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review 2018-08-31 18:55
Quirky, funny, and smart, ‘Unclaimed Baggage’ takes on some big issues in small town Alabama
Unclaimed Baggage - Jen Doll

It’s probably humanly impossible to not like a book with fluffy clouds and a little squirrel holding nuts on the cover. So far, I believe this to be 100% true.


‘Unclaimed Baggage’, while having nothing to do with now-endangered and very cute red squirrels, is just as adorable a book on the inside as it is on the outside, and if it’s that cover that draws you in (like it did me), so be it). It’s the goods inside though that will make you stay a while.


The title of the book is the name of the store that brings three new and unlikely friends together in small town Alabama. Doris has been working at Unclaimed Baggage for a while, and takes great pride in her work, unpacking suitcases that have lost their owners somewhere along the way on their journeys around the world, left at airports, unclaimed, unnamed. The contents of the bags are then sold in this unique store, which gets customers from all over the place, and even has an Instagram feed.
Nell is the newcomer, who has been made to move from the Chicago suburbs to this tiny Southern town, away from her boyfriend and BFFs, and at the start of the summer too. Forced to get a summer job by her rocket scientist mom, she fortunately meets Doris at the store.

And to round out the unlikely trio, we have Grant Collins, the hometown (but recently disgraced) football star, struggling with a drinking problem, having recently lost his girlfriend, as well as his way. His mom calls in a favor and gets him a job at the store, which is probably the best thing to ever happen.
Over the course of their summer (but barely a couple of my days) this trio is taken through a bonding experience like no other, and not only do they have infinitely a more exciting summer than I had, these unlikeliest of friends learn some big eye-opening things about the world.


Author Jen Doll is a smart writer, and beneath all the adorable quirkiness, she presents a whole host of issues that teens (and a lot of us, in fact), have dealt and might deal with: sexual assault, alcohol abuse (particularly how it’s accepted in certain groups in high school), grief and loss, racism, a particular brand of which is still especially pervasive in the South, as well as an expectation for everyone to subscribe to the same Christian dogma.
Doll also gives us these wonderful teen characters that challenge these issues in a way that I found, for a change, to be brave instead of obnoxious, to be thoughtful instead of preoccupied, and actually give us cause to be sympathetic to their faults (especially dear Grant).


One key element of this novel, underneath all that quirkiness which I just loved, is relationships, and since this is a contemporary YA novel, it’s worth noting that it isn’t filled with text conversations, and there are also positive family relationships in this book, with the parents actually feeling like real people. I’m finding this is becoming a rarity in my reading lately (is it really so bad to put that out there?). Additionally, the close relationship Doris had with her aunt Stella, who’s passed away, plays a big part in the book; the exploration of Doris’ grief and the influence she had on her, adds depth to this story and her character.


All of this though, is served up with heaps and heaps of Southern fried syrupy goodness and charm, or at least, a furry manatee, and suitcases with their own names. The ‘scenes’ at the store were so wonderful, I wanted more, with all these amazing artifacts and personal belongings from people all over the world ending up on their shelves with the teens wondering their backstories.

I also didn’t even mind the fact that Jen Doll uses the alternating ‘voices’ of Doris, Nell, and Grant, to tell the story, which is a writing device I was becoming tired of lately but in the case of ‘Unclaimed Baggage’, I found it worked well. The book is also divided up into the three months of the summer vacation, to give you a sense of time flow.


However ‘slow’ their (or anyone’s) summer went, I raced through this book. It is funny, quirky, thoughtful, and full of so much heart that I can’t help but love it to pieces.


*I gratefully received this ARC as part of Miss Print's ARC Adoption Program."). 
This squirrel is being released into the wild on September 18th, ‘18.

Source: www.goodreads.com/book/show/36949992-unclaimed-baggage
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review 2018-04-04 01:50
A perfectly written mystery by queer author Caleb Roehrig; brings gay characters to the the main stage, and shows off natural talent for creating suspense and compelling story
White Rabbit - Caleb Roehrig

I tried to get an early copy of ‘White Rabbit’ months ago, and if I’d been able to I would have been able to tell everyone to go and preorder this book! I thoroughly enjoyed this twisty mystery from Caleb Roehrig, and read the whole thing this last weekend, devouring his sophomore novel about Rufus Holt, and his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad night, and a cast of colorful teenage characters.

