Otherwise Known as Dad’s a Pseudo Bigamist: Two Summers by Aimee Friedman

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ONE SUMMER in the French countryside, among sun-kissed fields of lavender . . .

ANOTHER SUMMER in upstate New York, along familiar roads that lead to surprises . . .

When Summer Everett makes a split-second decision, her summer divides into two parallel worlds. In one, she travels to France, where she’s dreamed of going: a land of chocolate croissants, handsome boys, and art museums. In the other, she remains home, in her ordinary suburb, where she expects her ordinary life to continue — but nothing is as it seems.

In both summers, she will fall in love and discover new sides of herself. What may break her, though, is a terrible family secret, one she can’t hide from anywhere. In the end, it may just be the truth she needs the most.

From New York Times bestselling author Aimee Friedman comes an irresistible, inventive novel that takes readers around the world and back again, and asks us what matters more: the journey or the destination.

Source: GoodReads

This book should’ve of been tagged with a warning label that it would piss me off.  I’ll just get the good stuff out the way, the book is readable.  In this day and age of YA, that’s actually a plus because there is a lot of shit with purple prose out there that you just want to tell to f off.  But even though this book didn’t have purple prose I still wanted to tell it to sod off and slam the door in its ugly face.

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I should’ve known when I read that the MC’s name was Summer that we were not going to be friends.  I have a bad experience with that name, so it might’ve tainted me (a little) with this book.  That aside though, the MC’s name could’ve been Indiana Jones and I still wouldn’t have liked the book.

And if you know me, you know I have a thing for Indiana Jones pre-horrendous fourth movie with the prairie dogs.  I think it’s the fact he kicks Nazi ass and the hat.  Got to love the hat.

I’ll give credit to Summer though, I didn’t exactly hate her for the most part.  Sure, girl had borderline misogynic tendencies and trashed talk supposed “Mean Girls” all the time but I mostly felt sorry for her.

She was pretty fucking pathetic.  And I don’t know if that’s a good thing.  I mean, I get shit happens to good people in real life but I felt like this character got hit with so much shit so I would feel sorry for her, despite hating girls instantly because they’re prettier than her.  And insult girls because they’re different than her.

A Grumpy YA reader does not forget, Summer.  Though you’re life sucks and your parents are horrible people and you really should ask (no, beg) your aunt to take up custody of you, so you might grow up to be a quasi decent human.  But…

Yeah, there is so much shit in this book and I don’t think the fallout was ever dealt with properly BECAUSE we had to deal with the fucking gimmick of this book.

The two realities.

Which aren’t even fucking explained.  Like, I’m even sure why we even have them here other than to sell the book.  I can imagine that a conversation  sort of like  this happened between Friedman in the editors when drafting this book.  Okay, not like this, but this was the sort of conversation I imagined when reading this drivel:

Editor: This just isn’t very interesting Aimee.  A girl gets ditched by her father and ends up staying at home taking a lame-o junior college class and finding out a life changing secret. She was going to France.  Freaking France. I wanted freaking France in this book and instead I got a boring photography class with some melodrama.  I mean, who cares about the dad being a bigamist.

Friedman: Well, he’s not exactly a bigamist.  They weren’t married so pseudo bigamist.  And besides,  it’s a life changing secret.  That is our hook.

Editor Shrugs: Yeah, life changing.  I mean, there’s lots of logical fallacies here that…you know what, maybe if you had What’s-Her-Face go to freaking France it might be more interesting.  You know what, rewrite the book is France and gets some baguettes and hot French dudes in here and we’ll see how things progress.  Oh, and when you finish your draft order me some baguettes.  Wait, no baguette, I’m on a no carb thing.

Six Weeks (Or However Long it Takes) Later when Friedman finishes next draft and orders her editor a shit load of baguettes to keep her in a good mood (spoiler alert, it didn’t work).

Friedman: So, is this better?

Editor: Munching on a stale baguette and gulping some hot chalet that Friedman also bought-it was that crappy instant stuff, but still chocolate.  Well, I like the hot French guy and the baguettes, but the page count is obscenely small and all What’s-Her-Face does is pout at the half sister.

Friedman: But she’s so snotty you know because she’s French and she’s the pseudo other wife’s daughter.

