Book Review: Kissing Ted Callahan (and Other Guys) by Amy Spalding

When Riley and her friend Reid catch their band mates hooking up, they realize they themselves could do with a little bit of romance.  So they make a pact to try to make things happen with their crushes (all while documenting it in a notebook they call The Passenger Manifest).  Though Reid seems to struggle with how to make things happen with the girls he’s interested in, Riley finds it surprisingly–perhaps shockingly–easy to attract cute guys.  It isn’t long before she finds herself with an embarrassment of riches, and that in the process, she might have gotten way more than she expected.

Amy Spalding’s books are funny, smart, and full of heart.  There’s massive appeal here for teens who like their narrators a little quirky but not over the top, and who like their characters fairly well-rounded.  A realistic look at what it’s like to be a teenager navigating the complex world of crushes, romance, and hooking up, there’s plenty to find enjoyable here.

Although the book is ostensibly narrated by both Riley and Reid in alternating chapters, the star of the show here is Riley, a  likable, good kid who is flummoxed by the amount of choices she has when it comes to dudes.  Her ability to find things in common with all the boys she dates and her genuinely authentic interactions with them make for a compelling read.

On the other hand, Reid falls a bit short when it comes to character development.  Much less page time is given to his exploits, and there’s little to delve into when it comes to his character, as well.  These parts of the book don’t detract from the narrative, but they don’t add much to it, either.

Highly recommended.  Spalding is a must-read author for fans of contemporary YA, and her latest offering doesn’t disappoint.

Kissing Ted Callahan (and Other Guys) by Amy Spalding. Poppy: 2015. Electronic galley accepted for review via Netgalley.

 

My Weekend in Pop Culture

These are the pop culture things I got into in what is probably my last relaxed weekend before we move into our new house (this is still a few weeks away, but we have a ton of stuff to do and events to attend between now and then).

fast fiveFast Five & Fast & Furious 6: J. and I just kept going with the Fast and the Furious sequels and plowed through these two this weekend.  They’re ridiculous, and I make jokes about getting swole whenever The Rock or Vin Diesel are on screen, and I laughed more than once when something totally balls happened, but they’re also fun.  And tinged with sadness, thinking about Paul Walker.  I know I’m not alone in that; Twitter has been full of people sharing similar sentiments about the newest movie.

Outlander, Season 1: I did actually do a rewatch of the first half of outlanderthe season to get ready for the premiere, but I started so late that I didn’t actually get to the premiere.  That will happen tonight after work, though.

What pop culture did you consume this weekend?

What I’m Reading and Thinking About this Week

These are the things that got me reading and thinking this week.  Without further ado:

How to Support Rad Lady Authors (Book Riot)

This is an excellent, practical piece by Kelly Jensen about how to continue the conversation we’ve been having on social media about sexism in publishing, misogyny in the broader culture, etc.  She offers practical ways to support female authors (and they’re great and totally doable):

Select books written by ladies as book club reads. Select books featuring dynamic female main characters as book club reads, too, then talk about the authors and those characters at your discussions. Make the female experience part of the discussion.

This is the one I’ll be focusing on (though I’m already choosing female-written and driven books).

Things I Believe to be True with Perfect Trust and Perfect Faith About Yesterday’s Modern Love Column (The Toast)

Mallory Ortberg’s lengthy, itemized responses to articles on the internet are basically my favorite things to read because they combine snark with incredulity and also intelligent dissection.  This one is totally worth it for so many reasons.  In this case, Ortberg takes on a piece about a woman who received a marriage proposal from a man over her answering machine:

3. Here is a list of the “feeling words” this woman uses to describe the man she marries:

lithe
eager
balding
flattery
revolted
onslaught
hyper
THAT’S LITERALLY IT

Ortberg isn’t done, though:

This article was 100% written by a cynical detective in a John Fante novel, not a living human woman. This is a misogynist’s idea of a femme fatale whose veins run with ink and interest, not blood. Right? This woman cannot exist. She must not exist. She is the most banal and simultaneously the most monstrous person to ever move to Florida; her heart is a gun and her brain is a ledger.

It goes on and gets funnier and smarter.  It is 100% worth your time to read it.

How I Made Peace with My Love of Makeup (Ravishly)

As a lover of makeup and also a loud and proud feminist (remember, I was called an “ultra feminist” by a dude who used it as a pejorative not that long ago), this is an essay that is near and dear to my heart.  It’s a pretty simple premise: Dimeo-Ediger loved makeup but wondered if that meant she was buying into the beauty myth that the patriarchy and capitalism were trying to sell to her.  So she went without it and discovered that she didn’t need it, but she missed it:

Makeup was a creative outlet, a form of self-expression, a fun hobby, and an almost sacred form of “me time.” What if my makeup obsession wasn’t driven by weak will and pressure from fashion magazines? What if I just really liked makeup?

The article is about finding a middle ground, which is something I’m working on, too.  I’m down to one beauty box subscription (and consider cancelling it every single month), and I don’t wear a face full of makeup to work (it’s usually just concealer and mascara these days).  But I do love listening to music and staring into the mirror when I’m getting ready to go out.  I like that it affords me some totally selfish me time, and that I feel happy with getting to change the way I look for a few hours.

What got you reading and thinking this week?