Seventeen year old, gay Rufus is the main character and he's just now coming to terms with the breakup of his relationship with Sebastian, when they end up having to spend the night as super sleuths; Rufus receives a call from his sister April asking for help, which starts the ball rolling. They drive out to a cottage in the middle of nowhere where she’s been at a now-abandoned party, to find her covered in blood and next to her dead boyfriend Fox Whitney. Rufus doesn't believe April could have committed any crime (nor does his stepmom Isabel, who pays him to find out who did), and he and Sebastian spend the night uncovering clues, and discovering their peers’ unsavory behavior (isn't it always that way?).

We find out about the relationship between Rufus and Sebastian, and their shared past, through memories, and the romantic storyline between the two of them is very subtle and so well-written; Roehrig’s language and written dialogue is so natural, this arc fits within the mystery so perfectly. And when it comes to the actual mystery itself, it’s without holes. Follow along with the details and clues because you want to understand the boys’ thinking, and then when it all blows open at the end, hopefully other readers will be as surprised as I was.

I’m honestly looking forward to seeing what comes next for Caleb, because this was so cleverly written, and is such compulsive reading, and I can see him writing both for teens and adults. There’s also wit and smarts about him that I feel can shine through even further (check out his Twitter feed), and I bet there’s an even more complex or even funny read coming next.

PS. And next time, I REALLY would love that early copy so I can review it and can tell everyone to go order their book!



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review 2013-07-11 23:46
Review of Glitches by Marissa meyer
The Fierce Reads Anthology - Anna Banks,Leigh Bardugo,Jennifer Bosworth,Emmy Laybourne,Marissa Meyer

Since I downloaded this book primarily to read Glitches before going on to read the rest of the Luna chronicle series, that is the main book I want to focus on. 



This short story about how Cinder is adopted into her new family is a small taster of what is to come in the series.


I read Cinder some time ago and have somewhat forgotten what the story was about. for this reason I wanted to read the prequel as a quick reminder of what the story is about and to learn a little more about the characters. And the story served the purpose well. 


Although, I was expecting something a little more thrilling to make me interested in the series, I found the book to be much better suited to being read after reading cinder. 

The story wasn't particularly captivating which may be due to it being so very short. 



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review 2013-07-11 00:00
The Fierce Reads Anthology - Anna Banks, Leigh Bardugo, Jennifer Bosworth, Emmy Laybourne, Marissa Meyer Hands down, without a doubt the best story in the collection is "The Witch of Duva" by Leigh Bardigo. It is a completely wonderful retelling of Hansel and Gretel set in a Russia like fantasy world. Technically the collection is marketed as Young Adult, but this story transends ages. You should note that "Duva" and the[b:Cinder|11235712|Cinder (Lunar Chronicles, #1)|Marissa Meyer|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1317794278s/11235712.jpg|15545385] short story both appear as well in the second Fierce Reads Collection. There are also previews of novels (using the first two chapters) after most of the short stories.As for the other stories, I enjoyed "Dress Your Marines in White" which is very dark. The rest were not bad, but didn't really suit my tastes. "Prophet" was a good story, but it also was almost too short. It showed, however, an ability to capture character. I didn't really like "Legacy Lost" (basically the style was not to my personal taste); however, bonus points for a very good ending.But "Duva" is awesome!
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review 2013-07-11 00:00
The Fierce Reads Anthology: Volume 2 - Ann Aguirre,Elizabeth Fama,Lish McBride,Caragh M. O'Brien,Marie Rutkoski Like the first Volume, this volume has short stories followed by teasers (first couple chapters) from the various author's forth coming books. Also the last two stories "The Witch of Duva" (which is GREAT) and "Glitches" appeared in the first volume.Standouts in this volume for me were "Foundation" a love story set in at the end of the worl. "Departmnent of Alterations" - a more adult than young adult story, very chilling, somewhat like Handmaid's Tale meets Logan's Run. My favorite, discounting "Duva", would be "Heads Will Rule" which is about an unicorn named Steve, his partner with an intersting get-up, and thier desire to put an end to something that despite the fantasy glosss that it is given here, is very familiar to the real world as well.
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