Wednesday, June 14, 2017

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon | Review

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon | ReviewWhen Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Published by Simon Pulse on May 30th 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 380
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
5 Stars

A laugh-out-loud, heartfelt YA romantic comedy, told in alternating perspectives, about two Indian-American teens whose parents have arranged for them to be married.

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

When every single one of your bookish friends is raving about a book, you know they can’t all be wrong.  That’s how I felt about When Dimple Met Rishi.  Everybody I know that read it, loved it.  I honestly have not seen one single bad review for it.  In all my years blogging, I feel like I have never seen one book get so much praise.  I obviously had to pick it up to see what all the fuss was about.

When Dimple Met Rishi is like the perfect romantic comedy in book form.  I haven’t been reading much contemporary lately but that’s because I stopped finding books like this one that reminded me of my love for the genre.  This book had everything that made me love contemporary YA novels growing up: romance, friendship, conflicts, confusion, family, and so much more.  Dimple and Rishi are far from perfect and that’s why they are so dang lovable.  And don’t even get me started on their friends and families.  The family dynamics between both the parents and children and the children and siblings may have been my favorite aspect of this book.  So often it seems like family can get overlooked in favor of romantic relationships in books but that’s not the case with When Dimple Met Rishi.  Sandhya Menon perfectly balanced every aspect of this book.

What made the family dynamics so awesome though were the characters.  Dimple and Rishi are obviously the main focus of the story but their story couldn’t have been told without their families and the friends they made at Insomnia Con.  Dimple’s family was very traditional and it was easy to see that her parents wanted a traditional life for her.  The love they had for Dimple was clear but her mom couldn’t see why Dimple wanted something more out of life than marriage and children.  As for Rishi, his parents were of a similar mindset but it wasn’t such an issue because it’s also what Rishi wanted.  From the start it was clear that Dimple and Rishi were looking for different things out of life but that didn’t really stop them from falling for one another.  Also, Celia (Dimple’s roommate) and Ashish (Rishi’s brother) kind of need their own story now.  I want to know more about those two.

As for Dimple and Rishi, they were pretty great.  Dimple was a little hardheaded and she definitely did some stupid stuff but I still adored her.  Rishi was almost too perfect.  He was so incredibly sweet and loving.  He was a total romantic and while his and Dimple’s personalities didn’t seem like they would go well together, they really did.  Rishi brought out a softer side in Dimple and Dimple pushed Rishi to go after what he really wanted in life.

Overall, When Dimple Met Rishi deserves every bit of praise it’s been getting.  Sandhya Menon has set a very high bar for herself but I am sure that whatever she writes next will meet that standard.

What others are saying about When Dimple Met Rishi:

A Reader Of Fictions’ review: “If you’ve been looking forward to this one, you were right to be excited.”

The Book Smugglers’ review: “I can’t entirely express how cute, engaging, funny and heart-warming this novel truly is.”

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Spindle Fire (Spindle Fire #1) by Lexa Hilyer | Review

Spindle Fire (Spindle Fire #1) by Lexa Hilyer | ReviewSpindle Fire (Spindle Fire #1) by Lexa Hillyer
Published by HarperCollins on April 11th 2017
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 351
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
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4 Stars

A kingdom burns. A princess sleeps. This is no fairy tale.

It all started with the burning of the spindles.

No.

It all started with a curse…

Half sisters Isabelle and Aurora are polar opposites: Isabelle is the king’s headstrong illegitimate daughter, whose sight was tithed by faeries; Aurora, beautiful and sheltered, was tithed her sense of touch and her voice on the same day. Despite their differences, the sisters have always been extremely close.

And then everything changes, with a single drop of Aurora’s blood—and a sleep so deep it cannot be broken.

As the faerie queen and her army of Vultures prepare to march, Isabelle must race to find a prince who can awaken her sister with the kiss of true love and seal their two kingdoms in an alliance against the queen.

Isabelle crosses land and sea; unearthly, thorny vines rise up the palace walls; and whispers of revolt travel in the ashes on the wind. The kingdom falls to ruin under layers of snow. Meanwhile, Aurora wakes up in a strange and enchanted world, where a mysterious hunter may be the secret to her escape…or the reason for her to stay.

