Review - Joyride by Anna Banks

Sunday, June 14, 2015

By Anna Banks
Release Date: June 2nd, 2015
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: ARC


At seventeen, Carly Vega has quite a bit of responsibility on her shoulders. Most girls her age are going to school during the week, hanging out with friends after the bell and partying on the weekends. But not Carly. Carly works the midnight shift at a dumpy convenience store a ways down from the trailer she lives in with her brother, does her calculus while she sits at the cash register and scrapes every single cent she earns from the miserable job together and gives it to her brother, who then in turns sends it to Mexico, so that they can bring their parents across the US border. After her parents were deported a few years ago, Carly and her brother, Julio, have been working their asses off to pile up enough money to hire the best smuggler they can – a man named  El Libertador at a steep $50,000 – and, since nothing means more to Carly than family, she had quietly worked away at this goal with nary a complaint. At least until she meets Arden Moss.

Arden Moss is a dare-devil and prankster with an infectious grin and is able to seduce the pants off of just about any girl in his high school that he wants. And, seeing as he is the son of the county sheriff, he usually gets away with any fun hijinks he might have with a simple slap on the wrist. But, after a fateful night, he meets Carly Vega and his life is suddenly turned topsy-turvy. Unlike most girls, he can’t charm Carly. He can’t convince her to go out with him. He can’t even figure out why she won’t loosen up, have a little fun, and enjoy life. But after learning that Carly is having financial troubles, Arden tries his best to get her a new job, even offering to drive her the long distance instead of having her ride her bike. It’s during this tentative new friendship that they learn more about each other and, eventually, Arden even talks Carly into being his “partner in crime” in a few of his prank sessions. As the weeks pass, they grow closer and closer and eventually, they learn of the dark secrets they are keeping from each other and that threaten to tear them apart….

Over a year ago, I was fortunate enough to attend an AWESOME author signing with Marie Rutkoski (The Winner’s Curse), Katie Finn (Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend), Lindsay Smith (Sekret), and Anna Banks (Of Poseidon). At the time, I was mostly stoked for meeting Katie Finn, as I had gotten to read an ARC of Broken Hearts, but I was pretty happy to meet three new authors as well. During the Q+A, someone asked Anna Banks how she had gotten the idea for her new book, Joyride. And she told us an epic story of how she stole her parents’ car as a kid, drove it across state lines, and ended up unwittingly committing grand theft auto. It was freakin’ hiliarious. So, I decided then and there to pick up Joyride when it was finally published and, luckily for me, I was able to get my hand on an ARC!

Unfortunately, this stand-alone book just didn’t meet my expectations. Which is sad, seeing as I had heard an awesome story related to the book and I wanted to like it, as it was my first introduction to Anna Banks. And while the story line itself was compelling enough, I just couldn’t get invested enough in the characters to really care about their wishes and well-being. First of all, Carly and Arden were complete and utter morons. Carly is smart as a whip, but when it comes to common sense, she had zilch. And neither does Arden. Let’s take the first two chapters of the story here:
Arden’s Uncle Cletus likes to drive drunk. He’ll go down to the convenience store that Carly works at every night, already drunk off his rocker, and purchase more liquor. (First of all, I’m pretty sure someone who isn’t 18 (or even 21) isn’t allowed to work at a place that sells liquor, but that’s besides the point.) So what does Arden do about it? Tell a trusted family member or friend? No. Go and force his uncle to sit in the passenger seat while he drives him home and sleeps it off? No. The only obvious choice is to dress up as a thief, point a gun at his uncle, and try to take the truck away from him at gunpoint. Because, yeah, that’s not going to cause any red flags. And what does Carly do in response? Duck behind the counter and call 911 like a normal person? Of course not, she grabs the gun they keep behind the counter and goes out and confronts the gunman without knowing how to work or fire a gun.
Ummm? What? That was all I could ask myself when I read that – and it was all in the first few pages! Just…. What? How in the world did they both decide that this was the most rational course of action? I mean, I give Carly credit for going balls-to-the-wall, but it could have very well gotten her killed. They were both just so utterly stupid! I have no idea how Banks could have thought this would work well in a book, other than to just hook the reader within the first few pages.

