Book Review: The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle

Ugh…this book just didn’t work for me. I respect that this is the type of story that a lot of people would enjoy, but I honestly didn’t like it.

2/5 stars

cover accident season

Amazon Description

Every October Cara and her family become inexplicably and unavoidably accident-prone. Some years it’s bad, like the season when her father died, and some years it’s just a lot of cuts and scrapes. This accident season—when Cara, her ex-stepbrother, Sam, and her best friend, Bea, are 17—is going to be a bad one. But not for the reasons they think.

Cara is about to learn that not all the scars left by the accident season are physical: There’s a long-hidden family secret underneath the bumps and bruises. This is the year Cara will finally fall desperately in love, when she’ll start discovering the painful truth about the adults in her life, and when she’ll uncover the dark origins of the accident season—whether she’s ready or not.

My Review

I LOVED the premise of this book. I expected a whimsical contemporary-fantasy that would remind me of a Halloweeny Maggie Stiefvater.

I did not get what I expected.

And I know what you’re going to say–being surprised can be good. Stories, in fact, should surprise us.

But if I’m going to be surprised, I shouldn’t be disappointed. And I was pretty disappointed by what this book turned out to be.

I didn’t connect to the characters of this book, mainly because I feel like I never got to know them. The characters had presences but not personalities–though we learned more about their pasts as the book progressed, it wasn’t coupled by a deeper understanding of who they were.

I never got a sense of who Cara (the protagonist) was, and she was the character that had the least revealed about her over the course of the story. Bea, the best friend character, was interesting at first but never developed; Alice, the sister, ended up being the most interesting character, but I never liked her very much. And Sam, the ex-stepbrother, gave off cute love-interest vibes but little else.

Also, on a slightly petty note, all the characters are DGAF teenagers who spend the book either cheating on homework, not doing homework, or planning wild parties that will clearly go awry. That really doesn’t connect with me as a tight-ass responsible student, and it definitely kept me from connecting to the story.

My main issue with this book is that it is so freaking wishy-washy. I expected it to have clear fantasy elements, and if you look at the book one way, it did, but actually, it didn’t. Confused? Me too. I got really excited when the idea of each of the four main characters being a changling was introduced, but it never went anywhere beyond being a hallucination/metaphor, and it was frustrating. Instead of feeling like a fantasy novel, TAS ended up being a blurry, mystery-ladden story that relied far too much on reveals that weren’t what I wanted from the story.

Moira Fowley-Doyle’s writing didn’t work for me. Usually, I love the flowery type of writing that she used, but for some reason, I just could not pay attention to what was going on in the story. I would read a paragraph and then stop and realize that I hadn’t understood what was said, mainly because the writing style just did not grab me.

Also, since I picked up this book thinking it would be semi-light-hearted-with-a-hint-of-creepiness, I could used a trigger alert of some kind for the topics discussed. I appreciated that topics like domestic violence and sexual abuse were talked about so frankly, but since the book already wasn’t working for me by the time the secrets came out, the social commentary missed its mark.

All in all, I don’t think that this was a bad book. I’m sure that there are a lot of people out there who loved the uncertainty of this book; I’m just not one of them.

Poetry: In Which I Don’t Care What You Would Have Done

Why do we think

We can quantify pain

Or suffering?

 

Who do we think we are

To decide how anyone else—

Other than ourselves—

Should react to the horrors we experience?

Before, during, or after—

(All three, places your opinion is irrelevant.)

 

How dare we reduce trauma

To a checklist of symptoms?

As if what You Would Have Done

Means anything to someone else.

 

Why do victims have to fight

Just to wear the cursed name?

 

Why then does the label

“Victim”

So easily become

A badge of dishonor:

Stolen from the perpetrator

And forcibly attached

To their victim?

 

As if they haven’t suffered enough already.

Can We Get Over Cliche Romance Plots?: An Infographic, Of Sorts

Ok, so it isn’t a secret that I love reading YA contemporary romances. They put a smile on my face between the intensely dark and stressful fantasy/paranormal/etc books I read. I love their awkward/cute set-ups and their guaranteed happy endings.

But I also can’t get over the fact that most “chicklit” books have extremely similar plots. Don’t get me wrong…I enjoy the classic plot, a lot. I just think that the genre could grow past this “exposition ⇒ rising action ⇒ CONFLICT ⇒ make up ⇒ happy ending” model to give me some uniqueness to get excited about.

