YA? Why, eh?

I would like to talk about some things I do not understand.

What, exactly, makes a book “young adult”? Just what constitutes “literary fiction,” and what do I call a book that’s not that but not quite anything else? And what are other terms that mean the same thing as “narrative nonfiction,” so that I can find more books like Devil in the White City?

When we started blogging, I finally started tracking things on Goodreads, like Amanda had been telling me to do FORever. Recently, I started trying to add to my currently-reading,  to-read, and  read shelves with more some more detailed shelves.

I can do “fiction” and “non-fiction.” I can do “fantasy” and “historical fiction.”

Beyond that though, I get confused.

In my mind, the difference between a book that is categorized as Young Adult versus a book that is not is the discussion of s-e-x in the book. Right? But that must not be right, because there is some of that in books like The Lumatere Chronicles and His Fair Assassin and all things John Green.

So then I’ve heard that the difference between YA – Young Adult and NA – New Adult is the age of the characters. However, I’m also pretty sure that NA was just made up to write books about college-age kids (books with s-e-x in them)… so that is confusing when there are also books about college-age kids that are YA (and sometimes involving s-e-x.)

Can’t we just call them all, well, books? Or at least use the “genres” instead of age-classifications? Or is there some other telltale giveaway that I’m missing when it comes to age-divisions?

Sigh…and then the genres. I can get behind classifying fiction into different categories, but then I get stuck on “literary fiction.” Ha, according to wikipedia: “Literary fiction is a term principally used for certain fictional works that are claimed to hold literary merit” – which is basically an “I know it when I see it” definition. And sometimes I know it – but, what does one call a novel that does not fall into a particular genre but uh, does not hold literary merit? What do we call that? Or do we need to call it anything?

I suppose it helps to have genres when trying to find books-like-other-books. And I really like nonfiction books that read like novels – but I’m not always sure what to call them. Creative nonfiction? I heard “nonfiction novel” on an episode of Literary Disco talking about Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, but I don’t think that term is used much nowadays  (it’s attributed to Truman Capote and In Cold Blood). Perhaps narrative nonfiction is the label-of-choice these days – but are there a bunch of subgenres here too?  I found this list on Goodreads called “memoirs, narrative nonfiction and other (mostly) true things.” Perhaps that’s where I need to start to look for more books.

However, I still have no clue to how organize my own Goodreads shelves.

Help?

This is not my bookshelf - borrowed from apartment.therapy @ http://tinyurl.com/7x94c5l. Maybe I should take up organizing by color?

This is not my bookshelf – borrowed from apartment.therapy @ http://tinyurl.com/7x94c5l. Maybe I should take up organizing by color?

Review: The Body in the Woods

The Body in the Woods,  April Henry (Point Last Seen #1)

Published June 17th 2014 by Macmillan Children’s

263 pages

Source: NetGalley

Reviewed by Amanda

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From Goodreads…

In this new series told from multiple perspectives, teen members of a search and rescue team discover a dead body in the woods.

Alexis, Nick, and Ruby have very different backgrounds: Alexis has spent her life covering for her mom’s mental illness, Nick’s bravado hides his fear of not being good enough, and Ruby just wants to pursue her eccentric interests in a world that doesn’t understand her. When the three teens join Portland County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, they are teamed up to search for a autistic man lost in the woods. What they find instead is a dead body. In a friendship that will be forged in danger, fear, and courage, the three team up to find the girl’s killer—before he can strike one of their own.

Thanks to Air Canada I read this book in about 2 hours sitting at the gate waiting for a flight last week.  This is definitely a fast read!

Alexis, Nick and Ruby are all in training for Portland Search and Rescue and conveniently end up on their first search together without an experienced team member.  Alexis stumbles upon a body, Ruby announces its murder, and Nick – well Nick wants to be a hero but runs away in fear when they think the murderer may be coming back.  I liked that the perspective kept changing throughout for a different interpretation of the facts.  I also really like when we get a point of view from a mystery criminal.  They sometimes are a little cheesy, but always successfully creep me out.

