Blog Tour: Holding Up The Universe by Jennifer Niven + GIVEAWAY!!!

by Jennifer Niven
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers, Random House Kids on October 4, 2016
Pages: 400
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N
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Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for every possibility life has to offer. In that moment, I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything.

Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin, too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the impossible art of giving people what they want, of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a newly acquired secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone.

Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game—which lands them in group counseling and community service—Libby and Jack are both pissed, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world, theirs and yours.

Armed with wit and humour, Niven delivers a poignant story that reads like an insta-classic. It is the “Can’t Hardly Wait” of this generation.

This novel was a fast read for me. I couldn’t put it down once I started. Alternating chapters reveal two characters that find a common heart-string among the awkwardness of high-school despite their night-and-day experiences. While the chapters were short and sweet, the characters were smart and addicting. Being inside of Libby Strout’s head was one of the best things I’ve ever done. If you are lucky, she will remind you of yourself. Or if you are lucky in a different way, she will inspire you to be more of your awesome self. Jack Masselin is pretty bad-ass as well, but Libby takes the cake. No pun intended.

Niven’s story delivers sharp and insightful commentary on the American social experience, especially for those who fall outside of the cookie cutter norm that American media sells. Although written from the perspective of Libby and Jack, a high-school boy and girl, Holding Up The Universe is sure to hold truth and relevance for a range of readers. There is magic in this book that transcends age.

This novel takes a tabloid-esqe story and pieces together the humans behind the headlines. Holding Up The Universe is an important reminder that people are more than what they look like and that everyone we come across is fighting their own battles.

Holding Up The Universe is A MUST for your holiday wish-list and book-loving friends. Enter below for a chance to read an ARC of Niven’s latest and greatest novel. US ONLY.

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The Girl at Midnight by Melissa GreyThe Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey
Series: The Girl at Midnight
Published by Delacorte Press on April 28, 2015
Pages: 357
Format: eBook
Source: Amazon
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Magic lives in our darkest corners.

Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she’s ever known.

Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she’s fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it’s time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, though if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it’s how to hunt down what she wants…and how to take it.

But some jobs aren’t as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.

I am glad I read this book a year after it released. I originally wanted to read it upon release day because there was so much hype about it in the blogger world/twitterverse. But again, so glad I did not. I think I would have been monumentally disappointed if I had. Instead, I was just a little disappointed after reading it last week.

The poetic name and aesthetic appeal of the novel set the bar pretty high for what I was expecting and it is not that I was disappointed with the story itself, but in the way it was delivered.

Ran across this on Polyvore and it reminded me of TGaM cover:

New York Nights ~ Raeven Steal
New York Nights ~ Raeven Steal by sorrel-noir featuring fine jewelry

 

The Girl at Midnight came across as a mid-grade level read for me, and I was expecting something a lot darker and bad-ass in tone I guess. A lot of the dialogue came off as too cheesy/trying too hard when it came to the comic relief attempts throughout the story. Despite that, there were descriptions and sentences scattered throughout the novel that were poetic in their delivery, and I continued reading the book for those moments.

As for the plot/storyline, fans of The Mortal Instruments, The Vampire Diaries, Aladdin,  and the old-school X Men cartoons will enjoy the familiar feel that The Girl at Midnight evokes. The story still maintains an entertaining uniqueness even if some of the characters and story threads seem plucked from other popular series.

I enjoyed the dynamic between all of the characters. Echo, the main female protagonist, was easy to relate to and fall for because of her background and love of libraries, literature, and languages. I enjoyed her role throughout the story and I think I will like her even more in the next novel.

Outside view of NYPL.
Outside view of NYPL.

The story world is both in and out of this world. I think the setting(s) was probably my favorite aspect of The Girl at Midnight. I mean, who hasn’t dreamt of living in their own secret nook hidden in the New York Public Library?! I also loved that Echo was able to globetrot in search of mystical clues via the use of magic and the ”in between” .

A lovely indoor shot of the NYPL.
A lovely indoor shot of the NYPL.

Have you read The Girl at Midnight? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it in the comment section below.

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Blog Tour: Never Missing, Never Found by Amanda PanitchNever Missing, Never Found Published by Random House, Random House Kids on June 28, 2016
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
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Some choices change everything. Scarlett chose to run. And the consequences will be deadly.

Stolen from her family as a young girl, Scarlett was lucky enough to eventually escape her captor. Now a teen, she's starting a summer job at an amusement park. There are cute boys, new friends, and the chance to finally have a normal life.

Her first day on the job, Scarlett is shocked to discover that a girl from the park has gone missing. Old memories come rushing back. And now as she meets her new coworkers, one of the girls seems strangely familiar. When Scarlett chose to run all those years ago, what did she set into motion? And when push comes to shove, how far will she go to uncover the truth . . . before it's too late?

“With flashbacks that slowly reveal the terrible secret of Scarlett’s escape and Pixie’s fate, this psychological thriller evokes well-paced fear.”Kirkus Reviews

Psychological Thrillers are all the rage right now and if you tore your way through novels like Damage Done, With Malice, or The Darkest Corners , then you will want to add Amanda Pinatch’s Never Missing, Never Found to your “reading a psych-thrill and chill” queue.

