Saturday, February 28, 2015

Bake Sale by Sara Varon

Publisher: First Second
Release Date: August 30th, 2011
Source: My workplace (so thanks, public library!) 

Synopsis: Cupcake’s life is pretty good. He’s got his bakery, and his band, and his best friend, Eggplant. His days are full of cooking, socializing, and playing music. But lately, Cupcake has been struggling in the kitchen. He’s sure the solution to all his problems is out there somewhere. But maybe that solution is hiding closer to home.

Sara Varon returns with an ageless tale as dreamy and evocative as her break-out hit graphic novel Robot Dreams. At once deeply metaphorical and hilariously literal, Bake Sale is a story for anyone who’s ever looked for an easy answer to life’s intractable difficulties. It’s also a cookbook: Varon includes seven delicious recipes, from classic cupcakes to sugared flower petals to marzipan.

Review: I picked this up on a whim because it looked like a cute graphic novel to breeze through. I was right, it was cute and it was very easy to read but my only question is...what's the point of the story?!?

Our main character is Cupcake, a--surprise--cupcake who owns his own bakery and spends his time baking so that his inventory is fresh every single day for his patrons. His life is nice, he works at a bakery and tries out new recipes, he plays drums in a band with a group of vegetables and he hangs out with his bestie, Eggplant. Then Cupcake finds out that Eggplant is traveling to Turkey to visit his aunt Aubergine...whose business partner is none other than Turkish Delight, his baking idol. Eggplant invites Cupcake to join him but can't pay for his ticket. So Cupcake decides to do everything he can to pay for his own ticket to meet Turkish Delight.

Ok, so let's start with the fact that this book features a cast of characters that are anthropomorphic food groups*. I know. I don't get it either BUT if you suspend your confusion about this, you'll  enjoy the story more. Varon's drawing style is clean and easy on the eyes; there isn't much dialogue but the little that appears is straightforward. Cupcake's decision to work more in order to earn more money to see Turkish Delight takes a toll on him  financially and socially: he feels lonely now that he's not needed by his band mates and he's in a baking slump that results in icky coffee and crappy pastries for his business. What I liked about BAKE SALE was that despite the silliness of a cupcake being a narrator, his life and his troubles are human experiences. I appreciate that Varon presented all  of  the highs and lows we go through in a way that's accessible (and cuter) for a young child to understand. What was also sweet (haha) about BAKE SALE was the friendship between Cupcake and Eggplant--they support each other and near the end, Cupcake decides to make some sacrifices for his friend. I won't say what Cupcake does but it ends up altering the direction of the story and I was left pondering for a few days what was the main point of BAKE SALE. 

Final Verdict: BAKE SALE is a quirky novel for sure. It's cute, it'll make you go 'awww' but I'm left scratching my head and wondering if there's even a message in this story. Or if the message is that there IS no message. Even though it had a meandering plot pace until its rushed (and frankly out of nowhere) ending, I still enjoyed BAKE SALE. Definitely give it a try if you find it in your library, if not for the fluffy story then for the recipes it has. I'm not a baker but even I was tempted to try out the delicious-sounding recipes! (highlight for a teensy baby of a spoiler) P.S. I'm also wondering: did Cupcake win the contest?!?! (end of slight spoiler)

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*Cupcake being the exception because he's not a vegetable or meat or dairy. But whatever, let's go with it. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Interview & Giveaway with Kat Ross, author of SOME FINE DAY

Whew! It's been a while since an interview has happened around these parts. Kat happily remedied this by reaching out to me and inviting me to participate in her blog tour for her debut novel. So I'm happy and proud to have her as a guest on the blog today. Give a virtual round of applause to Kat Ross, author of SOME FINE DAY. 

If you had to explain SOME FINE DAY in ten words or less, how would you describe it?
Oh, this is hard! Here goes:
Girl gets kidnapped, meets boy, saves boy, ends up in…[insert spoiler here] 

SOME FINE DAY is your debut novel (which recently released-congrats btw!). How did you celebrate on your release date? :D
Sipping lemonade on the beach in the Florida Keys! I'd booked the trip before I knew my release date, but I tend to be an introvert, so I was actually kind of relieved I didn't have to throw a big party (:  (Lucky....I'd give anything to escape this arctic winter we've been having.)