Lexa Hilyer impressed me with her previous novel, Proof of Forever.  Spindle Fire is such a departure from that story though, that I went into this one as if I knew nothing of the author’s work.  To be completely honest, this was one I picked up solely on the appeal of the gorgeous cover.  This was one of those instances where I’m glad I judged a book by it’s cover because the insides matched up quite well with the beautiful outsides.

I read somewhere that Spindle Fire is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty with hints of Alice in Wonderland and that description matched up perfectly with the actual story.  The Sleeping Beauty aspects were quite obvious from the start and did match up quite well with the traditional story.  However, it didn’t take long for things to deviate from that classic and for Lexa Hilyer to really give this story her own spin.  The hints of mystery surrounding both the enchanted world where Aurora has found herself and the world of her home kingdom were intriguing enough to keep any reader guessing.  Little hints regarding the history of both worlds as well as the faeries themselves are dropped throughout the book but only really come to a head at the end.  As for that end, there won’t be a reader out there who isn’t left dying for the sequel, Winter Glass.

While the story is what originally captured my attention, the characters are what kept me coming back for more.  Aurora and Isabelle couldn’t be more different.  The sisters have very little in common except for their love for one another.  That never stopped them from being best friends though.  However, Aurora’s grand ideas for romance started to change things between them.  Aurora was eager to meet her future husband, the Crown Prince of Aubin, a neighboring land.  For Isabelle, this meant her time with her sister was over and her life was going to change irrevocably.  A rift formed between them and before either of them could fix it, the spell took hold of Aurora.  Aurora woke in a strange land and everything about her changed from there.  Everything she thought she knew had to be questioned and she finally had to rely on her own strengths.  As for Isabelle, she always knew her strengths but she hadn’t needed to put them to the test until it was up to her to bring her sister back from the strange sleeping sickness.  Throughout the course of the story, characters such a Gil, William, Heath, Wren, Belcoeur, and Malfleur were introduced and while each one had their own mysteries, most of the questions surrounding them were left unanswered.  I sincerely hope the pasts and futures of all of these characters will be explored in the sequel.

Overall, Spindle Fire sets things up nicely for this series (trilogy? duology?).  April 2018 cannot get here soon enough, in my opinion.  I’ve already become invested in these characters’ stories and I need to know what will become of them!  Fans of fantasy as well as fans of both the original Sleeping Beauty and Alice in Wonderland stories will find something to love in Spindle Fire.  The hints of the familiar are just enough to bring fans to find something completely new to love.

What others are saying about Spindle Fire:

Across the Words’ review: “If you tend to find the story of Sleeping Beauty uninteresting, I think you will appreciate how much more compelling and complex it becomes in Spindle Fire.”

The Story Sanctuary’s review: “I think fans of Forbidden Wish or The School for Good and Evil will find Spindle Fire to be a worthy addition to the genre.”

Friday, April 7, 2017

Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig | Review

Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig | ReviewLast Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig
Published by Feiwel & Friends on October 4th 2016
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
5 Stars

Flynn's girlfriend has disappeared. How can he uncover her secrets without revealing his own?

Flynn's girlfriend, January, is missing. The cops are asking questions he can't answer, and her friends are telling stories that don't add up. All eyes are on Flynn—as January's boyfriend, he must know something.
But Flynn has a secret of his own. And as he struggles to uncover the truth about January's disappearance, he must also face the truth about himself.

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I have a new favorite mystery.  Last Seen Leaving wasn’t even really on my radar until Angie from Lady Knight Reads told me to pick it up.  I’m so glad I listened to her.  Last Seen Leaving, Caleb Roehrig’s debut novel, is one of those books that I’m going to be pushing on everyone now.

