard something about this book.  It was pretty hyped before it was even published.  And I even saw a FULL PAGE AD in Entertainment Weekly for it.  Which, is kind of crazy, because they don’t really advertise a single YA book like that in that magazine.


Okay, okay.  Getting back on track.  Here’s the story:  A asteroid (affectionately named Ardor) is on a collision course with Earth.  (Well, the scientists have predicted there’s 66.66666% chance of Ardor actually hitting the Earth.)  If the asteroid does hit, it basically means the end of life on Earth for the time being.  Pretty epic, right?  Well, then you have four main characters who aren’t friends by any means of the imagination.  But they’re all still connected.  (I see what you did there, Tommy Wallach.)  There’s Peter, the All-American basketball player.  There’s Eliza, the artsy slut.  There’s Andy, the stoner-skater.  There’s Anita, the overachiever.  What a mix, right?

The story is actually about how they all end up coming together in one way or another because of this asteroid.  But the important thing about the story is how they deal with the possibility of dying.  Like I said, epic.

Now, here’s what I thought about it:  I liked it.  I’ll be honest, the middle got a little slow, but I think I was just waiting for more things to happen.  And while there was constantly something happening, I was waiting to get to the end already.

The Prose:  It was beautifully written.  Wallach is a singer-songwriter (more below), and it’s obvious he has a way with words.  It’s poetic.  There were a lot of lines I wish I could have underlined or highlighted, but alas I was reading the library’s copy.  (Coincidentally, I did put this on my To-Buy list on Amazon.  It was that good.)

The Characters:  I loved each and every character.  As a reader, I really grew with them.  I felt like I was standing next to them throughout the entire book.  They were really rounded going into the story, which was obvious, but they became even more complex throughout.  Wallach did an amazing job with this.  There were times I loved each of them, and hated them, and then hated Wallach for what he did to them.  (I’m shaking my fist at you, Tommy Wallach!)  I don’t even think I have just one favorite, which is nuts.  Also, it’s not just about the POV characters (listed above).  Wallach also did an amazing job of fleshing out the secondary characters that were just as important to the story — Peter’s sister, Misery.  Andy’s best friend, Bobo.  The drug kingpin, Golden.  I mean, really.  It was pretty well done.  On an epic scale.  As a writer, I’m impressed.

The Story:  I loved the concept from the moment I first read about this.  And really, what’s not to love?  It brings up the epic question: What would you do in the face of imminent extinction?  It’s really interesting how Wallach approached the topic.  And believe-you-me, he didn’t hold back.  It was real and visceral.  It was true to life.  And at times, shocking.  (But, I’m easily shocked, let’s be honest.)  Parts of it reminded me of Palahniuk’s Fight Club for teens.  Not because there’s fighting (but there is), but the way the characters acted toward “the end.”

The Ending:  OK, stop here if you don’t want the tiniest spoilers.  And remember what I said — it’s not about the end, really.  The end of the story is just a consequence of having to end somewhere.  Here, I’ll even use white font.

Start highlighting here: The story literally ends as the asteroid is minutes from hitting Earth.  Or, really, if you find out if the asteroid collided or not.  And while, again, I get it’s not about the asteroid actually hitting or missing, I still wanted, no NEEDED, to know.  If I ever meet Mr. Wallach, I will ask him before I gush over this book.  End highlighting.

In the end, I had ALL THE FEELS for this book.  And I highly recommend it.

Rating: 12/10 stars.  That’s right.  It’s a Jennifer L. Armentrout level book.

Bonus Features!  Remember earlier when I said Wallach is a singer/songwriter?  Well, the man is amazing.  He wrote an EP that is basically the soundtrack of this novel.  (The only other novel I know that was done for was The Seven Rays (which I can’t find on Amazon now), when I fell in love with Elizaveta.)  I haven’t listened to it, yet.  But I damn well plan on it.  You can find out more about the album, Wallach, and other stuff at his website: www.tommywallach.com.  You can buy the album directly from iTunes here.

Second Look: TEAR YOU APART by Sarah Cross

What?  Two reviews in ONE day?  It’s insanity!  Insanity, I tell you!  (Or really, I’m just reading a lot and being lazy with writing reviews…)

OK, so here’s another review for a YA Fest 2015 attending author!