Alexis, Nick & Ruby make an unlikely team (starting with the fact that they’re high schoolers doing Search & Rescue), but they do balance each other as they became closer.  Ruby particularly needs humanizing from the others.  I assumed based on her disconnectedness from others and her need to play a role with everyone that she is supposed to be on the Asperger’s/Autism spectrum somewhere.  This made for an interesting character.  Not necessarily a likeable character, but different.  Nick is trying to live up to his idealized image of his deceased father.  I think as the series continues Nick has the best opportunities to grow as a character.  Alexis was probably my favorite of the trio, though she became a bit overbearing with her “no one can get close to me and learn my secrets” complex.  In the end, Alexis seemed like a different character entirely.  Yes, growth and change happen throughout a book but that was too fast for me to be believable.  Its frustrating to me when a character seems to behave at total odds with the way they’ve been portrayed 90% of the book.

This was a book that felt like a book written for a Young Adult audience, rather than a just a book that would also work for young adults.  I think you can have a great YA mystery without writing too simplistic a book but this was not that mystery.  I have no problem with suspending disbelief when I read, but I had to do that a bit too much with A Body In the Woods to really enjoy the book.  Maybe middle graders would enjoy it much more than I did.

2 Stars

Thank you MacMillan Children’s and NetGalley for this advanced read copy in exchange for an honest opinion.

Don’t forget you have until the end of the week to win a copy of Finnikin of the Rock! Comment here!

Review: Make It Count

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Make It Count, Megan Erikson (Bowler University #1)

Amanda

Published June 3rd 2014 by William Morrow Impulse

384 pages

Source: Edelweiss

We’re excited to be part of the blog tour today for Megan Erickson’s debut new adult Make it Count! I think I’d have had fun at Bowler University!

20705734Kat Caruso wishes her brain had a return policy, or at least a complaint hot-line. The defective organ is constantly distracted, terrible at statistics, and absolutely flooded with inappropriate thoughts about her boyfriend’s gorgeous best friend, Alec…who just so happens to be her brand new math tutor. Who knew nerd was so hot?

Kat usually goes through tutors like she does boyfriends—both always seem to bail when they realize how hopeless she is. It’s safer for her heart to keep everyone at arm’s reach. But Alec is always stepping just a little too close.

Alec Stone should not be fantasizing about Kat. She’s adorable, unbelievably witty, and completely off limits. He’d never stab his best friend in the back…

But when secrets are revealed, the lines of loyalty are blurred. To make it count, Alec must learn messy human emotions can’t be solved like a trigonometry function. And Kat has to trust Alec may be the first guy to want her for who she is, and not in spite of it.

In Make It Count we meet Kat, a college student struggling with statistics (if you didn’t struggle too I don’t want to know you) and working her way through multiple tutors.  When her boyfriend’s snarky roommate is assigned as her next tutor she’s almost ready to give up rather than admit she needs help.  She does not expect to befriend and then fall for hunky Alec.

Make it Count was a fun and funny read, but still touched on some serious ideas.  I was not sure how much I’d like Kat at first honestly.  She’s struggled in school all her life and seemed close to giving up when we meet her.  I was afraid she’d simply rely too much on her looks.  But when she’s confronted with the idea of a learning disability, she takes it all in and shows what a strong woman she is.  I thought Erickson did a fantastic job of bringing in Kat’s dyslexia-not something you read about every day-but Kat was so much more than the dyslexia.  She’s funny and loyal and really a believable character.  I loved how she stood up for herself all around!

Let me say this book got HOT and steamy.  Alec apparently can be a tutor of many things.  Wow. I should say, Alec was more than a hunk too.  He was encouraging and sweet-very swoonworthy!

I look forward to reading more about Bowler University! Make it Count was about Kat and Alec yes, but Erickson’s other characters were funny and intriguing.  They felt like real friends you’d have in college-not cookie cutter plot devices.   I’m definitely going to have to read Make it Right when its out!

4 stars!

Enter HERE for a chance to win Make it Count or a Starbucks gift card and Make it Count swag pack!

Thank you Edelweiss and William Morrow Impulse  for this advanced read copy in exchange for an honest opinion!

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the blog tour for Make it Count!

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Review: The Travel Writer

The Travel Writer: A Mystery, Jeff Soloway

Amanda

Business first! Check out Holly’s review of Quintana of Charyn here and sign up for our giveaway of Book #1 Finnikin of the Rock.  We love this series and think you will too!

