An abundance of book reviews!

First off, on behalf of everyone here at After the Last Page (namely, Ashley and me), I feel the need to apologize for the lack of communication on our part. We were confronted with mounds of classwork, work-related drama, a college basketball tournament (to which I am hopelessly addicted every March), and both Ashley and I were sidelined and quarantined with horrendous cases of the flu (at two separate, unrelated times) which left us feeling like cranky zombies in desperate need of brains.

On the bright side, during my bout with the flu (which I am still recovering from) I managed to get quite a bit of reading done. Therefore, I think I owe you some book reviews!

1) First Date by Krista McGee

**Note: This was my first experience with Christian fiction, and was quite a shock to me since I didn’t know it was Christian fic when I started reading it. I’m going to rate it objectively, but keep in mind I have nothing to compare it to.

The Story: Quiet, structured Addy unwittingly finds herself selected to be one of 100 girls to participate in a reality show to determine who will go to the prom with the President’s son. Addy hates the limelight and is hoping to be kicked off the show as quickly as possible. But after a few weeks on the show, Addy realizes the plan she has for herself is a lot different from the plan God has for her.

The Low Down: In a generation where such reality shows are the norm, the plot felt like a genuine look at what a reality show is like behind the scenes. The producers are atrocious, some contestants are nice, but most are catty snobs, and there’s not a girl I know who wouldn’t want a friend like Kara, Addy’s roommate. I enjoyed McGee’s story and her writing was light and kept me interested. I thought it was a little preachy at some parts, and there were other conversations where I had to roll my eyes and groan because it was a tad on the corny side. But, all in all, it is a cute story of a young girl trying to come to terms with what she wants versus what God wants for her, and learning to trust in Him.

Bottom Line: Original plot with a good storyline and likable characters, but probably wouldn’t hold the interest of non-Christian readers.

OFFICIAL RATING: 7/10

2) Supergirl Mixtapes by Meagan Brothers

**Note: Supergirl Mixtapes will be released on April 24, 2012.

The Story: Set in 1997, Maria is on her way to live with her estranged, artist mother in New York City after breaking up with her abusive boyfriend. The idea is that a different environment will help her get over her “sickness” (which everyone is too polite to acknowledge was a possible suicide attempt). When she arrives in the city, she’s not sure what to expect. She finds herself wrapped up in a world where rock and roll is the only thing that matters, and she finds herself ready to live and experience life. A stranger to NYC at first, Maria takes to the streets of the city like a fish in water and learns more about life, family, and friendships then she ever would have learned in her southern, podunk hometown.

The Low Down: Maria’s conflicting emotions throughout the book feel as real as any teenager struggling with emotional turmoil. She’s been stifled in her quiet, reserved hometown and feels the world open up to her in New York. Her mother introduces her to a wild music scene, which is a heavily prominent theme throughout the entire book. Maria experiences a lot of ups and downs, however some of the things Maria encounters are a little extreme for most teenagers to relate to (learning to work the register at a strip joint and having a fleeting, unspoken thing with Mom’s 20-something boyfriend are just two examples).

There are also several subplots in the book, and some of them are a bit underdeveloped. There are a lot different elements piled into this book. Personally, I would have loved to read more about Maria’s BFF, Dory, and the Supergirl Mixtapes they send each other. Considering that’s where the title comes from, I would have liked to have seen a little bit more emphasis on that. Also, being set in 1997, a lot of the music references will be completely lost on younger readers. I was a child of the 90’s, and I had to Google just about every band and artist to find out who they were.

Bottom Line: If you are a music lover, you will probably enjoy Supergirl Mixtapes. Even if the references are way before your time, the characters’ deep love and connection to good music is relatable no matter how old you are. However, the obscure music references and multiple plot points might confuse and turn off some readers.

OFFICIAL RATING: 6/10

3) This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

**Note: This Is Not a Test will be released June 19, 2012

The Story: The zombie apocalypse is here, and it’s bad. All it takes is one tiny little bite to turn you into the one of the undead. Sloane Price and five of her classmates have barricaded themselves into their high school hoping it will keep them safe until help arrives. But Sloane has other things in mind. Her world came crashing down around her six months ago, spiraling her into a deep depression. To her, becoming one of the undead doesn’t seem so bad. While everyone around her hopes the barricades will hold, she eagerly wonders how long it will take them to fall.

The Low Down: Contrary to all appearances, This Is Not a Test is not just a regular zombie apocalypse novel. It’s not about kids trying survive flesh and brain eating zombies. Similar to the rest of Summers’s novels, she stays true to what she does best: digging deep into the raw emotions of her characters. The writing is phenomenal and brings readers right into the book. All the characters have depth and complexity and are so well rounded you wonder how they can’t be real. It’s suspenseful, fast paced, and an all around great read.

The Bottom Line: This Is Not a Test is not only a well written zombie novel, but a stunning look at the human condition and what someone is willing to resort to when all hope is gone. It’ll be sure to keep you on the edge of your seat right up to the end.

OFFICIAL RATING: 8.5/10

Two awesome book giveaways from around the web

Courtney Summers book giveaway from Nova Ren Suma! 