March 2015 Recap

I hit the skids this past month.  I definitely hit a reading slump and wasn’t watching a ton of stuff, either.  Here’s what I got up to:

Reading:

Best Book of the Month: Get in Trouble by Kelly Link

Books Read: 11
Adult: 6
MG: 0
YA: 5
Children’s: 0
Fiction: 10
Non-fiction/Memoir: 1
Graphic Novel: 1
# of Pages Read: 2875

Thoughts on March’s Reading:

Watching:

TV:

  • J. and I got really into House Hunters this month and plowed through the episodes available on Netflix.
  • I’ve been doing a slow, distracted rewatch of the first few seasons of The O.C.  It was so much fun and just went completely off the rails.  It’s too bad.
  • I’m looking forward to April, which marks the return of Outlander, Game of Thrones, and Orphan Black.  TV right now is pretty bleak.

going clearMovies:

Best Movie(s) of the Month: Going Clear

Movies Watched: 14
New: 2
Re-Watch: 12
Theater Trips: 1 (but we didn’t stay for the movie. It’s a long story)

Goals for April:

  • Get back on the reading train.  Read at least 15 books.
  • More movies I haven’t seen before! I’ve been all about the rewatch lately, which is fine but doesn’t help me cover the myriad movies I want to see.

Waiting on Wednesday: I Take You by Eliza Kennedy

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.  Its purpose is to spotlight eagerly-anticipated upcoming releases.

This week I’m eagerly awaiting:

I Take You by Eliza Kennedy

Expected Release Date: May 5, 2015

Brilliantly executed and endlessly funny, this page-turning debut showcases one of the most winning, irrepressible voices since Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones.
“I’m getting married.”
“He’s perfect!”
“It’s a disaster.”
Meet Lily Wilder–New Yorker, lawyer and the luckiest woman in the world. She has a dream job, friends who adore her, a family full of charismatic and loving women, and a total catch of a fiance.
Also? She has “no” business getting married.
Lily’s fiance Will is a brilliant, handsome archaeologist. Lily is sassy, impulsive, fond of a good drink (or five) and completely incapable of being faithful to just one man. Lily likes Will, but does she love him? Will loves Lily, but does he really know her? As the wedding approaches, Lily’s nights–and mornings, and afternoons–of booze, laughter and questionable decisions become a growing reminder that the happiest day of her life might turn out to be her worst mistake yet.
“Bridget Jones’s Diary” meets “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” in this joyous and ribald debut, introducing a fabulously self-assured protagonist whose choices raise fresh questions about gender politics, monogamy and the true meaning of fidelity.

(summary via Goodreads)

This book has actually been on my radar for months and months, and I’m so excited that it’s finally getting close to the release date.  I first heard about it on the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast, and it sounds like something I will totally devour (despite really hating Where’d You Go, Bernadette).  Early buzz pegs this one as super funny and super smart, which is right in my sweet spot.

What are you waiting on this week?

Book Review: Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian

Emily Shepard is a homeless teen living on the streets of Vermont after the nuclear meltdown of the plant her parents worked at.  Her father was in charge of the plant and is posthumously taking the blame for the meltdown, and Emily fears for her life as the daughter of the most hated man in America.  So she takes to the streets, doing what she needs to do to stay alive.  There, she meets 9-year-old Cameron, a foster care runaway, and the two form a bond.  But she can’t outrun her past forever, and the streets are no place for a child.

There are a lot of things that the prolific Bohjalian does well in Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands. Most notable is the narrative voice of Emily, a 16-year-old beyond her years in many ways who still manages to sound like the teenager she is.  A compelling story, palpable tension, and the fear of the unknown–both for Emily and the reader–makes this a riveting read.

The bond between Cameron and Emily is both heart-wrenching and very sweet.  Her fierce protectiveness of him feels real, and her struggles to keep him safe and also provide at least a semblance of normalcy for him make for an interesting read.  The attention to detail–to the daily grind of living and surviving on the street–is eye-opening and incredibly well crafted.

Perhaps Bohjalian’s only weak point in the novel is his failure to fully examine the aftermath of a disaster such as a nuclear meltdown.  Instead, he chooses to focus on the micro-version of this, sticking close to Emily’s experiences and her own perspective.  Readers looking for a futuristic view of post-nuclear disaster are likely to be disappointed, but everyone else should enjoy this sad, moving novel with a memorable protagonist.

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian. Random House: 2014. Library copy (audiobook).

My Weekend in Pop Culture

These are the pop culture items I consumed this weekend.

Mr. Kiss and Tell by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham: I finally sat down with the second novel from the Veronica Mars series (haters to the left) and tore through it this weekend.  I loved it, because it allows me to spend time with my favorite characters and immerse myself in another mystery alongside Veronica.  It will never replace the show, but it’s fun to revisit Neptune.

fastfuriousThe Fast and the Furious: J. and I needed something dumb to watch this weekend, and this fit the bill.  It’s as dumb as I remember, but it’s also super fun.

house huntersHouse Hunters: International: J. and I tore through the House Hunters episodes on Netflix and are making our way through the international version.  It’s ridiculous–it makes Americans look like the size-obsessed buffoons that we are–but we are totally digging it.  It’s the perfect thing to watch as we come down from our own house search mania.

What pop culture did you consume this weekend?