Also, I like using Photoshop to distract me from homework, and this was fun to make.

Hope this makes you crack a smile. 🙂

Chicklit plot

A bit of housekeeping: The fonts used are KG Flavor and Frames Two, AFL Font Pespaye Nonmetric, and Candara. I also used Love Doodle Brushes Two and Arrow Doodle Brushes (both by coydreamer).

Let’s discuss: Why do contemporary plots seem to follow predictable arcs more than other genres?  Or is that just me?

Do other genres (like fantasy) just hide their cliche plot arcs better behind world-building and fight scenes?

Top Ten Author Duos I Want to Co-Write Together

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Every week, they post a new Top Ten topic and other bloggers respond with their own lists. 

Hey guys! I love this week’s TTT topic, but I couldn’t come up with ten, so I went with five (which since there are two authors each kind of make it ten…?).

  1. Rachel Hawkins and Ally Carter
    • I love both of these authors because of their ability to create hilarious characters and ridiculous plots. Together, they would be unstopable–as in, I’m not sure that I could stop laughing.
  2. Susan Vaught and Patrick Ness
    • Both of these authors write powerful plots with moving social commentary. Ness’s writing is stronger with fantasy, and Vaught’s style is more centered in modern-day issues. Honestly, I don’t think I could get through this make believe book without crying, but I know I would also be deeply moved.
  3. Erin Morgenstern and Maggie Stiefvater
    • Both of these authors create the most gorgeous, fantastical worlds and some of the most memorable characters that I’ve ever read. Putting them together would create a fantasy-writing powerhouse that I would knock people over in a bookstore to get to.
  4. Sarah J Maas and Kristen Cashore
    • Another fantasy powerhouse, but this one is more badass. The heroine that these two women would create would be a butt-kicking, but emotionally aware protagonist that I’d probably love forever.
  5. Brandon Sanderson and Libba Bray
    • I love both of these authors, but I’ve always felt like Sanderson’s writing needs more social commentary, which Bray rocks at. Together, they’d create some incredible story. I don’t even care what genre it would be, because both of them have written in multiple genres and I’m fairly certain they can do anything.

Which authors would you want to co-write together? Do you agree with my pairings? Happy Tuesday!

Book Review: The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West

This book was everything I wanted it to be: hilarious, cutesy romantic, and just a little tear-inducing near the end.

3.5/5 stars

cover the fill in boyfriend

Amazon Description

When Gia Montgomery’s boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she decides to do the unthinkable…convince the cute guy waiting to pick up his sister to pretend to be her boyfriend for the night. The task is simple: two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies.

The problem is that days after prom, she can’t stop thinking about her fill-in boyfriend. But can Gia turn her fake boyfriend into a real one without exposing her lie and possibly destroying her friendships and her newfound relationship?

Smartly observed and wonderfully romantic, Kasie West’s talent shines in this tale of one girl’s unexpected quest to find love…and possibly herself.

My Review

I liked this book a lot, but it was missing that spark of originality that I look for in books.

Gia was an interesting protagonist. I definitely empathized with her, but I also realized that she was not a great person. At the start of the book, Gia is image-obsessed and shallow, with a bit of a manipulator hidden behind her Nice Girl. Thankfully, she wasn’t superficial and bitchy enough for me to hate her (and thus hate the story), especially because she starts to become self-aware early on in the story.

Gia’s transformation into a humbler, more down-to-earth girl was written well. Did it have it’s cheesy Mean Girls moments? Heck yes. But the social commentary (especially pertaining to our modern reliance on social media for validation) hit home for me more than the stereotypical bitch-to-loyal-friend transition, and it actually made me think about my own values in a slightly different light. I never lost sight of Gia’s character, and she was never completely fixed, but she was knocked down a few pegs, and I admired her for it.

Fill-in Bradely (I’m purposefully not saying his name because there is a cute scene attached to it) was an entertaining love interest. I loved the subtle references to his geeky t-shirts, and most of his dialogue was pretty funny. Making him be an actor was a smart decision, plot-wise, because it added some realism to the idea of him playing Gia’s BF for prom night. His sister, Bec, was everything I’ll ever need from a sassy side-character, and I’d love to read a spin-off about her.

