Review | A Little Something Different | Sandy Hall

different

A Little Something Different

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The creative writing teacher, the delivery guy, the local Starbucks baristas, his best friend, her roommate, and the squirrel in the park all have one thing in common—they believe that Gabe and Lea should get together. Lea and Gabe are in the same creative writing class. They get the same pop culture references, order the same Chinese food, and hang out in the same places. Unfortunately, Lea is reserved, Gabe has issues, and despite their initial mutual crush, it looks like they are never going to work things out.  But somehow even when nothing is going on, something is happening between them, and everyone can see it. Their creative writing teacher pushes them together. The baristas at Starbucks watch their relationship like a TV show. Their bus driver tells his wife about them. The waitress at the diner automatically seats them together. Even the squirrel who lives on the college green believes in their relationship.

Surely Gabe and Lea will figure out that they are meant to be together….


Here’s the thing: this romance is super cute and the way the story is told really is “a little something different.” But I would go so far as to say that the story is TOO cute. There’s not much substance here, to be honest. For example, two of the viewpoints come from a squirrel and a bench, and it’s kind of ridiculous in a roll-your-eyes way. Then you have the fact that all these different characters are basically the same: they talk the same ways, they think the same things, they feel the same about stuff. Even the one character, Victor, who is supposed to hate Gabe and Lea (our couple) doesn’t actually hate them. (The author tells us over and over that he does but then he’s as obsessed with them as everyone else and it makes no sense.) It’s a prime example of telling, but not showing, and it is–quite frankly–weak writing. 

I would argue that Hillary has the potential to be one of the most unique characters and yet her parts are very short, AND Sandy Hall does her a HUGE injustice by slotting her into the “blonde bimbo” trope. I mean, COME ON.

In second place is Danny (yeah for LGBTQIA!) but he has the least amount of sections (boo!), and again, he is slotted into a few stereotypical “gay college boy” tropes.

In third place is Charlotte, who starts off as a character I could like but then turns into all the other characters (they are honestly the same–take away their names and you wouldn’t know the difference). AND everyone’s obsession with this couple for sure crosses into creepy. My frustration for this book bubbleith over.

Not to mention that there’s nothing about Gabe or Lea that is particularly likeable. Not that there was anything wrong with them; I liked them both just fine. But they are tertiary character material at most. While everyone is going gaga over their supposed romance, I’m sitting here as the reader going, “But why?” Honestly, they’re so boring! And everything that happens between them is SO. BORING. Another prime example of the author going, “Oh, they’re so cute, they look great together, we love them” and providing zero actual substance for these assertions. The author was shoving this down my throat and I was choking on it going, “BUT YOU ACTUALLY HAVEN’T PROVEN ANY OF THESE THINGS!”

So much potential. So do not recommend.

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THE BUREAU OF HOLIDAY AFFAIRS by Andi Marquette

bureau

4 out of 5

Marquette takes the reader on a journey through a modern interpretation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol with a spunky, lesbian twist. Working towards being a CEO at Frost Enterprises, Robin, in her own words, has turned into a bit of an asshole in her climb up the corporate ladder. The Bureau of Holiday Affairs decides to pay her a visit, and Robin’s journeys into Christmas Past, Present, and Future—with a butch surfer girl, a drag queen, and none other than Mr. K. Rampus himself as guides for each—give her the chance to make things right. Her biggest opportunity presents itself in a meeting with her former lover Jill, and it is this very mature and well thought-out relationship that becomes central to the plot. With a badass and endearing narrative voice, and a surprising touch of relatability to the characters and storyline, the adventure that Marquette takes us on is exciting and full of holiday warmth. While the novel drags on a bit (I strongly believe that this should have been a novella), Marquette exudes writing savvy. The Bureau of Holiday Affairs will make you crave more of her work, and will perhaps leave a little less of the Scrooge in us all.

-Ember Book Reviews

[ARC provided by Netgalley and Book Enthusiast Promotions in exchange for an honest review.]