Published June 3rd 2014 by Random House-Alibi

240 pages

Source: NetGalley

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From Goodreads…

At a posh South American resort tucked into the lush jungles of the Andes, an American journalist has gone missing, leaving the hotel’s PR agent, Pilar Rojas, with an international incident on her hands. Which is why she offers her ex-lover, travel writer Jacob Smalls, an all-expenses-paid trip to the resort in exchange for a puff piece extolling its virtues—and some behind-the-scenes digging into the disappearance. Intrigued by the prospect of winning Pilar back—and eager, as always, for freebies—Jacob hops the first flight to La Paz, Bolivia.

Although he hasn’t seen Pilar in years, Jacob finds her just as intoxicating as he did when they were together. But from the moment he hits the city’s cobbled streets, Jacob attracts all the wrong kinds of attention. Political flunkies and goons of all stripes try to scare him off the trail, while the missing woman’s not-quite boyfriend insists on shadowing Jacob’s every move. And amid ancient Incan hillside terraces, a world-class hotel conceals a secret that may kill.

 We meet our travel writer, Jacob Smalls, after he’s been called by his ex-girlfriend to a press conference she has put together.  A journalist, who happens to be Jacob’s first editor, has gone missing while visiting a 5 star hotel in Bolivia.  The Bolivian police have given up as have the FBI.  Pilar begs Jacob to come down and help her solve the mystery and save the hotel.

Jacob suffers no delusions about his career and we learn he is basically a travel writer so he can vacation for free.  This is a lifestyle I can get behind!  I liked that Jacob did not take his life too seriously, but then almost nothing seemed too serious in this book.  There was just too much effort put into making Jacob smart-assed and funny, to actually make him funny.  He’s looking for the missing woman to try to win Pilar’s heart and for the glory of it all; not out of the kindness of his heart.

I think this story had a lot of potential, but I would have enjoyed it more had it been a darker mystery and not tried so hard to be comedic.  Kenny, the editor’s want-to-be boyfriend, was just annoying – not funny.  That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy some of the humor at times, but it was not enough to carry this book.  I did like the conclusion of the mystery itself-not what I was expecting when I start reading!

I have no familiarity with Bolivia, so I liked reading about someplace different.  I enjoyed the descriptions of La Paz and of the surrounding areas.  I appreciated how Soloway brought the native people and customs into the book and how they interacted with this 5 star resort hotel built for foreigners.   I really liked the premise of this new series, that of exploring the world with a veteran traveler and finding mysteries.  I hope Jacob mellows a bit in his next adventure.

2.5 stars

Thank you Random House-Atria and NetGalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion.

Review: Quintana of Charyn (Plus Book-Pushing!)

Title: Quintana of Charyn

Author: Melina Marchette

Series: The Lumatere Chronicles #3

Published 2012 by Viking Australia, 516 pages

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Reviewed by Holly

I’ve reviewed the first two books in the Lumatere Chronicles here and here, and in both of those, I’ve tried not to give away too much of the story…which leaves me which little to say here besides this: for the love of all that is good in the world, read these books. (And keep reading for a chance to win the first one!)

The first book, Finnikin of the Rock, I liked a lot – and then Amanda told me that there were 2 more, and I was definitely leery of the trilogy (see: Divergent). But you guys, these just got better and better.

I read Quintana in between books of the Song of Fire and Ice series, and while there are definitely some genre-similarities between the two, there was a big difference for me as a reader. I keep reading the George R.R. Martin books because I’m intrigued enough with all the storylines to want to know what happens next (well, and also because J is reading them and I want to keep up). With the Lumatere Chronicles, I kept reading because my heart is f’ing bleeding for these people. In a completely made up kingdom, Melina Marchetta writes characters that are real and nuanced and believable and flawed.

I love them. I want to visit them.

I got all three books from the library, but this is a series I will buy and re-read for sure.

This is the worst review ever. I have told you nothing about the book. I guess you’ll just have to start reading if you want to know what it’s about. I will give you a few lines from the book though….

And Phaedra saw her smile, with a hint of mischief in it, and she couldn’t help smiling herself and then she was laughing. They both were, and the savage teeth were the most joyous sight Phaedra had seen for a long time. It was as if they were dancing. There it was. Suddenly the strangeness of Quintana of Charyn’s face made sense. Because it was a face meant for laughing, but it had never been given the chance. It robbed Phaedra of her breath.

