RTW: October’s Wrap-Up and Book of the Month

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where the ladies at YA Highway post a weekly writing- or reading-related question for participants to respond to on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

Today’s Topic: What’s the best book you read in October?

Wow… October was a month of aMaZiNg books! For the first time ever, I couldn’t choose just one Book of the Month. Nope, this month, I’m giving you TWO extraordinary recommendations–lucky you! But first, here’s my wrap-up:

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie – Honestly, I wasn’t sure I’d like this one. I’m not a Holden Caulfield fan, and I’ve heard Diary compared to The Catcher in the Rye more times that I can count. That said, I DID enjoy Diary, iimmensely. Junior’s narration was often funny, incredibly poignant, and, at times, heartbreaking. The comics and cartoons sprinkled throughout were a much appreciated surprise. I have no idea what it’s like to be an Indian living on a “rez,” but this book felt absolutely authentic.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead – I snatched this middle grade novel up at the library after reading glowing recommendations from Kat Owens, Sara McClung, and Alicia Gregoire. Frankly, I didn’t have a clue what was going on throughout the first big chunk of the story. That’s not to say I wasn’t entertained; I totally was. Miranda and her accompanying characters were vivid and intriguing. Still, all of the cryptic clues and references to the future left my head spinning. But, I just had this feeling that sticking with it would pay off big. It SO did. I literally had chills throughout the last quarter of this book–the ending is that mind-blowing, that stunning. The day I returned When You Reach Me to the library, I went out and bought my own copy because I couldn’t NOT own it. If you’re not sure whether you like middle grade, read When You Reach Me. You will LOVE it!

Toxic by Jus Accardo – The follow-up to my CP’s debut, Touch, will be available Spring, 2012. I can’t give anything away, of course, but mark your calendars… it’s fantastic!

Hourglass by Myra McEntire – I loved this premise–time travel, the chance to change lives in the span of one hour. Main character Emerson was spunky and cool, though she sort of fell apart every time an attractive boy stepped onto the scene. The boys in the book were pretty hot though… certainly good distractions! I also dug the twisty ending and the atmospheric descriptions.

Teach Me by RA Nelson – Eek… Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned! I wasn’t sure about this one going in: High school senior has a sordid affair with her teacher, obsession and betrayal ensue. But, thanks to main character Carolina (and her majorly over-the-top shenanigans) I ended up enjoying Teach Me. Carolina is super smart and makes awesome observations about people and life, but she’s a social outcast among her peers. She somehow manages to garner sympathy even when making some questionable–okay, disturbing–choices. A well-written, compellingly honest contemporary.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laine Taylor – This book. Oh, THIS BOOK. Simply brilliant, and definitely one of my October Books of the Month. But, I’m not going to go into a full recommendation today because Smoke and Bone is the book we’ll be discussing for Fall Book Club. Check back Friday for my lovefest review.

And my second Book of the Month, Lola and the Boy Next Door, by Stephanie Perkins

From Goodreads: Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit — more sparkly, more fun, more wild — the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood. When Cricket — a gifted inventor — steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

I’d heard from more than one person that Lola was better than Stephanie Perkins’ debut novel, Anna and the French Kiss, which I absolutely loved. I sincerely doubted that anything could be better than Anna, but yeah… I have to say, I think I enjoyed Lola just a *tiny* bit more.

Seventeen-year-old Lola Nolan is an amazing protagonist. One of my favorites of any YA, I think. Lola is all kinds of conflicted. While she’s highly emotional, she’s also genuine and loving and unique and creative and funny. She has a humorous way of describing tough situations that lightened what was, essentially, a serious novel. And while Lola is a sweet girl, she’s not exactly a good girl. She’s self-centered. She lies. She sneaks around behind her parents’ backs. And that rocker boyfriend mentioned in the synopsis above? He’s twenty-two, and not exactly wholesome (he actually turns out to be slightly less-than-perfect, but he had his reasons and I have to say, I didn’t hate him). All of this discord within Lola’s personality made her delightfully real. She’s someone I wish I’d known in high school, someone I would have loved to be friends with.

And Cricket… what a perfectly lovable romantic interest. I see him as he’s pictured on the cover (adorable), and cherished every aspect of his sweet, highly intelligent, awkward, loyal, bumbling, pin-striped personality. He’s just right for Lola (obviously), yet he’s wonderfully flawed (like a real boy!). He knows what he wants, and while he’s full of conviction, he’s patient too. Plus, he’s friends with Etienne! I challenge any female reader to dodge to Cricket’s charms. Seriously. He’s enchanting.

Lola is set in San Francisco, which is probably obvious if you’ve given the cover a look. The city comes alive within the pages of the book, so much so that I want to visit again and take time to savor the atmosphere Stephanie Perkins so perfectly captures. All the major landmarks are there (the Golden Gate Bridge, Lombard Street, Alcatraz, Muir Woods National Park), but there’s also a more subtle mood that hangs in the background, a sparkle that’s all San Francisco, yet not at all cliché or stereotypical.

And Lola‘s supporting characters… fabulous! Andy and Nathan (Lola’s dads) were distinct, strict, bona fide parental figures. Best friend Lindsey was an excellent source of comic relief. Calliope (Cricket’s twin) was an unpredictable sort of mean girl. Even Norah turned a corner and became someone I wasn’t expecting.