Eventually Carly figures out that Arden was the “robber” and that she and Cletus weren’t in any real danger and – surprise, surprise – she’s pissed at Arden for pointing a gun at her. And poor Arden is flummoxed as to why Carly doesn’t like him.  -__-  What the hell, man? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to put two-and-two together. Eventually, though, Arden redeems himself and helps her find a better job and they end up kinda falling for each other. It’s during the time in which they are falling for each other that Carly and her brother are finishing the last preparations to get their parents over the border and, during this time, Arden’s father – Sheriff Moss who is strictly against illegal immigrants – finds out what Carly and Julio are doing. And that his son is dating Carly.
And this brings up the other big problem I had with the book: Sheriff Moss. Arden’s dad is just Satan, plain and simple. He’s mean as a snake, beats the hell out of Arden (sometimes with no reason), and neglects his wife. Why is he like this, you ask? Who knows. I was waiting the whole time I read through this book to figure out why he was such a terrible person and it was never brought up, not even once. A person just can’t be that mean for no reason at all. There needs to be some sort of character development but it just wasn’t addressed! I was screaming for a reason to find this character somewhat understandable, but was given none. I mean, why did his wife marry him if he was such a son of a bitch? Why did the county vote for him if he was such a scumbag? These are all legitimate questions that we have absolutely no answer to.

The scene where Sheriff Moss finds Carly in Arden’s bedroom, and thus discovers they’re dating for the first time, is another great example of top-notch common sense on Carly’s part. So, you’re dating the son of a guy who could have you arrested for trying to smuggle your parents across the border and what do you do? Well, first of all, I wouldn’t have gotten near Arden with a ten foot pole, especially if I wanted to stay under the radar, but Carly isn’t that smart. Did she run like hell away from the house when the sheriff threatened her? No. Did she try and reason with him, talk him down from his fury? No. The only OBVIOUS answer would be to pull a knife on him and force him to stop beating his son. So now, not only could she get arrested for smuggling, but for threatening a police officer. Nice going, Carly.
I just… I was given no reason to care in this book. Carly, I think, could have been redeemable if she had a single cell of gray matter in her brain. She was one of the very few women of color MCs I’ve read recently. She was made out to be a smart, hard-working, no-nonsense girl and, if it had been done correctly, she could have been a heroine worth rooting for, but she just ended up being a love-struck idiot who chose herself over her family. And, speaking of her family, they weren’t very great people, either. Julio was – and I’m not even kidding – the best character in the book. And he got, maybe, ten pages of “screen time” all together. Her parents, who we only ever hear over the phone, hardly even care about their oldest two kids who are working their asses off to get them back to America. Whenever they call, the first thing they ask is how much money they made. No “how are you?” “How is school?” Just, “Where’s my money, work mule?” I mean, really?

Arden is a card-board cut out of the troubled-boy-with-a-heart-of-gold stereotype. Carly is a moron. Her parents are douchebags. Sheriff Moss is the devil for seemingly no reason. Arden’s mother is a pansy. And Cletus is a drunk who made millions doing I-wasn’t-given-a-reason-so-who-the-hell-cares. For God’s sake, Anna, please!!! GIVE ME A REASON TO CARE!
So, yeah. I was expecting an adorable summery, YA book about an unseemly couple who somehow end up stealing a car together only to fall in love during the ride and ended up with… this. I was disappointed, to say the least, but – at the very least – I managed to finish it and, believe it or not, there was one twist that I actually didn’t see coming that made me care at least a little bit toward the ending. So, for that, I give it two 1/2 stars. I wish I had liked it better, and I’m not sure whether or not this will turn me off Anna Banks in the future. I guess we’ll see.

My Unexpected Hiatus - Graduation!

Monday, May 25, 2015

I have to admit, I feel a little ashamed not to have been online much an updating my blog in well over a month. I even missed my "Blogiversary" last week! D: But I have good reason, I promise!

For those of you who've been following my blog for a long time, communicate with me on GoodReads often, or might even know me in real life, this past month or has been very important and busy. Mostly because it was the last month before my graduation from college with my Master's degree in Professional Science! I'm pretty proud of that particular feat, especially seeing that I was the first in my family (close AND extended!) to have a higher degree. So, I thought I would share with you a little about my special day. 