Editor: I know that, darling but….your page count it’s so small now.  Though, I do think the French guy is an improvement from the photo guy.

Friedman: She needs to end up with the photo guy.

Editor: Why he’s positively boring, and lame.  I mean, I know he wears hipster glasses but still boring.

Friedman: She needs to end up with the photography guy.  You can’t do long distance relationships in YA.  Unless there’s a sequel, and I can’t do a sequel (see my page count).  And I really  can’t increase my page count, believe me I tried there’s only so much I can write about eating baguettes in cafes.

Editor: Frowns as she bites into a baguette.  Well, we need the book to hit at least 50K words now if there was just a way for you to use what you had….you know AU realities are popular in YA right now..maybe you could randomly add one and we could sale this thing.

Friedman: Well, it beats rewriting the book again. Or sending you baguettes.

Okay, that was just me being a jerk  and that probably wasn’t what happened in real life, because I’m sure Aimee Friedman and her editor had a legitimate plan with this one,  but God knows its what this book felt like and like the Fictional Editor, I so prefer the hot French guy to the boring stooge that the character ends up with.

Whoops, spoiler alert.  Though to be fair, someone had already spoiled it for me on GoodReads and if it helps some other poor sap from getting their shipper heart ripped out then I really don’t give a fuck because the ship that one oozed bad ship.

Or bland ship I should say.  With the Hot French Guy, whose name is actually Jaques (how cliche can you get) there was actual chemistry even if it was cliche beyond belief.   I honestly believe that Friedman wanted to give Summer some sort of happiness at the end of the book and just couldn’t figure out a way to make Jaques and Summer stay together so she settled with Snoozer Hugh.

Bland ship aside though, one of the reasons I didn’t like this book was that the alternate realities are never really explained.  Sure, we get an occasional reference of “What If” but…we don’t know what’s real and what’s not. And I still don’t know what the point of the AU shit was (other than to theorize it was to make up for a lack of page count).

When I was reading this book I was comparing it to a Lifetime movie I watched last Christmas that involved a similar premises with this career woman who lived two alternate time lines-one which she missed a plane and another where she caught it.  This book reminded me of that premises, but the movie  (that’s right a Lifetime movie) did a better job explaining it.

At the end of the day, I just didn’t like this book.  Maybe there were some things that were trigger inducing for me-the name summer and some of the plot devices BUT it wasn’t that so much but the unexplained idiocy of the plot and the stupid ship.

Overall Rating: A D the writing gave it the passmark (barely).

 

More Mulit-Verse Fun: A Million Worlds With You by Claudia Gray

A million universes. A million dangers. One destiny.

The fate of the multiverse rests in Marguerite Caine’s hands. Marguerite has been at the center of a cross-dimensional feud since she first traveled to another universe using her parents’ invention, the Firebird. Only now has she learned the true plans of the evil Triad Corporation—and that those plans could spell doom for dozens or hundreds of universes, each facing total annihilation.

Paul Markov has always been at Marguerite’s side, but Triad’s last attack has left him a changed man—angry and shadowed by tragedy. He struggles to overcome the damage done to him, but despite Marguerite’s efforts to help, Paul may never be the same again.

So it’s up to Marguerite alone to stop the destruction of the multiverse. Billions of lives are at stake. The risks have never been higher. And Triad has unleashed its ultimate weapon: another dimension’s Marguerite—wicked, psychologically twisted, and always one step ahead.

In the epic conclusion to Claudia Gray’s Firebird trilogy, fate and family will be questioned, loves will be won and lost, and the multiverse will be forever changed. It’s a battle of the Marguerites . . . and only one can win.

Source: GoodReads

I love this trilogy.  If you want a fast pace alternate dimensional world, this is the series for you.  I’ve mentioned several times but I love Claudia Grey books for their sheer cheesiness.

Yes, they’re cheesy and yes they romance novels and cheesy.  Not everyone is going to love them, but I oddly do.  And I think the Firebird trilogy is probably her best series.

I love the concept, although honestly this one was probably the least favorite of the series.  I think it’s because the world building got so complex that at times it seemed almost convoluted and I had to take a break just to figure out what was going on.

