[Review] Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

For Penny Lee high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her. When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind.

Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a café and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him. 

When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch — via text — and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other.

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[Review] To Best the Boys by Mary Weber

I received a review copy of this book through Netgalley; all opinions are my own and honest.

Summary: The task is simple: Don a disguise. Survive the Labyrinth. Best the boys.

Every year for the past fifty-four years, the residents of Pinsbury Port receive a mysterious letter inviting all eligible-aged boys to compete for an esteemed scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University. The poorer residents look to see that their names are on the list. The wealthier look to see how likely their sons are to survive. And Rhen Tellur opens it to see if she can derive which substances the ink and parchment are created from, using her father’s microscope.

In the province of Caldon, where women train in wifely duties and men pursue collegiate education, sixteen-year-old Rhen Tellur wants nothing more than to become a scientist. As the poor of her seaside town fall prey to a deadly disease, she and her father work desperately to find a cure. But when her mum succumbs to it as well? Rhen decides to take the future into her own hands—through the annual all-male scholarship competition.

With her cousin, Seleni, by her side, the girls don disguises and enter Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, to best the boys and claim the scholarship prize. Except not everyone’s ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the deadly maze.

Welcome to the Labyrinth.

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[Discussion] Group Reads

Growing up, I always thought of reading as a solitary activity. It was what I did at recess instead of playing with the other kids, my escape from the homework I didn’t want to do, and my excuse not to take up a sport. (Who needed adventures of your own when you had books?) And beyond needing my parents to take me to the library, it was yet another thing that I could do independently from a young age. 

But over the years I found through in-class “book groups” — and more importantly, online fandom activity, i.e. Tumblr and Goodreads — that I actually quite enjoy discussing books that I’ve read or am currently reading. (Blogging is a social activity, of course, but there’s some degree of removal: comments on your review, or even your periodic GR updates, don’t tend to lead to in-depth discussion.)

So I recently joined the YA Buddy Readers’ Corner on Goodreads, and I’ve been a member of Howl’s Moving Book Club since its inception last November. Having spent the past few months doing a mix of group and solitary reads, I have a lot of thoughts on how they compare.

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