Nova Ren Suma, author of Imaginary Girls and Dani Noir, is having a very generous giveaway on her website, Distraction99.com. She’s got a great guest post by Courtney Summers AND she’s giving away signed copies of Some Girls Are and Fall for Anything, and a pre-order of This is Not a Test (due out in June 2012). She also has a separate contest for audio books of Cracked Up to Be and Some Girls Are on the same page. Head to Suma’s website and fill out the form at the bottom of the post to enter,  and check out some of the other really cool author interviews and guest posts.

P.S. Review of This is Not a Test coming soon!

Daisy Whitney two-book giveaway from Courtney Summers!

Speaking of Courtney Summers, to celebrate the release of The Rivals, Daisy Whitney’s sequel to The Mockingbirds (which is AMAZING), Summers is giving away a copy of each on her Facebook page. All you have to do is leave a comment saying you want to win, and BAM! You’re entered!

 

It’s official…

A portrait of me all last week.

I am the worst blogger ever. In my defense, I’m blaming it on the zombie flu that I am still trying to kick. It may not actually turn you into a zombie, but it sure made me feel like one.

During my bed-ridden state, I was able to stalk dabble a little on my computer and do some digging on our favorite YA authors. And speaking of zombies, is anyone else as excited as me that COURTNEY SUMMERS’ NEXT BOOK WILL BE ABOUT ZOMBIES?!! Summers has been giving hints in dribs and drabs about her new book THIS IS NOT A TEST, and officially announced the zombiefied news on Twitter three days ago. This will be her first venture into the world of the undead and I cannot wait to see what she does with it. *squeals like a little girl*

From Goodreads:

“It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self. To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up. 

As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live. But as the days crawl by, everyone’s motivations to survive begin to change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life–and death–inside. 

When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?”

Who’s else excited? Because I am pumped beyond all pumpage. Summers is an amazingly gifted rider and knows how to work an audience with suspense, mystery, and gut wrenching emotions. I’m stoked to see how she handles a zombie-pocalpyse.

This is Not a Test is expected out sometime in 2012. It’s not on Amazon yet, but you can add it to your Goodread’s “to-read” list.

Second Look: Fall for Anything by Courtney Summers

Her dad jumped, but how far will SHE fall?

PLOT:
Eddie Reeves’ is broken. Her father, famous photographer Seth Reeves, has committed suicide for seemingly no reason. She has nothing left except her devastated mother, a tense relationship with her best friend Milo, and thousands of questions about her dad’s death. But the biggest question of all is WHY? Eddie has to know. Every night she sneaks out to the warehouse where he jumped to his death to try to find answers. Then she meets Culler Evans, her father’s photography student, who is just as destroyed about the suicide as she is. With the remnants of her father’s belongings, Culler and Eddie try to piece together  the last few weeks of Papa Reeves’ life and manage to learn a lot about themselves, and each other, along the way.

CHARACTERS:
Despite all her well-deserved drama, Eddie is a pretty cool chick. She’s grief stricken, lost, and unsure of herself, but Eddie is the type of girl that I probably would like to hang with. It may be a symptom of her grief, but she doesn’t hold her feelings back. Except around Beth. Oh, Beth. I wish there were words to express how much I hate you. Sure, you’re Mrs. Reeves’ best friend and I get that you miss Mr. Reeves too.  I know you mean well, but OH MY GOD. FYI: Light, new age music isn’t going to make a big difference after trauma like that. And then there’s Milo. Who I want to hug. And cuddle. And share a milkshake “Lady and the Tramp” style with. Culler isn’t a bad guy, and I respect him for wanting to help Eddie through her loss. But there’s just something about him that makes him seem shady throughout the story. Maybe it was the age difference between him and Eddie. They embark on a slightly unrealistic, but satisfying, adventure together which reveals Culler’s true self.

EXTRA GOODIES:

  • Being torn between an older, handsome stranger and the best friend you’ve known since you were 7. We like to call this a LOVE TRIANGLE.
  • A true, honest-to-God glimpse at true grief, being broadcast to you directly from the inside of Eddie’s head.
  • I wanted to hit up Wawa for a cherry slushie every time Eddie visited the gas station/mini mart where Milo works

OPINION:
This is not in any way a fun and lighthearted book. That doesn’t make it any less incredible. I was impressed by Eddie’s conflicting emotions, which are brutal, real, and very raw, which I think is a compliment to Courtney Summers’ writing. Fall for Anything is an accurate story of what the human mind goes through after a tough loss. I loved the relationship between Eddie and Milo, even though it was sketchy at times. Milo cares for Eddie, and I love that he yells at her and doesn’t do things her way. He’s not a jerk… he just wants to protect her. Despite its ups and downs, their friendship is awesome and I was rather jealous of it. In stories like this, I ALWAYS root for the BFF, whether it’s likely to happen or not. I was incredibly frustrated with Beth’s treatment of the Reeves’ family, and I really wish someone would have unleashed the wrath of hell on her. All in all, I liked it. It’s deep, rough, and intense. But really, REALLY good.

OFFICIAL RATING: 8/10

PS: After reading all these books filled with nothing but llama drama, I think I have to read something a bit more uplifting before my heart explodes.