The solution for the whole issue seemed to come with relative ease.

Though that aside, this is a fun series there’s a lot of directions this trilogy could go and it took a lot of those possible directions.

Though, I was slightly annoyed that not only one but two babies sort of made an appearance in this book.

YA and babies do not mix, people.

It’s just a personal pet peeve of mine and I got annoyed how much baby worshipping there was in this book.  Honestly, sometimes the sweetness of that and the Paul/Marguerite got to me too.  In my previous reviews for this series I probably made a note that I prefer Theo and Marguerite I think just because it just seems a little less cliche to me, and Theo is more my type.  It’s not that Paul and Marguerite are bad or anything, they’re just sort of bland.

Besides how convoluted this one got and  the too sweet ship, I did enjoy the conclusion to this series.  Like I said, I like Claudia Grey’s stuff it’s fun and interesting.  And I do think she has evolved as a writer over the years.  Her stuff has gotten only better, so if you are looking for a fun but slightly cheesy series you’ll probably like this one.

Overall Rating: In this dimension I give it a B+.  As I previously stated  I did like it a little less than the previous books.

Last Years Purchasing Mistake: Last Year’s Mistake by Gina Ciocca

Before:
Kelsey and David became best friends the summer before freshman year and were inseparable ever after. Until the night a misunderstanding turned Kelsey into the school joke, and everything around her crumbled—including her friendship with David. So when Kelsey’s parents decided to move away, she couldn’t wait to start over and leave the past behind. Except, David wasn’t ready to let her go…

After:
Now it’s senior year and Kelsey has a new group of friends, genuine popularity, and a hot boyfriend. Her life is perfect. That is, until David’s family moves to town and he shakes up everything. Soon old feelings bubble to the surface and threaten to destroy Kelsey’s second chance at happiness. The more time she spends with David, the more she realizes she never truly let him go. And maybe she never wants to.

Told in alternating sections, LAST YEAR’S MISTAKE is a charming and romantic debut about loving, leaving, and letting go.

Source: GoodReads

Another DNF!

It’s funny because I read this one the same day after I quit reading The Notorious Pagan Jones.   Both of the books I ended up giving up on but for different reasons.

Last Year’s Mistake I was hoping would be a light forthy read.  Light forthy reads are actually sort of a hard thing to pull off successfully.  Unfortunately for this book, it was not a success.  I quit after reading roughly 90 pages of the book.

The structure sort of has the same structure as The Last Five Years in the fact that it will flip back and forth from the present to the past.  It doesn’t work too well in book form, because it just makes the book just jarring.   Plus, I didn’t really feel like I could get emotionally attach to any of these characters since it did take place in the same point of view (Kelsey’s) and I feel like the flashbacks could’ve been better even inwoven through the story or written in a purely chronological order.

Speaking of Kelsey, I could give a flying flip about her.  Apparently, there’s a new guy who caused her problems in the past so she’s tempted to cheat on her new hot piece of ass.

That’s all I really know about her.

David just seems as much as a cardboard cut out as the hot boyfriend whose name I can’t even remember.

Honestly, I didn’t really care about any aspect about this book which was why I DNF’d it.

It’s going to be a weird thing to say, but I just felt like this book was shallow.  Can books even be shallow?  If they can be it would be this book.

There was just no substance to it.  To be fair, it used a pretty standard cliche, but it didn’t even attempt to make it something more like other contemporary writers have done in the past.  Here, it’s just the “gimmick” of the novel is it’s structure, and like I previously stated it bugged me more than pulled me into the story.

Obviously, I didn’t finish this one like I didn’t finish The Notorious Pagan Jones while the the first book at least had an interesting hook, there was nothing about this one that interested me rather than trying to perfect he simple plot the book was one it just decided that changing the structure of the novel was sufficient enough to make it different.

Overall Rating: DNF

This is So 2012 :Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

The poverty stricken Reds are commoners, living under the rule of the Silvers, elite warriors with god-like powers.

To Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red girl from The Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change.

Mare finds herself working in the Silver Palace, at the centre of
those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control.

But power is a dangerous game. And in this world divided by blood, who will win?