Watching Gia and FIB fall in love was adorable and emotional. Though you never would have expected it on the first page, they were actually a good fit for each other. I really appreciated that fact that both of them had had SOs before, so that there was none of the usual “omg I’ve never held hands with a guy before” nonsense that seems to come with plots like this. The arc of the romantic plot line follows the usual chicklit rise-and-fall, but it still told a sweet story.

The plot was the most under-whelming part of the book. While I loved the romantic plot line with fill-in Bradley–it had me cracking up for the first half of the book, then fighting back tears for the second–the various subplots felt cliche. I never understood why Gia’s friends were so bitchy–or if it was just Gia’s neuroses getting in the way–and the plot line lacked believability. Since Gia’s issues with her friends were what drove her to the crazy fill-in boyfriend scheme in the first place, I felt like the foundation of the entire book was weak.

The family plot line was interesting–I was actually surprised when I realized that Gia’s perfect family life was actually pretty crappy–but the scene with her brother (if you’ve read the book you know what I’m talking about) was totally predictable. I saw it coming a mile away, and I didn’t really care for the way the subplot played out.

The Fill-In Boyfriend is a cute romance that dabbles in social commentary but dives in deep enough to lose the light-hearted mood. For such an entertaining premise, the book was a quick read, and I wish that there had been a few more scenes to break the plot out of the stereotypical YA romance template.

Weekend Words #7

weekend words picWeekend Words showcases inspiring quotes from books, about writing, and about life. This feature will happen every weekend, either on Saturday or Sunday, depending on my schedule. While this is a reading/writing centric blog, this feature doesn’t have to be focused on those areas–it is intentionally open-ended to give bloggers a chance to say what’s on their mind.

Everyone should feel free to take part–it would honestly make my day! Complete instructions can be found on the feature’s page. 

1. A Powerful Quote From a Recent Read

depth fill in boyfriend quote

“We rarely find a depth by looking inside of ourselves for it. Depth is found in what we can learn from the people and things around us. Everyone, everything, has a story…When you learn those stories, you learn experiences that fill you up, that expand your understanding. You add layers to your soul.” — Kasie West, The Fill-In Boyfriend

The Fill-In Boyfriend didn’t have a lot of deep moments, but I loved this quote so much. So much of high school is trying to figure out who you are, but this quote makes you stop and realize that the answer isn’t something you can find by sitting around and thinking about yourself.

2. A Quote that Inspired Me This Week

“The problems we face did not come down from the heavens. They are made by bad human decisions, and good human decisions can change them.” — Bernie Sanders

I love the down-to-earth honesty of this quote. After this week, I think we all need a reminder that things can always get better, but only if we actually try to fix them.

3. Something I’ve Been Wanting to Say

I understand a lot of different types of desperation, and I know that not everyone has home lives as positive and compassionate as mine. But I will never be able to get over academic cheating. 

Being a straight-A student isn’t a prerequisite for mattering in this world. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and none of us are good at everything–no matter what it looks like on paper. To people who feel pressured into cheating out there, remember that you aren’t just hurting yourself, you’re dragging down the level of the entire classroom, and you’re probably crushing someone else’s spirit in the process.

And to schools that think the answer to an epidemic of cheating is to lower the punishments for cheating? There aren’t even words for how completely you are screwing your remaining honest students.

Can you tell what my school did this week? :/


I hope you’re all having a great weekend! What quotes have inspired you recently?

Series Review: Shadow Falls by C.C. Hunter (spoiler free!)

A cute paranormal romance series with humorous and touching moments alike, appropriately hot love interests, and a surprisingly emotional writing style.

3.5/5 stars

Amazon Description of Born at Midnight (book 1)

One night Kylie Galen finds herself at the wrong party, with the wrong people, and it changes her life forever.  Her mother ships her off to Shadow Falls—a camp for troubled teens, and within hours of arriving, it becomes painfully clear that her fellow campers aren’t just “troubled.”  Here at Shadow Falls, vampires, werewolves, shapshifters, witches and fairies train side by side—learning to harness their powers, control their magic and live in the normal world.

Kylie’s never felt normal, but surely she doesn’t belong here with a bunch of paranormal freaks either.  Or does she?  They insist Kylie is one of them, and that she was brought here for a reason.  As if life wasn’t complicated enough, enter Derek and Lucas.  Derek’s a half-fae who’s determined to be her boyfriend, and Lucas is a smokin’ hot werewolf with whom Kylie shares a secret past.  Both Derek and Lucas couldn’t be more different, but they both have a powerful hold on her heart.