Firstly, in order to graduate with my degree, I had to complete an internship. Back in January, I secured an internship at my county property assessor's office and I spent the semester doing an extensive project for them that illustrated the variation in square-footage of buildings in the county using GIS. It took a long time, but when all was said and done, I had made over 250 maps and had pieced together a portfolio of over 500 pages of data concerning the maps! And, not only that, but I had one happy intern adviser.

He was so happy, that I found out on April 22nd that they offered me a job after graduation, working in their deeds and GIS department. I couldn't have wanted anything better! Sure, the pay isn't WONDERFUL considering I have a Master's degree, but it's double over what I make at the moment and I had grown close to the other GIS analysis and people in the office, so I'm beyond thrilled that I'll be able to continue working in a place that I'm familiar with and with people I really like. Plus, government jobs are super comfy. I get paid leave, paid holidays off, a great insurance package, and - most importantly - if I stay involved with the government for ten years, they'll completely forgive all my student loans! *Throws confetti*

After enduring a nerve-wracking internship presentation full of board advisers, professors, other MSPS students, internship guests, and a ton of other people - and after a full week of finals - May 9th finally came around and I walked across the stage to receive my diploma! My family and friends took the majority of the pictures, so I don't have them yet, but I will share a few of the ones I actually managed to get my hands on. 

Here's a picture of the graduation garb I got to wear, most importantly the hood. The Blue and White in the interior stands for my graduation from Middle Tennessee State University and the gold rim shows that I have a Master of Science.

And one of the few pictures I have on me at the moment of me in my garb! Next to me is my Mom's good friend, Sarah, whom I babysit and dogsit for. She graduated with her Masters in Social Work and luckily we got to share the same graduation day! 

Lastly, no graduation would be complete without a nice reward, right? Well, it just so happened that my grandmother had a UAW convention in St. Pete, Florida two days after graduation. She volunteered to pay my way to go with her as a present for my hard work. I had to ride a plane for the first time since I was really little, so I was super freaked about that, but the ride was surprisingly gentle and, within a few hours on May 11th, I was on the beach! It was beautiful the majority of the week. I mainly read A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas (thanks, Cassie!) and listened to Orange is the New Black on my iPad on the beach. Here's a pic of my view one morning: 

Luckily, my grandmother got a pass for a free cabana all week, so I got to sit out on the beach and listen to the surf without running the risk of getting TOO burned. Though I did manage to come back a little red. The curse of fair skin, I suppose. 

But that's where I've been lately! I hope you'll forgive my absence, but I'll be posting regular content here again real soon. The only problem is deciding which books to review first. Hmm... Orange is the New Black, A Court of Roses and Thorns, The Rosie Project or Joyride? I guess I'll have to decide! Look for the first review later in the week! It's great to be back!

Review - Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya

Friday, March 20, 2015

Fruits Basket Vol. 1
By Natsuki Takaya
Release Date: February 10th, 2004
Genre: Manga
Source: Purchased


So, back when I was in high school, I went through a few misguided and rocky relationships, one of which occurred when I was a sophomore. While it wasn’t a particularly nasty break-up, the relationship itself needed quite a bit of work (we went to separate schools and lived in separate towns and this was before either of us could drive) and we eventually decided to it was best to call it off. 

But one great thing I got out of it (aside from my first real kiss) was an introduction to manga. 

Before this time, I’d never picked up manga and wasn’t particularly interested in doing so. At this time, I was into contemporary romance and historicals, so reading a book that consisted mostly of pictures? And had to be read backwards? Meh, I wasn’t too interested. 

That was, until, my ex told me about one he thought I would like – a girly manga called Fruits Basket. Fruits Basket centers around an orphan girl, Tohru Honda, who – while her grandfather is renovating his home – lives in a tent. That is until the Sohmas discover her on their land and invite her to live with them. Little does she know, though, that the Sohmas are afflicted with a curse. A curse that, when they are hugged by the opposite sex, they transform into a Chinese Zodian animal.

So, my interest was piqued. I went out to the store and bought my first graphic novel ever. And I swear to God I devoured that thing in thirty minutes. I instantly fell in love with Takaya’s creative premise for a series, as well as her humor and beautiful prose. You wouldn’t think that a manga could invoke such emotion, but she manages to do so with ease. Before too long, I fell in love with Tohru, Yuki, Kyo and all the other Sohmas. I found myself shipping certain characters and practically crying at certain parts in the series. 