Source: GoodReads

This book has gotten so much press.  I might’ve understood it back in 2012, when the themes it bought to the table would’ve been fresh and original.

But now.

I am just bored of tropes like this.  It seems like Red Queen followed this recipe I found in How to Create a Bestselling YA Book at the Let Your Cat Piss on It section  ( a very popular genre) at the bargain bookstore the other day.  Don’t believe me, here’s the recipe.  I annotated it, so that the comparison to Red Queen is even more obvious.  However, unless, Aveyard wrote her name inside the book I don’t think it would’ve been more obvious:

How to Create a Six Figure Best Selling YA Dystopia/Fantasy that Relies Heavily on X-Men (Because Stan Lee Has Never Steered the Honest Dollar Wrong)

Ingredients:

  • 1 Special Main Character
  • 1 Hot Unattainable Male
  • 1 Hot Bad Boy
  • 1/2 cup of Half Ass World Building
  • 2 teaspoons of X-Men
  • A big dash of action
  • 1 teaspoon cliffhanger

Instructions:

1) Introduce Special Main Character: Remember, your character is special.  Use a name that is truly unique–meaning, one no one in their right mind would name their child said name.  Celebrities have already used the name Apple and North, so try to be more original.  Suggested names-Gator, Viagra, or Dogsby.  Please note, you might want to use theme names.

The author of Red Queen  took this advice by using horse names.  Alas, there is no Mr. Ed.

You’re main character should come from the masses.  The poor class.  Give her a family.  Try to give the family a challenge that means they can’t be together.  This will add to conflict and a possible McGuffin quest.

Early on in the book (or very late in the book) you need to show your character is special.  It’s usually suggested you use a life or death situation to show off her powers.  Give her a drippy friend or sibling to save also does the trick as well.  Or you could always rely on the power of true love. Also, make sure the powers are amazing like they’re Storm on X-Men.

Red Queen  uses a drippy best friend to be the catalyst of the plot.  We don’t see much of him after the main character lays her ass on the line. But we do get Storm like powers or maybe they’re more like Cyclops?  Hmm, no Rouge powers though.  Weird since that’s what these books usually try to go for.

2) Introduce Hot Unattainable Male:

You have to show how he’s unattainable this is usually done with half ass world building.  Is he a prince?  Is he otherwise occupied?  Is he hot? Of course, he’s hot.  Make sure you mention his eyes and abs lots and lots.

This novel is an excellent example of step two.  We know all about Cal’s eyes and that he’s crown prince and therefore unattainable.  His personality, however lacks development.

They need to have an instant connection so that unattainableness stings more.  It’s often in this part of the book that you should introduce the Hot Bad Boy or the Other Guy.  The result of the introduction of the love interests should be like this Youtube video.

Aveyard, actually handles this trope in a mildly interesting way. So, I’m not going to be mocking it (much).  Alas,there is no song and dance number after realizing boys were going to be in the book.

3) It’s time for a plot:

But what plot?

I don’t know watch some X-Men.  A couple of episodes of that should give you an idea of what your with.  Issues such as change, all that stuff Spiderman’s uncle is preaching about, and prejudice can be talked about.  Remember, you’re writing a dystopia so you can exert these problems on the world as well, not just a bigoted congressman.

Don’t stress out too much about the world building.  You’ll get loss in the details.  Who cares, about explaining the origin of certain aspects of plot.

It’s just cool looking/sounding.

I.E. Silver Blood.  We never get an origin story.  Even the lamest characters in X-Men have origin stories.

4) End with an Amazing Cliffie:

This is going to be how you get your paycheck the next go around, so make the ending ah-mazing and make up for any flaws in the book.

If I wouldn’t be a prudent reader Aveyard would’ve done this.

So, yeah.  It followed this recipe perfectly.  The thing about Red Queen is that I could see it having an audience.  I’m just not the right audience for it.

Overall Rating: C-a good ending and decent writing just an overuse of overdone tropes.

More Like Royally Sucks:Royally Lost by Angie Stanton

Conspiracy Theory: Meg Cabot brought Princess Mia out of retirement because of this  book.

Because something had to fix the damage that Angie Stanton caused the princess genre in the YA-verse.

