Review: Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

Book: Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
Published: Simon & Schuster, 2010
Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 344 pages
Where I got it: bought at Borders
Buy It: Amazon

Summary (from Goodreads): Amy Curry thinks her life sucks. Her mom decides to move from California to Connecticut to start anew--just in time for Amy's senior year. Her dad recently died in a car accident. So Amy embarks on a road trip to escape from it all, driving cross-country from the home she's always known toward her new life. Joining Amy on the road trip is Roger, the son of Amy's mother's old friend. Amy hasn't seen him in years, and she is less than thrilled to be driving across the country with a guy she barely knows. So she's surprised to find that she is developing a crush on him. At the same time, she's coming to terms with her father's death and how to put her own life back together after the accident. Told in traditional narrative as well as scraps from the road -- diner napkins, motel receipts, postcards--this is the story of one girl's journey to find herself

My thoughts: Amy & Roger's Epic Detour is my kind of book. I loved everything from the characters to the road trip to the blooming love story. Author Morgan Matson uses mixed media to give a visual for the reader which made the reading experience more fun. There are tons of mix tapes with excellent music, photos from their trip and little snippets from Amy's travel journal. While I was reading, I put together some of Roger's mixes on my iTunes so that I could listen along with Amy and Roger on their trip. This book brought out so many emotions while I was reading. It's heartbreaking but uplifting at the same time. I never wanted to put it down!

Of all of the travel stories I've read recently, this one is definitely my favorite. Back in 2006, I actually helped my boyfriend move back home to Connecticut from California and we took a very similar route to the one taken by Amy & Roger on their trip. This book was a fun way for me to relive that feeling I had of being young and free, with nothing but the open road ahead. I loved following Amy's progression from shutting herself out from society after her father's untimely death to learning to let people in again and slowly heal. I also found myself crushing on Roger. His music taste was phenomenal and the way he was described through Amy's eyes made him seem like someone I would crush on in real life.

I also enjoyed the way her father's accident was told piece by piece in short flashback chapters throughout the book. By not revealing what happened right away, there was more suspense as to why some things upset her, like having her own pair of sunglasses, going to Graceland or driving a car. There were also bits of Amy's relationship with her twin brother, Charlie and with her mother revealed in ways that wove them in with what was happening in the story. Overall, I thought that for a debut novel, Matson hit the nail on the head with this one.

I thought the end of this book and their road trip was written perfectly. After their first detour to Yosemite, the rest of the trip became about spontaneity and resolving things, but not knowing where they would go next. The same wound up being true for Amy and Roger in the end. They don't what is in store for them in the future and that's the way it should be.

Amy and Roger's Epic Detour is the perfect start of summer book and I believe I'm going to read it again when June rolls around.

My rating: 4.5 stars


In My Mailbox (7)

I got the sad news yesterday that my local Borders is one of the stores that will be closing. The other one I went to closed back in the fall, so now I'm pretty heartbroken. Especially considering they just suckered me into upgrading my rewards membership two weeks ago. Now how will I use my in-store only coupons??? I went to redeem my free coffee, but the Seattle's Best has already closed. At least I was able to take advantage of the sale. This week I bought:

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe
This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

Thanks again to Kristi at The Story Siren for creating In My Mailbox!


In My Mailbox (6)

It's been months since I've participated in the In My Mailbox meme created by The Story Siren. I almost made my first vlog for this but I chickened out! Eventually I will make one but I need to wait for an epic book buying week I think.

Anyways, here are the books that were in my mailbox over the last 2 weeks (all purchased from Borders).

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin (on sale for $2.99!)
The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
A Long Long Time Ago and Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka

What did you get in your mailbox this week?

Review: The Diviner's Tale by Bradford Morrow

Book: The Diviner's Tale by Bradford Morrow
Published: January 2011, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 320 pages
Where I got it: e-book from NetGalley
Buy It: Amazon

Summary (from Goodreads): Walking a lonely forested valley on a spring morning in upstate New York, having been hired by a developer to dowse the land, Cassandra Brooks comes upon the shocking vision of a young girl hanged from a tree. When she returns with authorities to the site, the body has vanished, leaving in question Cassandra’s credibility if not her sanity. The next day, on a return visit with the sheriff to have another look, a dazed, mute missing girl emerges from the woods, alive and the very picture of Cassandra’s hanged girl.
What follows is the narrative of ever-deepening and increasingly bizarre divinations that will lead this gifted young woman, the struggling single mother of twin boys, hurtling toward a past she’d long since thought was behind her. The Diviner’s Tale is at once a journey of self-discovery and an unorthodox murder mystery, a tale of the fantastic and a family chronicle told by an otherwise ordinary woman.
When Cassandra’s dark forebodings take on tangible form, she is forced to confront a life spiraling out of control. And soon she is locked in a mortal chess match with a real-life killer who has haunted her since before she can remember.