When I looked into your debut, I read about hypercanes…which sound legit scary. How did you discover hypercanes? What is it about them that caught your interest?
I was researching extreme climate change scenarios and that word just caught my eye. They're a (still theoretical, thank God) class of mega-storm predicted by Kerry Emanuel at MIT, and yes, they are legit scary! I thought I'd have to make something like that up, so I was delighted to discover that under particular conditions, they could actually exist in the real world. We're talking storms the size of continents, with wind speeds in the many hundreds of miles per hour. And then I thought, what if there was more than one? And they never went away, like the Great Red Spot on Jupiter? Things would get ugly in a hurry.

I found this nifty chart that explains how hypercanes contrast with hurricanses. Gulp. Source

What was your process for writing SOME FINE DAY? It seems like you’d have to do a lot of research just to write about hypercanes.
I really enjoyed that part of it. One of the biggest challenges was figuring out how people could survive so deep underground. Where would the air come from? The water? What would they eat? How would they travel and communicate? And conversely, how would you survive on the surface under such hostile conditions? I tend to get obsessive about accuracy. There a scene in the sequel (still unfinished) where the main character, Jansin, has to climb out of one of the ventilation tubes, and I actually spent hours digging out biomechanics studies about the maximum speed a human can climb a ladder (it's something like three feet per second).  (O_O!!!!)

Having gone through the process of publication (and knowing what you know now), what advice would you give to your past self?
Be in it for the long haul. Don't let the bumps in the road derail you. Just keep writing, and write what you want to, not what you think will sell. This is supposed to be fun, after all. 

If you could live in any fictional world, what would you choose and why?
Maybe the alt-world London of Jonathan Stroud's amazing Bartimaeus trilogy—but only if I had my own personal djinn. (Did you hear that thunk? It was the sound of more books being added to my TBR pile.)

What are some awesome books you’ve read lately? YA or otherwise! 
I adored Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith. He's just brilliant on every level, and does the best genre mash-ups. Also Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, and Night Film by Marissa Pessl. Now I'm reading Feed by M.T. Anderson, which isn't new, but has one of the best first lines: "We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck."

Are there any characters from different novels that you’ve read that you think would make a cute couple? Hehe. Or maybe a character of yours paired up with another book’s character?
I could totally see Jansin having a major girl-crush on Amy Gumm from the Dorothy Must Die series.

Do you have any fictional crushes? ;)
Team Gale, all the way. (THANK YOU. I totes agree.)

What “buzz words” or phrases in book descriptions make you pick something up? Modern retellings, spies, forbidden romance….? There are so many options. :D
Gothic, eerie, darkly funny, time travel, myths with a twist, bad-ass girls…

And now.... Lightning round!
Jane Eyre or Jane Austen? Jane Austen (especially if there's zombies) 
Brackets or parentheses? Parens
Star Trek or Star Wars? Star Trek
Night owl or early bird? Early bird, to an extreme
Gel pens or sharpies? Precise V7 rolling balls! I'm an addict. 


Synopsis: A generation ago, continent-sized storms called hypercanes caused the Earth to flood. The survivors were forced to retreat deep underground and build a new society. This is the story that sixteen-year-old Jansin Nordqvist has heard all of her life.

Jansin grew up in a civilization far below the Earth’s surface. She’s spent the last eight years in military intelligence training. So when her parents surprise her with a coveted yet treacherous trip above ground, she’s prepared for anything. She’s especially thrilled to feel the fresh air, see the sun, and view the wide-open skies and the ocean for herself.

But when raiders attack Jansin’s camp and take her prisoner, she is forced to question everything she’s been taught. What do her captors want? How will she get back underground? And if she ever does, will she want to stay after learning the truth

Kat Ross was born and raised in New York City and worked several jobs before turning to journalism and creative writing. An avid traveler and adventurer, she now lives with her family—along with a beagle, a ginger cat, and six fish—far enough outside the city that skunks and deer wander through her backyard.

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We hope you've enjoyed the interview! Kat is being super generous and hosting a giveaway with amazing prizes! The grand prize is a Kindle Paperwhite with a custom cover, preloaded with SOME FINE DAY while the other two winners will receive a signed copy of Kat's novel and a CD audiobook. Best of all, THIS IS INTERNATIONAL. So jump on it, friends! 