Never Missing, Never Found has a certain afterschool special vibe to it that will trigger memories of a common childhood fear for a lot of people. Most of the story takes place in a creepy-ass theme park where the story’s protagonist works and maybe this is something unique to children who grew up in the 80s, or maybe it’s universal to all generations, but the setting alone was enough to keep me creeped out and entertained. Theme parks are horrifying.

coney-island

 

 

The tone of the novel is a cocktail of paranoia, confusion, desperation, and deception. Little pieces of the larger story reveal themselves through flashbacks as certain things trigger memories from the main character’s painful past. This book is a page turner that will have you feeling completely outraged by the end. I was not sure how I felt about the ending because it was more dark and scandalous than I was expecting. But it will keep you thinking about it for a while, making you wonder what you would have done in a similar situation.

I also had mixed feelings about the narrator, but that’s the effect that Pinatch seems to want . The author creates an unreliable narrator in the most subtle ways, and it is brilliant. While there is a healthy dose of lust, romance, and teenage angst, the story focuses on unravelling a tale that depicts the presence of the past in everything one does. Especially when the past is better left behind for the sake of the narrator.

All of the characters are skillfully developed and I ended up saying to myself, “I so know this person/a person like this”,  after being introduced to the romantic interest, Conner. At other times I ended up thinking, “who the hell does something like that?!”. The book evokes all kinds of emotions such as anger and incredulity as more of the story reveals itself and as more of the characters intentions come to light.

Overall, Never Missing, Never Found was a solid psychological thriller that is perfect for a summer night spent reading until the wee hours. I found myself yelling at this book like I do with some movies and/or television programs that dare to push the envelope or the audience’s tolerance and patience. The author plunges the reader into a dark story that captivates from the first page, and I am excited to see what kind of depths she will explore in her next novel.

Have you read Never Missing, Never Found? What did you think?

Just for fun:

I found this funny blog post titled “18 Signs You Work At A Theme Park“, and thought I would share its hilarity with you.

6. You’ve learned to detach your emotions from the upset reactions of people too tall/short/large/small to ride your attraction

Sad tears, aggressive shouts—you’ve heard it all, and by now, you’re immune to the effects of these outbursts. The rules are for their safety, and you can’t budge from your word.

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A Small Indiscretion by Jan EllisonA Small Indiscretion by Jan Ellison
Published by Random House on January 20, 2015
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
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At nineteen, Annie Black trades a bleak future in a washed-out California town for a London winter of drinking and abandon. Twenty years later, she is a San Francisco lighting designer and happily married mother of three who has put her reckless youth behind her. Then a photo from that distant winter in Europe arrives inexplicably in her mailbox, and an old obsession is awakened.

Past and present collide, Annie’s marriage falters, and her son takes a car ride that ends with his life hanging in the balance. Now Annie must confront her own transgressions and fight for her family by untangling the mysteries of the turbulent winter that drew an invisible map of her future. Gripping, insightful, and lyrical, A Small Indiscretion announces the arrival of a major new voice in literary suspense as it unfolds a story of denial, passion, forgiveness—and the redemptive power of love.

A Small Indiscretion was one of those books that I saw on another blog last year and thought to myself Ohhh! I really want to read this!. I occasionally passed by it at Barnes and Noble over the past year and would say to my husband while pointing at it with the excitement of remembering a long-forgotten good idea, “Oh! I have been wanting to read that one!”. Ultimately, the book failed to ever make it to the check-out counter as one of my purchases. I always ended up passing on it. No clue why. It was just one of those books, I guess.

So, I was ecstatic when I actually won a signed copy of this novel that I had been “oh, so wanting to read” for a year. And this is where the problem of all those previous  months of anticipation reared its ugly head. I had worked up this book in my mind so much because of the intriguing cover/title combo and the juicy synopsis, and because it was one of those ”TBR” books that was always at the forefront of my mind. When I finally read the book, it was a let down. BUMMER.

disappoint

 

I blame myself for this disappoint. The author’s writing was lovely and the story was emotionally complex, bringing to vivid life all the nuances of thought and feeling that would go with the shady scenarios that take place in her novel. I think I might have been more impressed with the story if I had completely forgotten about it over the past year.

It was the (lack of) momentum of the story. When I started this book, I was expecting to be completely compelled, under the spell of a page turning psychological suspense novel but that never came to pass. The pacing was way too slow for me to fall under compulsion and the protagonist was so incredibly unlikable for me, that I found it difficult to empathize with her. If I had liked the MC more, I would have been able to empathize with her despite some really bad decision-making.

Here's the PB edition recently released.
Here’s the PB edition recently released.

I do like the questions the story brought to mind (Was it worth it? What is love? Do you think of your own happiness first?, etc.), and the exploration of the grey areas of life and love and relationships. The story brought to light the cracks in the foundation of an otherwise strong and happy family and gave an example of how a family can work through the worst of tragedies, indiscretions, and betrayals. It also explores the lingering, deeply rooted subconscious effects of first love/infatuation and how the objects of one’s first all-consuming desire can alter the trajectory of one’s life.

The story is a strange combination of intense and boring, forcing one to finish it despite entertaining thoughts of bailing. Kind of like a higher-quality Lifetime Movie. The only character I genuinely liked in this novel was the protagonist’s husband but the story wasn’t about him, so there ya go.

I wish I could have gone into this book without any expectations, but alas, it was not meant to be. Have you read this San Francisco Chronicle’s  Book of the Year novel? I’d love to know what you thought about it!

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