So it goes without saying that I begged and begged my mother to go out and buy the next book in the series right after I finished one. She grudgingly humored my fascination, complaining all the while about a ten dollar “comic”, but before long I had all the books in my possession and completely fell in love with the world Takaya created. I bought Fruits Basket wall scrolls, Fruits Basket plushies, Fruits Basket DVDs, calendars and even had a Fruits Basket cake for my sixteenth birthday. I was crazy obsessed – and I still have all those mementos to this day! I even roleplayed it over the internet with friends from all over the world – many of which I’ve known for several years now.

Not too long ago, I decided to pick up the series again. It had been close to ten years since I last read it and I figured I was well overdue for a reintroduction. So, I dusted off the first volume and cracked it open again. 

The crucial question here: does it hold up? 

And my answer: you better believe it does. 
It’s just as magical and romantic as I remember and it was great getting to know the characters again, at least how they were at the beginning of the series, before they had a chance to grow and change. And while I’ve read a few other mangas since being introduced to them, this will always remain my favorite and have a special place in my heart. If you love fluff and romance, as well as manga, this is a great series to look into!  

Top Ten - Books on My Spring TBR List

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Top Ten is the weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, in which we showcase our top ten books in a certain category. This week, we're supposed to list the top ten books that are on our Spring To-Be-Read list. And, considering I have a ton of books I hope to get to during the spring/summer, I'll have to choose pretty carefully. And, so, here's the ten books that I hope to get my hands on and read during the next few months. And, as always, they are in no particular order.

Number Ten: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

I hadn't really expected to read this so soon. It was on my list, but not at the top, but while browsing the library a couple weeks ago, I saw it and thought - why not? So, this will be the first book I read, since I only have it a limited time. I'm interested to see how her "adult" books differ from her YA. 

Number Nine: A Forest Divided by Erin Hunter

Of course this list wouldn't be complete without the seasonal Warriors book. I only have about three weeks more to wait before it comes out and you can bet it'll be in my hands come April! I can't wait to see how the cats deal with the formation of the clans!

Number Eight: Burning Kingdoms by Lauren DeStefano

People seems to be pretty split on whether or not they like this author or this series. I, personally, love DeStefano's emotional and beautiful writing and - for some strange reason - I'm really intrigued by the premise of this new series. So much so that I pre-ordered this one, which I got in the mail just a few days ago. Can't wait to crack it open!

Number Seven: The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand

I really loved the Unearthy series that Hand wrote, so I was pretty stoked to hear she had a new book coming out and it'll be interesting to see how she writes contemporary YA rather than paranormal. I've been hearing good things so far, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed!
Number Six: Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry

It's no secret that I love Katie McGarry and you bet I'm excited for her new Thunder Road series, which will be a whopping 500 pages! And - better yet - if you pre-order it, we get the full-length Abby story, Chasing Impossible, completely free! Excuse me while I fangirl....

Number Five: Revenge, Ice Cream, and other Things Best Served Cold by Katie Finn

I was lucky enough to get an ARC of the fist book in this series, and - while it was a little predictable - it was a fun, summery read complete with romance and drama. I couldn't get an ARC of this one (sad face) but I'm eager to return to the Hamptons and see what happens next.
Number Four: Joyride by Anna Banks

I got an ARC of this book and it will be my first introduction with Anna Banks - I'm pretty excited. I met her at a signing about a year ago and she said this book was loosely based off a time when she actually took her mother's car for a joyride and ended up crossing the state line and, unwittingly, committing grand theft auto! I can't wait to read it!

Number Three: Summer Knight by Jim Butcher

I'm slowly making my way through the Harry Dresden series and I'm ready to return to see what Harry does next - and what better book for spring/summer than one titled Summer Knight? I need to find out what happens next!

Number Two: Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver

I'm a lover of Oliver, so anything she writes automatically goes on the TBR list. I preordered this one as well, and I just got it in the mail. This will probably be the next book I pick up and I can't wait! =D

Number One: A Court of Thorns and Roses

I mean, holy hell - look at that cover? >.> 
But in all seriousness, I'm uber excited about this book. While I liked Throne of Glass, it didn't hold that spark for me, so I'm desperately hoping that this one will be the book that makes me fall in love with Maas. I can't wait until May!

So what about you? What books are you looking forward to reading the next few months? Feel free to tell me in the comments or even link me to your own TTT. =)