Hey wait, there’s more! My sister is a book-pusher, and wants YOU to read the Lumatere Chronicles too. Clearly I also think this is a good idea. Just leave us a comment telling us what book you think everyone you know should read, like yesterday. We’ll send one lucky winner (US  only for a real book-International for a kindle version) a copy of Finnikin of the Rock. This post is completely sponsored by Amanda, because she is nice. We’ll pick the winner on Friday, 6/13!

Review: The Heiresses

The Heiresses, Sara Shepard (The Heiresses #1)

Published May 20th 2014 by Harper

320 pages

Source: Edelweiss

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From Goodreads…

The series follows one of the most prestigious and wealthy families on the Upper East Side who have built their entire fortune on the business of diamonds.

Due to a clause the grandfather placed in his will, only his granddaughters are set to inherit his massive fortune…these are the heiresses. After the death of their cousin, the remaining heiresses try to figure out if the family curse is real or not, and if not, who killed their cousin, and more importantly, which one of them is next on the hit list?

Sometimes you just need to escape into a fluff book-what could be better than a book about jewel heiresses living in New York and possibly under a family curse?  I’ve never read or watched Shepard’s Pretty Little Liars series, but I have a rough idea of what’s going on and I figured this would could as the same kind of mindless reading, perfectly trashy and fluffy.  I feel like The Heiresses was also written as a future tv series – and that’s one I’d plan to watch for some entertaining tv!

We follow basically 3 of the Saybrook heiresses, Rowan, Aster and Corrine, living their glamorous lives in New York.  I was a bit confused in the beginning with keeping track of who each cousin was, who was a sister versus who was a cousin, and who belonged to which philandering partner.  But honestly, I just went with it without over thinking because that’s just the kind of book this was.

An heiress dies! It may be murder! There’s plenty of sex-both inside and outside of marriage vows, questions of theft, and of course the Saybrook curses hanging over everyone! Are the Saybrook’s cursed to die young?

Some of the plot points I clearly saw coming, but I would say the end result was a surprise.  It was frustrating that not every question about the curse was answered-and I felt there were some glaring questions.  I’m not sure if those were just mistakes-but maybe those will happen in book two.  The book ended with such a cliffhanger that I am going to have to read book two to find out what happens!  This was not a book to take seriously and clearly its not high literary fiction.  It was fun for a trashy read which we all need sometimes in my humble opinion.

3 stars!  Read this one on the beach with a fruity drink for sure!

Thank you Harper and Edelweiss for this advanced copy for review in exchange for an honest opinion.

Finished with Grave Mercy

Check out our first two posts here and here.

So, we read Grave Mercy together, checking in at various points, which is maybe one of the funner things we do here at Gun In Act One.

To summarize: Grave Mercy is the first in a trilogy about teenage assassins trained in a convent of the god of death, taking place in medieval Brittany during it’s struggle to remain independent from France. Interestingly, there was an endnote from the author about the historical accuracy of certain characters and plot points, putting aside the whole convent-of-death portion.

Holly’s wrap-up:

So, looking over my comments in our first two posts, um, I realized that I had a swearing problem with discussing this book. Oops.

My other final thoughts…I’d give this book a solid 3. I reserve my 4&5 stars for books that I’m going to insist that other people read, like now, and I just don’t feel too strongly about this one*. I’m going to read the second, obviously, since I already bought it for $1.99, but I’m not that wrapped up in it. And I thought the story skipped over some major sections (including the 3 years of training), which left me wondering WTF happened. A lot.

*Speaking of books that I’m going to insist people read, see: The Lumatere Chronicles. You’re welcome.

 

Amanda’s wrap up:

I have to go with my sister and give this 3 stars as well.   If you’re into historical fiction this was a good light read-because you really can’t take yourself too seriously when reading about teenage assassin nuns.  I liked Ismae and in the end I did enjoy Grave Mercy.  No, the mystery wasn’t deep, but it was an entertaining read.  The romance for me was just too rushed, partially because I had assumed all three books in the trilogy followed Ismae.  I hoped for time for the love connection I guess.  Now knowing that Book 2 follows Sybella instead, I am intrigued and will definitely continue the series, I just won’t be harassing my sister about it they way I sent her weekly emails to finish the Lumatere Chronicles.  Seriously, I won’t shut up. Just read them.

And if you’re still wondering WTF this book is, here you go:

“I am a handmaiden of death. I walk in His dark shadow and do His bidding. Serving Him is my only purpose in this life, and I have let my annoyance drive that duty from my mind. It will not happen again.”