Pros:

  • Flynn: Characters can really break or make a mystery novel.  If your characters are boring and straightforward, you’re going to be able to guess what happened right from the start.  Lucky for readers, there is not a single boring or straightforward character in Last Seen Leaving.  Flynn Doherty, main character and ex-boyfriend of January, is perfection.  I can’t honestly tell you everything it is that I love about him because there is too much.  I went through a myriad of emotions alongside Flynn.  It was so easy to see how much he cared for January and not knowing what happened to her really tore him up.  He was so confused by everything going on in his life.  He had no aspirations towards being a detective but he was unwilling to let January’s disappearance go unsolved.  He was tenacious and rather fierce when it was called for.  He was so loyal and he did not take his friendships lightly.
  • January: You never actually see January except in flashbacks from Flynn’s perspective.  She’s very much a mystery.  Flynn sees her one way and only starts to realize that there was much more to her once she has gone missing.  It’s hard to say what January was really like though because she put on a different face for every person in her life.  I think it’s part of what made her disappearance so intriguing and unsolvable.  Nobody knew the real January except for January.
  • Mystery: Like I said, this is one mystery that I could not solve.  Sure I could figure out little pieces of it but there was always much more to it.  Flynn didn’t really have a clue what he was doing when it came to solving the mystery but he was willing to try anything to find out what happened to January.  Because of that, he tended to stumble upon things that other people overlooked.  He was a little clueless at times and there were times when I wanted to knock some sense into him but he really was a pretty good detective.
  • Romance: The romance in Last Seen Leaving was really very subtle and well done.  Flynn obviously had a lot on his plate with January’s disappearance but he ended up getting help from an unexpected source.  Kaz was a coworker of January’s who really only offered to help Flynn because he considered January a friend.  They got off to a rocky start but Kaz and Flynn were pretty perfect together.  Theirs was not a relationship that just popped up overnight though.  They both had way too much going on to just jump into things and they really didn’t know each other.  I liked seeing them get to know each other and build upon their blossoming friendship.

Overall, Last Seen Leaving is an impressive debut from Caleb Roehrig.  I’m excited to see what is next from him!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Blog Tour: Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland | Review + Favorite Quotes

Blog Tour: Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland | Review + Favorite Quotes

Blog Tour: Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland | Review + Favorite QuotesOur Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers on October 4th 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
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4 Stars

John Green meets Rainbow Rowell in this irresistible story of first love, broken hearts, and the golden seams that put them back together again.

Henry Page has never been in love. He fancies himself a hopeless romantic, but the slo-mo, heart palpitating, can't-eat-can't-sleep kind of love that he's been hoping for just hasn't been in the cards for him—at least not yet. Instead, he's been happy to focus on his grades, on getting into a semi-decent college and finally becoming editor of his school newspaper.
Then Grace Town walks into his first period class on the third Tuesday of senior year and he knows everything's about to change.

Grace isn't who Henry pictured as his dream girl—she walks with a cane, wears oversized boys' clothes, and rarely seems to shower. But when Grace and Henry are both chosen to edit the school paper, he quickly finds himself falling for her. It's obvious there's something broken about Grace, but it seems to make her even more beautiful to Henry, and he wants nothing more than to help her put the pieces back together again. And yet, this isn't your average story of boy meets girl. Krystal Sutherland's brilliant debut is equal parts wit and heartbreak, a potent reminder of the bittersweet bliss that is first love,

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Ignoring the whole John Green/Rainbow Rowell comparison made in the synopsis, I went into Our Chemical Hearts not really knowing what to expect but with an open mind.  I’m the kind of person who doesn’t necessarily like those comparisons because it can give people unrealistic hopes.  That wasn’t the case with this one because I definitely think that fans of the two authors will enjoy this one though Krystal Sutherland brings her own flair to the story.

Pros:

  • Henry: Henry was a very mixed bag for me.  He had his good parts and his bad but I honestly think that is why he is in the pros column.  He was really well developed as a character.  He’s not your typical boy.  He’s very focused on school, worrying about getting into a good college, and becoming the editor of his school paper to help with that whole good college thing.  He gets the editor position but it’s got a co-editor attached and that’s Grace.  Grace isn’t really his idea (or many people’s) of a dream girl but Henry is very intrigued and quickly becomes quite enmeshed in her life.  Grace has a lot of baggage and Henry finds himself wanting to know everything about Grace and wanting to basically help fix her.  He was a little obsessed with Grace (to me) but you could tell his heart was in the right place so it’s easy to get past that.
  • Realism: This is not your romantic, happy ever after, high school love story.  Hell, I’m not even sure I’d call it a true love story because it focuses on so much more than that.  The romantic feelings that Henry has for Grace were an important part of the story but not the focal point here. Grace and Henry both have their issues and maybe putting them together wasn’t the smartest idea but they were both able to help each other.  I feel like Grace taught Henry a lot and not so much Henry teaching Grace.  However, both Henry and Grace’s stories were really true to life and that’s what I loved about them.