Lola, at its heart, is about finding your authentic self and embracing it for all it’s worth. A very worthwhile message weaved cleverly into a layered, entertaining story full of family and friendship and love. If you think you don’t like contemporary, or romance, or “chick-lit,” think again. Stephanie Perkins has a talent for creating real-life characters you’ll fall for head-over-heels, and for writing romantic scenes that’ll have your heart skipping. Please, please, please, buy and read Lola and the Boy Next Door!

What’s the best book YOU read in October? (And don’t forget to check back Friday for my review of Daughter of Smoke and Bone!)


34 thoughts on “RTW: October’s Wrap-Up and Book of the Month

  1. Jennifer Pickrell says:

    I LOVED so many of the books you mentioned. I was iffy about Teach Me, though, b/c I didn’t connect to the main character very much. But it’s stuck in my head for years, so it must have done something right 🙂

    • katyupperman says:

      I wouldn’t say I connected with the main character of TEACH ME, either, though I did, somehow GET HER. That’s not to say I would make any of the same decisions she made, but yeah… I could see why she was pissed and profoundly changed by what happened with Mr. Mann. And yeah, I don’t think it’ll be one of those books I just forget. Too much craziness!

  2. Erin Bowman says:

    Oh, Lola! And Daughter! Can’t wait to talk about these either too (my post is coming soon). But ultimately, I completely agree. I swooned my way through both those books!

    I’ve also been dying to read When You Reach Me, and this review only makes me more anxious 🙂

    • katyupperman says:

      Yes, read WHEN YOU REACH ME! I bet you’ll love it, Erin! And yep, LOLA and DAUGHTER are definitely among my favorites of the year… actually, they’re both among my all-time favorites! Genius on both counts!

    • katyupperman says:

      You’re right… Choosing among MEDIOCRE books would be a problem; I’m happy to have read so much awesomeness this month! And I’m glad you enjoyed SMOKE AND BONE. So gorgeous!

  3. Juliana Haygert says:

    Oh, I’ve read Touch this month and I loved the voice! And everything else lol
    I’m dying to read Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Lola … they’re on my looooong TBR list … I’ll get there!

  4. sarah says:

    Oooh you had a fabulous month! I’ve heard some things about WHEN YOU REACH ME, but you are making me want to go grab it during lunch!

    And EEEE I adore Sherman Alexie and DAUGHTER OS&B and LOLA of course! Can’t wait to read your review of Daughter, because I think we’ll likely be on the same page. *goes to reread LOLA*

  5. Rebecca B says:

    We must have similar tastes! From your list I’ve read DIARY, WHEN YOU REACH ME, LOLA, and now DoSB and I pretty much adore all of them.
    So of course I need to add your other recommendations to my list. 🙂

  6. Christa says:

    Lola is on my list. But I’m going with Imaginary Girls as my #1 pick this month. Although I read many, many great ones. (Including the NBA finalists!)

    • katyupperman says:

      I haven’t read IMAGINARY GIRLS yet, but I’ve heard great things… I’ll have to order it next time I hit up Amazon. And good for you reading all of the NBA finalists. I’ve only read CHIME, but I absolutely adored it. I’m starting to think you have super-human reading speed, by the way!

  7. Erin L. Schneider says:

    Lola was on my list for the month, too! 🙂
    Can’t wait to read Daughter of Smoke and Bone (still waiting for it to arrive in the mail from Amazon!) and Hourglass is already sitting in my TBR pile…so many great reads to get to, just not enough time!
    Great list, Katy!

    • katyupperman says:

      Thanks, Erin. I suspect you’ll LOVE Daughter of Smoke and Bone. It’s become one of my favorites–totally genius! (And good luck with those revisions… you’ll have to shoot me an email soon and update me! :))

  8. Alicia Gregoire says:

    I’m so glad that you liked When You Reach Me. I’m still not sure about Diary of Part-Time Indian–it just doesn’t pull at me to read. Same with Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I must admit. It will be interesting to read all of your reviews on Friday.

    • katyupperman says:

      I totally get it, Alicia… I was resistant to DIARY and DAUGHTER (neither are my preferred genres), but honestly, they are both extraordinary. If you decide to give either (or both!) a go, let me know what you think!

  9. Colin says:

    Am I going to have to put DoS&B on my TBR list? Please, you people are killing me with all your awesome recommendations!! At least it’s nearly Christmas… 😉

  10. Donelle Lacy says:

    Daughter of Smoke and Bone is definitely one I want to read. I’ll probably have to review it after too, since all those recommendations. That’s what I did with Hunger Games, after all. It was my pick for the month.

    • katyupperman says:

      I hope you do get a chance to read SMOKE AND BONE, Donelle. I thought it was absolutely amazing! I’ll be reviewing it in much more detail on Friday, so I hope you’ll check out my post. 🙂

  11. Mrs. S says:

    Your first two are great choices–I really love Sherman Alexie, and I love the way my students react to that book in particular. They can’t believe their teacher is giving them a book with so many pictures and swears and frank discussions of racism and sex. It keeps them reading and that opens up great discussions, which are why I give it to them in the first place.

    Anna/Lola have been on my TBR list for a while, but this is bumping them up–and Daughter of Smoke and Bone didn’t seem terribly appealing to me until I saw all the RAVES from Fall Book Club members. So I guess that one goes on the list as well!

    • katyupperman says:

      So awesome that your students are responding to DIARY. I can definitely see how that book would initiate some fantastic classroom discussions, and I’m so glad you’re a teacher who doesn’t shy away from difficult topics. Way to go, Mrs. S!

      And yes! I hope you enjoy both LOLA and SMOKE AND BONE. I, obviously, adored them both, and won’t hesitate to recommend them all over the book world. 🙂

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