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UNTOLD by Sarah Rees Brennan

untold

4 ½ out of 5

Sorry-in-the-Vale is about to be under attack by the sorcerer Rob Lynburn and his cronies, and Kami feels that it is up to her to stop him. The only trouble is that with the link between her and Jared now broken, Jared will hardly look at her much less help her, and Kami is, for the first time ever, just a regular girl. How can she possibly pit herself against an army of sorcerers who can kill her with a single look?

The good news is that she has a solid group of friends to help her, and Lillian Lynburn seems at least partially willing to listen to what Kami has to say. They may not all be sorcerers but they can still put up a good fight. Better yet, after a stolen kiss in a darkened hallway, it seems that Jared might be willing to forgive Kami after all. If only he’d stop throwing himself in death’s path, then they might actually have a chance at beating Rob Lynburn and making Sorry-in-the-Vale the safe, picturesque place that Kami once believed it to be.

Then there’s the fact that Kami could once again become a source, if she thinks it’s the best thing to do. The only question is this: whose source will she become?

Sarah Rees Brennan follows up the first in her series, Unspoken, with Untold, a captivating sequel about magic, family, and love that not only reveals Brennan’s cruel insanity but will leave readers driving for more.

Right off the bat, Untold had me hooked with an awesome beginning, which I find unique because beginnings in my experience tend to be slow—perhaps this is the benefit of Untold being a sequel and therefore not needing so much introduction of characters and world-building. Regardless, it’s going to be hard for all future books to beat opening up with a battle against living scarecrows, that’s all I’m saying…

The wit in this book is hands down the best I’ve come across. Many times a blurb on the back of a book will describe the main character as having “a biting wit” when really, the character is just incredibly sarcastic, which is a trait in YA books that I’m frankly getting sick of. There IS a difference between sarcasm and wit, people. Wit is humorous. It’s not sarcastic, at least not always, and it has to be unique in order to succeed. (Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard was a book I read recently where the sarcasm was so overdone and cliché that I wanted to throw the book across the room.) Brennan’s use of wit, however, is both refreshing and entertaining. A quote for example (please note, there are far better quotes, but I spent a few minutes scouring the book and could not find the ones I was looking for. The book is 367 pages. I’m sure you can forgive me.):

“‘Don’t pretend, Cambridge,’ [Rusty] said. ‘You know my beautiful speech has made you see me in a whole new and even more attractive light. You totally think I’m secretly deep now. And you are right. It is true. I have deeps.’ He slid even lower on the sofa, his eyes falling almost completely closed. ‘Maybe,’ he added, his voice almost too casual, ‘this revelation will lead you to make the sensible decision, and go for me.’

‘And wouldn’t that be a magical thirty-six hours,’ Kami said. ‘Before you died of exhaustion.’

Rusty did something unspeakable with his eyebrows. ‘Why, Cambridge, I am scandalized!’

‘Shut up!’ Kami told him. ‘You know what I meant. Shut up your entire face.’”

-pg. 209-210, Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan (2013)

Another positive element of this book is that Brennan is deliciously cruel. I’m sure I’m not the only one whose heart was aching while reading this book. I won’t include any spoilers, but she builds you up to tear you down, and it’s becoming clear that in Brennan’s world, nothing lasts forever. She isn’t afraid to kill off the sweetest, most innocent characters, and I admire her for that.

The ending: my god. It wasn’t heart-stoppingly brilliant or anything, but it was pretty close to being awesome. It’s one of the better cliff-hangers I’ve read, and I kind of urgently need to find out what happens next. I will resist searching for answers online and spoiling it for myself.

Lastly, Untold loses half a point because I don’t believe it’s as good as the first book (Unspoken). This is partially because I miss the link between Kami and Jared and wished there wasn’t so much angst as the fallout from that. That being said, it’s rare that I write a book review with only one negative point to it, and I commend Brennan for that. I love her, and I love this book and series. I think you will too.

-Ember Book Reviews xxoo

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