Note: all images and GIFs were found via search engines. I've credited them as best as I can. Just to be clear--none of these belong to me. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Adult Wednesday Addams: my new favorite thing

This video has made the internet go nuts but in a (mostly) good way. Adult Wednesday Addams is another awesome web series that I recently found thanks to HuffPost. However it's not new. Two seasons are already available on Youtube and each episode is great. I can't decide if this one or the babysitting one is my favorite...or maybe the dog-walker one. Idk! Watch this one and see for yourself! (I will say that this episode has a lot of cursing so if that isn't your thing, this episode might not be the best one to start with...but I think its message is important.)

Monday, February 16, 2015

I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

Publisher: Henry Holt & Co. 
Release Date: February 3rd, 2015
Source: Publisher (thank you!)

Synopsis: If seventeen-year-old Skylar Evans were a typical Creek View girl, her future would involve a double-wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and the graveyard shift at Taco Bell. But after graduation, the only thing standing between straightedge Skylar and art school are three minimum-wage months of summer. Skylar can taste the freedom—that is, until her mother loses her job and everything starts coming apart. Torn between her dreams and the people she loves, Skylar realizes everything she’s ever worked for is on the line.

Nineteen-year-old Josh Mitchell had a different ticket out of Creek View: the Marines. But after his leg is blown off in Afghanistan, he returns home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be. What brings Skylar and Josh together is working at the Paradise—a quirky motel off California’s dusty Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and soon, something deeper. 

Review: I had such a book hangover after I finished I'LL MEET YOU THERE late last year. To be honest, I don't think I'm over this story because it was so utterly brilliant. 

Skylar is one tough cookie. She's had to shoulder a lot of responsibility ever since her dad passed away and her mother subsequently fell apart. Skylar's willingness to sacrifice her own happiness so she could help her mother was a loving gesture and a frustrating experience for me to read.  I appreciated that Demetrios explored this aspect between Skylar and her mother; the fact that they essentially switch roles as parent and child and how this in turn affects Skylar in ways even she doesn't realize in the beginning of I'LL MEET YOU THERE. Other relationships I'd like to highlight are Skylar's friendships with her besties Dylan and Chris. I've mentioned in a past review that I'd like to see more guy-girl friendships that remain platonic and yay, I found this with Skylar and Chris. They may not always agree on things but their friendship is unbreakable--just like Skylar's friendship with Dylan, a girl who is the toast to Skylar's butter. Lol. I wish I could read a companion novel about either Chris or Dylan...or both? Please?

*puppy eyes*
As for the setting, it's also crucial that I mention that Sky's hometown of Creek View reads so realistic with its small-town feel and how everyone ends up doing the same thing as their parents and never leave. Much like her relationship with her mother, Sky's feelings towards her hometown are a jumble of emotions that she sorts through as we read along. Sky's only safe place is at her job in Paradise Hotel, run by the super awesome Marge. Marge is Sky's boss but she is also the mother figure that Sky lacks in her life. Marge is literally the best you guys. She's full of love and wisdom but she's also not afraid to be blunt with our protagonist. Marge is also an important figure in Josh's life and continually proves herself as an amazing character. (Plus she ships Sky and Josh. She is the captain!)

Josh+Skye 4eva

Then we have Josh Mitchell. Where do I start with this boy? Irrevocably changed from his tour in Afghanistan, Josh can't go back to being the carefree guy he once was. Haunted by his memories and coping with his injuries, he tries to find meaning back in Creek View. You guys, I loved his character. Josh has so many layers and carries so much grief due to his time in war but when he meets Sky he's able to breathe and be himself. I loved how his unexpected friendship with Sky gradually transitioned into this amazing romance that was incredibly realistic. Demetrios does not shy away from making these two work for their relationship; Sky and Josh challenge each other in different ways and each have their own demons to contend with...but when they're able to trust in each other, they're magic.

At the risk of making this review too long, I have to talk about one more aspect about this story: the sex positivity in I'LL MEET YOU THERE. I won't spoil any details but this is a much needed topic that needs attention. I'LL MEET YOU THERE does a fabulous job exploring this topic with certain characters. :) 

Final Verdict: I could go on about I'LL MEET YOU THERE. This book is so deserving of all the praise it's received. It really is. From the fully-fleshed cast of characters, the setting of Creek View which is a character in itself, and the slow, unfurling relationship that blossoms between Skylar and Josh.... it's breath-takingly gorgeous. Even the messy parts are beautiful. SIGH. I can't recommend this book enough. Seriously--Pay list price for this book. It is worth the money and it has a spot on my keeper shelf. 

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Note: all GIFs (and image) were found via Bing, the search engine that wants to be Google.