Tear You ApartTitle:  Tear You Apart
Author:  Sarah Cross
Series:  Belle Rivage
Published:  2015
Genre:  Fairy Tale Retelling, Young Adult

What’s It About?  A little backstory before I give you this book’s particular synopsis.  Sarah Cross’s newest titles (Kill You Softly and this one) take place in Belle Rivage, which is a “cursed” city.  Many of the inhabitants have been “cursed” with a fairy tale story, like Cinderella and her prince, or Snow White and the Huntsman. Each character (usually) has some type of curse that they are fated to live out.  This particular novel is the tale of Snow White and the Huntsman, with a little bit of the Twelve Dancing Princesses and Rumplestiltskin mixed in.

OK, so the story.  Viv is a Snow White Princess.  She’s lived with this knowledge her entire life.  When she finds out her best friend (and boyfriend) is actually the Huntsman in her story, she tries to push him away while not wanting him out of her life.  (Classic teen angst, really.)  Viv also deals with her “evil” stepmother Regina (Once Upon a Time nod!), who was actually like a mother to her until she realized it would never work out in the end for both of them.  So, Regina started to manipulate Henley (the Huntsman/boyfriend) to kill Viv if he couldn’t have her for himself.

Viv is summoned to the Underworld by her Prince.  He tells her he’s tired of waiting for her (way to be aggressive, champ!) and wants her to stay in the Underworld with him, so she can be safe.  She finally agrees, but then she finds out there’s a few things she probably should have known before she agreed…

What I Thought:  I liked it!  I know I just said that about The Haunting of Sunshine Girl, but I’m continuously pleasantly surprised when things are good.  (Sad life, really.)  I like fairy tale retellings, but some of them can be a little bland, boring, or too much like the original tale with not enough twist added.  (Or, let’s face it — they just aren’t written that well.)  Cross’s book did not fall into any of these categories.  It was an unique retelling of the story, put in more modern times that YA readers will enjoy.  (A lot of it reminded me of Gossip Girl, the show, not the books.)  The characters are well-developed and portrayed.  I kept rooting for Henley to come out on top with the whole thing because really, he’s her main squeeze.  (OK, seriously — how old am I?)

There were a few ick factors, mostly at the end.  I’m not going to tell you what happens to spoil it, but let’s just say Cross goes back to the original, gruesome telling of Snow White.  (Yuck.)

I’d recommend this for anyone who likes the show Once Upon a Time.  It reminded me a lot of the show, but in a different way.  I didn’t find any of it predictable, really.  (Some stuff I sort of guessed at…correctly.)  But it was an entertaining read.  Definitely a fan.  I hope Cross is able to release more stories from Belle Rivage.  (I’d love to hear Jewel’s story, or Jack Tran’s.)

Rating… 9/10 stars

Second Look: THE HAUNTING OF SUNSHINE GIRL by Paige McKenzie

The Haunting of Sunshine GirlTitle: The Haunting of Sunshine Girl
Author: Paige McKenzie (with help from Alyssa Sheinmel)
Published: 2015
Genre: Teen Horror

So, what’s it about?  When her mom gets a new job in the Pacific Northwest, Texas native Sunshine must pack up her things and leave her best friend behind.  However, the immense amount of rain, cold, and generally cloudy days in Washington aren’t the only surprises Sunshine faces, like a haunted house, a murderous demon, and the truth about what she really is.

What I Thought About It:  I loved it.  It was everything I was hoping for — a creepy ghost story, mixed with a little bit of paranormal personas.  It wasn’t just about a haunted house, but there was an entire story behind the haunting.  Every character was tied to the main story in some way, which wasn’t always obvious until the very end.

Sunshine is a great character.  She’s real and believable.  I was scared when she was scared.  (Hello, who wouldn’t be freaked out by a stuffed owl flying in circles above your head?!)  The novel didn’t just focus on the paranormal, either.  It had a great look at how long-distance friendships don’t always work, especially when priorities change.  Also, first crushes.  (I’m looking at you, Nolan!)  At the center was a strong mother-daughter relationship that was tested by a demon (because, it’s a ghost story), but it did have a happy ending.  (There are a few snafus, though.)

The writing was fluid.  I was completely engaged the entire time.  By the end, I was sad to put it down and wanted to know more about the story and what’s happening next.  (Hint: the sequel is set to release in October, but no news on Amazon yet.)  I was also pretty scared at points (Yeahimnotashamed.)  I give major kudos to McKenzie and Sheinmel for their writing style(s).

I’d highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good haunting.  I’m also going to check out the web series that it was based off of, as soon as I finish marathoning the new girl (damn you, Zooey Deschanel).

I don’t usually do read-a-likes, but this reminded me a lot of Patrick Carman’s Skeleton Creek series (middle grade).  I’d recommend that, if you liked this.  (There’s about 4 of those books, I think.)

Rating… 10/10 stars.