Even though Kylie feels deeply uncertain about everything, one thing is becoming painfully clear—Shadow Falls is exactly where she belongs…

My Review

I was going to review each book in this series individually, but then I realized that I would be saying basically the same thing five times, so I’m doing a series review instead.

I first read this series freshman year (before I started 52 Letters) and I remember loving it, even though I wasn’t very impressed by the writing or the plot. Having reread the series, my reaction hasn’t changed very much, though I appreciate the emotional power of the writing more.

The Shadow Falls series is fun. The plots are light-hearted but tense, designed to make you laugh as they build-up to each book’s dark climax. It was easy to binge-read these books: the plots were just dramatic enough to be impossible to put down, with just enough humorous scenes to keep a smile on my face.

I appreciated the fact that each book clearly has its own plot and can stand on its own, but also that the characters and their relationships with each other clearly grow and develop from one book to the next. New characters are added with a graceful touch that adds to the series without massively changing its mood. The continual mystery of Kylie’s supernatural identity changed enough with each book that it didn’t get old but still kept me reading, needing to know the truth.

I love all the characters. It was easy for me to relate to Kylie–a girl who keeps finding herself in waaay too deep and who frequently just wants to ignore her problems. Kylie isn’t the classic YA badass–the go-getter who tackles every problem that comes her way–but she’s realer. Some of her problems are romantic, other are deeply personal, while still others deal with supernaturals out to kill her–but all of her reactions are realistic. For once, I honestly felt like I could be Kylie, which added an incredible layer of relatability and emotional connection to the series.

The rest of the characters begin one-dimensional but develop into unique personalities as the series goes on. Kylie’s roommates, Miranda and Della, never failed to add humor to the scenes, but they also served as down-to-earth touchstones for some of Kylie’s most emotional moments. Della–the sarcastic vampire with sore pride and a dirty mind–was definitely my favorite character, and I can’t wait to read her spin off series, Shadow Falls: After Dark.

There are a lot of side characters, but I never got them confused (miraculously). CC Hunter deserves props for keeping all of the side characters distinct from each other and for giving each of them their own plots. I loved getting to see all of the other campers fall in love–this is undeniably a romance-centric series, but it’s done well.

The romance is…exactly what you’d expect from a paranormal story like this. Two insanely hot guys falling for Kylie, with Kylie stuck falling for both of them. Lots of awkward moments and sweet interactions, with just the right amount of steamy scenes. Honestly, the love triangle was done in a way that it didn’t destroy the series for me; on the contrary, it was one of the most entertaining parts of the series to read.

I was happy with the guy Kylie ended up with, especially because CC Hunter didn’t wait until the last moment of the series to “choose”–the reader actually gets to spend some time with the “winning” couple, knowing that they will last. While this was one of the only unique parts of the romance plot, I appreciated it a lot because it took the emphasis of the series away from LOVE TRIANGLE and focused it more on just telling a romantic story.

I am conflicted about the writing of the series. The series is definitely fun to read, and the writing style contributes to the light and quick-paced feeling. However, there is nothing special or breath-taking about the writing. It lacks poetry, it isn’t dying to be quoted. The series’ themes are simple and honest, but don’t expose any deep revelations about the human condition.

On the other hand, the writing style manages to get the reader to feel Kylie’s emotions incredibly deeply. I was taken aback by how connected to Kylie’s character I felt–I was caught up in her emotional thunderstorm for all five books–especially because the series is written in third person.

My main disappointment with this series is its lack of originality. The paranormal creatures that attend the Shadow Falls camp are the regular suspects with few variations: werewolves, vampires, witches, faes, etc. The truth of Kylie’s identity was the most “wow” moment of the series, and one of the only plot points that felt 100% unique. The romantic plot lines follow beaten paths; the side characters fulfill the usual roles: quirky BFF, maternal/sisterly mentor, the dark but attractive love interest, the boy-next-door-type who wants the best for Kylie.

None of this is to say that the series is bad–it’s great. But its greatness is tempered by the fact that I’ve experienced it before. I love it when authors shock me with new ways of storytelling, with new ways of describing emotions and relationships, with new characters for me to fall in love with. These books will make you laugh and they’ll give you a lot of feels, but they don’t break any barriers. I would recommend them to fans of the paranormal genre who need a pick-me-up.