Wednesday, August 23, 2017

TTYL, BFF • I Hate Everyone But You

Ava and Gen are best friends heading off to their first semesters at their separate colleges, Ava remaining behind on the West Coast while Gen starts fresh on the East Coast. They keep in touch via email and text, and from friendship shenanigans, school woes, romantic entanglements, mental health and moments of self-discovery, these two BFFs are about to find out if their friendship will stand the test of distance, time and self-growth.

I Hate Everyone But You book cover
Plot? It's about two best friends who are navigating their first year of college, mental health, sexuality and a long distance friendship. And yes, there were relatable, well-done moments, particularly experiences that come with being a college freshman - navigating a new campus, figuring out how to manage social vs. academic life if you're living away from home, forging new relationships, exploring new things in all aspects of your life, trying to maintain friendships with people who you no longer see on a regular basis.

Characters? This aspect is honestly where I felt the novel fell flat. I just didn't click with either Ava or Gen on any level, which was rather unfortunate considering that the entirety of this story centers around both of their experiences away at school (as recounted to each other). I felt like both characters had the potential to be relatable. But they felt a little too much like caricatures of real people, to me, that is, so I just genuinely ended up not feeling any sort of connection whatsoever.

Writing? I enjoyed the alternative format that the authors employed for their storytelling, as they only used text messages and emails at all times. It's a nice nod to how many of us keep in touch with the friends we made who may not necessarily live near enough to physically hang out with in this day and age. Despite the fact that it certainly limited the reader's knowledge of either girl (which may be where my lack of connection stems from, now that I think about it), it still felt like a good way to tell this sort of tale. (One other thing I feel I need to mention - I do not like one particular thing that happens towards the end. It felt a little too rushed, in my opinion, and I sort of wish it had been placed a little earlier.)

Overall? Personally, this one was a disappointment. I had really been looking forward to reading it, which is why I'm sad I ended up feeling lackluster about it. While it does have moments that made me laugh out loud, and I like the mentions of moments from the freshman college experience, it was to its ultimate detriment that I just couldn't connect with the characters at all.

What's the primary way you communicate with your best friends? I find that there are really only two ways that I communicate with my best friends - text messages (whether it's iMessage or through an app like Viber, since a lot of my friends are in other parts of the world) or Instagram. For the former, it's accessible and easy, and ultimately a private way to talk about everything and anything. For the latter, it's fun to try and share photos (and stories!) of our experiences every day or during special occasions, though it's less private. 

I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn & Allison Raskin
Publisher: Wednesday Books | Publication Date: September 5, 2017
Source: ARC received from the publisher (Thanks!)

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

That One Summer • The Names They Gave Us

The Names They Gave Us book cover
Lucy Hansson’s life appears to be on track: a great relationship with her parents, a steady boyfriend and a comfortable ‘job’ helping at their church and their summer Bible camp. But then her mom’s cancer reappears, the first of a series of chaotic changes in Lucy’s life. When her parents decide that she ought to volunteer at a neighboring camp for troubled kids, Lucy is faced with new experiences, challenges and friends – all things that, alongside her own questions about her faith, she must come to terms with over the summer.

I have read and loved every single one of Emery Lord’s novels. The Names They Gave Us is certainly no exception, her latest release being a story that was affecting and thoughtful. Lucy is struggling with her new circumstances as a counselor in a different summer camp; she also grapples with her faith, tested as it is by the return of her mother’s cancer and the shifting dynamics of her own life. And the reason why this story is so great is simple: most readers will be able to identify with Lucy. Who of us has not grappled with questions about our faith in harsh circumstances? Who of us has not grappled with figuring out who we are and what we want? Who of us has not grappled with forming and forging relationships with new people? Who of us has not been put into situations where we must adapt and learn and grow? I feel like I’d be hard-pressed to discover someone who hasn’t had these struggles in their life in one form or another. In the case of this novel, Lord succeeds in portraying Lucy’s summer experience – the highs and the lows, the relationship shifts, the questions and the answers – in all its vibrantly complex glory, and I adored every second.

Emotionally nuanced, with carefully crafted characters and relationships, The Names They Gave Us left quite an impression. I felt deeply reading this one; I also found myself asking (and answering) questions of my own, inspired by Lucy’s own musings. It was, without a doubt, another utterly beautiful story from Emery Lord, and I would highly recommend it.

The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's | Publication Date: May 16, 2017
Source: ARC received from the publisher (Thanks!)
Buy the Book: Book Depository | Amazon | IndieBound

Monday, August 21, 2017

Five Tips for Convention Season

I'm really excited that convention season is just around the corner for Macky & I! After attending both Boston Comic Con and New York Comic Con last year, as well as having attended BookCon earlier this year, we're both really looking forward to attending New York Comic Con for the second time and attending Anime Con as well. 

As the time draws closer, it's time to start prepping for the cons - thinking up cosplay or outfits, saving up to buy new goodies, thinking about what panels or photo ops you want to attend. While I'm certainly no expert when it comes to cons, I thought it'd be fun to share a few tips I've picked up after last year! 

1. Make plans to attend with other folks. One of the best things about conventions is being able to go with folks who share the same passions you do! I don't think I'd have half as much fun attending these things if I weren't going with people who will be as excited as I am. I'm fortunate to share very many fandoms in common with Macky, as well as some of our other friends.
2. Prepare your schedule. While I don't necessarily think that you need to stick to your schedule once you've got it, it'll be nice for you and your companions to have a frame of reference for what's going on any given con day. It'll give you the opportunity to arrive early (especially for popular panels), and hit up every booth (and try to get your exclusives). 

3. Bring snacks, water, portable battery and tote bags. I'd suggest carrying either a backpack or a smaller purse, preferably something that will leave your hands free, as well as having an extra tote tucked in there. Bringing a portable battery will also save your life (especially if you're documenting the event via your phone), and having snacks and water will make up for not being able to stop to eat.

4. Be savvy with your cash. Even though I had been warned, I still went way over my own personal budget for last year. I've learned my lesson now! It definitely will work out in your favor if you've got the cash to spend on the goodies you want and if you do the smart shopper method of making the rounds (especially around Artist Alley in my case) before you spend your cash.

5. Remember your manners. There will come a point when you are tired, hungry or encountering frustrating folk. I urge you to remember to always be polite and respectful! Cons are definitely crowded and overwhelming, and a little patience and a lot of manners will definitely go a long way towards making the convention a pleasant experience for you and everyone else.

There you have it, friends! I hope you find them helpful, particularly if you're going to be attending any conventions yourself. If you're going to be at NYCC or AnimeCon this year, please be sure to give a shout in the comments! (P.S. Check out Eventbrite to find events near you! They have a handy online registration page so you can sign up.)


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