My thoughts: I have been trying to write my review of The Diviner's Tale for a few days now and have been having trouble figuring out what I want to say. Cassandra Brooks is a diviner- that is she dowses the local land in search of water and minerals. I don't think I've ever read a book quite like this one and I never really knew what diviner's do until now. It was an interesting topic, although it took me awhile to get invested in the book. Once I did I was racing towards the end to find out what happened.

I think the mystery behind Cassandra's vision of the hanged girl should have drawn me in more from the beginning, but it wasn't until I got more details of Cass's past and the troubled Roy Skoler that I found myself truly engaged. It's unfortunate that it took so long for me to get into it because I think otherwise this would have been at least a 4 star book for me. I loved the relationship between Cass and her twin boys. There was a different dynamic between them than what you read of mother and sons in most books. I liked that they played things so cool most of the time and it was often like they were taking care of her more than she took care of them. Most boys at their age resent their parents but these two acted more like she was their sister in the way that they looked out for them. The relationship between she and her father, Nep, was also very touching. His struggle with Alzheimer's made me really sad and had me reflecting upon my relationship with my own father and grandfather.

When Cassandra sees the hanged girl and we find out that she used to see other things that had her questioning her sanity, the story gets much more interesting. There's that sense of mystery but also that character struggle in our protagonist as she tries to figure out more about herself and her abilities as a diviner. I thought that Laura's character was a little weird and there was a lot of buildup with her going missing a couple of times for somewhat of a disappointing resolution. I would have liked to see more development between Laura and Cassandra and less unnecessary love story between Cassandra and Charley. Overall I found The Diviner's Tale to be an enjoyable read filled with interesting relationships between family and friends with a little mystery wound in.

My rating: 3 stars


Review: The Lying Game by Sara Shepard

Book: The Lying Game by Sara Shepard
Published: December 2010, HarperTeen
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 307 pages
Where I got it: e-book from NetGalley
Buy It: Amazon

Brief Summary (from Goodreads):  I had a life anyone would kill for.
Then someone did.

The worst part of being dead is that there’s nothing left to live for. No more kisses. No more secrets. No more gossip. It’s enough to kill a girl all over again. But I’m about to get something no one else does—an encore performance, thanks to Emma, the long-lost twin sister I never even got to meet. Now Emma’s desperate to know what happened to me. And the only way to figure it out is to be me—to slip into my old life and piece it all together. But can she laugh at inside jokes with my best friends? Convince my boyfriend she’s the girl he fell in love with? Pretend to be a happy, carefree daughter when she hugs my parents good night? And can she keep up the charade, even after she realizes my murderer is watching her every move?

My thoughts: The Lying Game is the first installment of the new series by Sara Shepard, author of Pretty Little Liars. I've never read any of the PLL books or seen the show, but I've heard they are addicting. This is not the type of Young Adult book I would normally read, but I was intrigued by the description, so I requested a copy on NetGalley. This book reminded me of Gossip Girl with more mystery.

The Lying Game is packed with suspense, deception and a whole lot of pop culture references. I have never read a book that throws modern technology and current fashion trends at you like this one. The title comes from a game created by Sutton and her friends that involved playing pranks on each other and the people around them. Each prank was meant to outdo the previous one. As Emma learns more about the game and Sutton's friends, she begins to see how twisted these girls were and makes it her mission to find out what the game has to do with her sister's murder.

Now for a couple of issues I had with this book. The narration took some getting used to. Shepard switches between Emma and Sutton's ghost a little to quickly sometimes, making it difficult to discern which character's point of view we were seeing things from. The ghost of Sutton was unable to remember much about herself or how she died other than a few memories that came to her throughout the book. Her character was much more appealing dead than alive. I couldn't stand Sutton based on the memories she had or the way she was described by others. I got the sense that as she remembered the things she had done, she saw how despicable she could be. It reminded me a bit of A Christmas Carol. I think if she had the chance to do it over, she would have been a better person. In a way, Emma has the chance to make up for those mistakes Sutton has made in the past. I'm interested to see how that plays out in the next installment.

I also found the level of cattiness to be almost unbelievable. If girls are really treating each other the way Sutton and her friends did, I am really scared for our future. It worked in this novel because it added to the tension, but mostly I just wanted to slap all of the female characters except for Emma. I definitely would not want to come across Sutton and her friends, or be on the receiving end of one of their pranks!

If you enjoy drama or mystery, this is just the page turner you're looking for. However, I would not recommend this for young, impressionable teenagers. It paints a very unrealistic picture of what high school life is like, even for the richest of people. Despite its overly dramatic portrayal, The Lying Game kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time I was reading and I will most likely pick up the second book when it comes out in the fall so I can find out more about Emma and Sutton.

My rating: 3.5 stars