If you like books about princesses, don’t read this one.  If you like books about Europe and traveling in Europe.  Run away.  Now. And try to calm yourself down by binge watching episodes of Rick Steves on PBS.

I know that’s what I intend to do after this shit fest.

Here are the  life lessons this book has taught me.  I can’t believe that in twenty-six years I missed all of these:

1) Everything older than ten years old is lame. Because living in the past is well dumb, according to our wise, young, and hip heroine.

2) McDonalds is the best thing ever.  Those pink slime burgers are way better than kolaches and sauerkraut.

3) He’s cute!  You must be in looove.

4) Three days works for Disney couples and you too.

5) Parents are lame.  Take their money.  Lie to them.  Don’t be responsible.  They’re just lame and they should totally let you travel around with complete strangers on an unfamiliar continent.  Because family bonding time-don’t need it.

Of course there are more little life lessons, but I’m not going to spoil them all for you.  That would keep you from having the joyous experience that I had.

Also, it might keep you from going insane.

To be honest, I really was looking forward to this one.  I thought that it would be a light cute read.  But the first paragraph I’m introduced to Becca and she’s bemoaning about how lame Europe is with its stuffy history.

And at this point I wanted to smack her.

Let me tell you guys a story.  When I was in high school my history class was sponsoring a three week trip to Europe.  I begged my parents to let me go, but I didn’t get to because of financial reasons.  The point is, I was devastated.  So, I worked my butt of in college and in law school, so that when another opportunity presented itself I could study abroad.  Which I did.  I didn’t have enough money to gallivant around main Europe, but the country of Ireland was enough.  I spent my time just marvel at how old and beautiful everything was.  And I didn’t spend my time in a McDonalds-though I did go to the campus Starbucks mainly because it was the only place that had iced coffee and I only drink my coffee iced.  Long story short, I wasn’t empathetic towards Becca and her hatred towards Europe at all.

The PG version of what I wanted to do to Becca.

Honestly, Becca felt a bit like a caricature or like one of the kids on National Lampoon’s European Vacation.  She gives Americans a bad name.  She’s ignorant, rude, and downright shallow.  I don’t know how she managed to finagle her way into Northwestern-I’m betting daddy bought her in.  Because she’s not smart enough to know to keep her passport in a money belt.  Or for that matter, she thinks its a good idea to run around Europe with a stranger who has shown stalker tendencies.  And she just laughs about getting her picture blasted on the front page of the tabloids in her skivvies.

Seriously, she’s like one of those stupid girls on I Want to Marry Harry (I really don’t know how they don’t know that’s not the real prince).

Then there’s Nikolai. Like Becca gives bad names to Americans, Nikolai gives bad names to Europeans and princes in general. I wouldn’t want this guy as my prince.  Like Becca he is too stupid to live.  He’s gallivanting around Europe with just some cash and a bike and doesn’t expect to get caught.  Despite the fact he’s a prince at has to cross the border and doesn’t have a fake passport, visa, or any for of traveling documents.

Hmm, lost prince.  Border crossing.  He should be easy enough to find.

The plot overall is about that flimsy.  The title is misleading.  No one is lost.  Rather, it is a very watered down version of Roman Holiday with the genders flip flopped and neither Becca nor Nikolai being as charming as as well developed as Hepburn or Peck’s character.  Heck, even The Prince and Me  is more developed and I had a lot of issues with that movie.

If you want to read about princesses stick to The Princess Diaries.  The middle of the series may sag a little, but at least the characters are well developed and Genovia actually feels like it could be a real country while Mondovia just seems like some made up country they’d put in a half ass made for TV movie.

That’s what this book on a whole seems like.

To top off the whole shit fest, we get some awful Spanglish at the end in Costa Rica.  Considering I live in Texas and the Spanish spoken here is much more complex than merely Si and Hola it just confirms again how culturally offensive this book is.

I really don’t know how this one got the nod from Harper Teen.  The same publisher that published The Princess Diaries.  They really should know better.  And maybe they do.  Maybe they saw what a shit fest this one was and that’s why they have Meg Cabot writing again to fix this broken sub-genre.

Well, that’s my conspiracy theory and I’m sticking to it.

Overall Rating: F.  Don’t.  Just don’t.