Cons:

  • Grace: While I liked Grace, I didn’t feel like I really knew her.  The hardest thing for me was only ever seeing Grace through Henry’s eyes.  He didn’t always think great things about her and when he did, it was sometimes almost idealistic.  I wanted to know more about Grace from Grace’s perspective.  I feel like there was so much more to her character that I never really got to see.  I just couldn’t see her as a fully formed character while only getting Henry’s thoughts on her.

I also kinda want to add the ending to the cons list but I’m not going to because I think it’s just my thoughts influencing it.  I liked the ending, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not what I had hoped for.  I think it’s a great ending and such a realistic one but boy was that not what I wanted.

Overall, Our Chemical Hearts (I keep wanting to say My Chemical Heart. I’ve got My Chemical Romance on the brain.) is one that I think will really shock readers and make them think.  Like I said before, Rainbow Rowell/John Green fans will find this one right up their alley but I just love what Krystal Sutherland brought to the table.  I can’t wait to see what this Aussie author does next.

Overall reaction:

Be prepared for a little of this or maybe a lot!

What others are saying about Our Chemical Hearts:

Mollie The Reader’s review: “Overall, Our Chemical Hearts was a unique, fast paced and quirky read, I would really recommend this to those that love John Green (to be honest its heaps better than his books oOPS DONT HURT ME) and also to those that love quirky characters with a really deep and meaningful plot.”

The Innocent Smiley’s review: “Although I do believe that fans of John Green would love this, it’s the opposite of a John Green novel. It is everything you expect it not to be.”

Favorite Quotes

While I could go on and on, I really don’t want to overwhelm you, so have just a couple favorite quotes from me!  I wanted to include Henry’s humor since Our Chemical Hearts really isn’t quite as heavy as I made it out to be but I couldn’t pass up the quote about love either.  It’s so gorgeous!

(All quotes are from the ARC and could differ slightly in final versions.)

“You could say I looked something like a male Summer Glau crossed with Severus Snape. Subtract the hook nose, add in some dimples, and hey presto: the perfect recipe for one Henry Issac Page.”

“You know I’ve made it through seventeen years of my life without being peer pressured? My parents warned me about it in elementary school, but I never experienced it. I was starting to believe it was a myth. And, like, it’s a really accurate description of what it is. I’m feeling very pressured by my peer right now.”

The greatest love story ever told doesn’t have to be about two people who spent their whole lives together. It might be about a love that lasted two weeks or two months or two years, but burned brighter and hotter and more brilliantly than any other love before or after. Don’t mourn a failed love; there’s no such thing. All love is equal in the brain.”

Monday, August 29, 2016

Crow Mountain by Lucy Inglis | Review

Crow Mountain by Lucy Inglis | ReviewCrow Mountain by Lucy Inglis
Published by The Chicken House on May 31st 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 414
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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3 Stars

A sweeping tale of love, legacy, and wilderness set between the present day and 1866 in the dramatic landscape of modern-day and territorial Montana.
While on a trip to Montana with her mom, British teen Hope meets local boy Cal Crow, a ranch hand. Caught in a freak accident, Hope and Cal take shelter in a cabin, where Hope makes a strange discovery in an abandoned diary. More than a hundred years earlier, another British girl -- Emily -- met a similar fate. Her rescuer, a horse trader named Nate. In this wild place, both girls learn what it means to survive and to fall in love, neither knowing that their fates are intimately entwined.

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Historical fiction has always been one of my favorite genres and it’s one that I feel does not get enough love.  I picked up Crow Moutain because it had been so long since I’d read anything historical fiction and this one seemed really unique.  I was definitely right about that.

Pros:

  • Story:  The story was the best thing Crow Mountain had going for it.  I lumped this into the historical fiction genre but it’s not only historical fiction.  The story alternates between present day Montana and 1866/67 Montana.  Since I felt there was more focus on the past than the present, I considered it historical fiction.  You could really classify it as both historical and contemporary. The story follows Hope/Cal in the present and Emily/Nate in the past.  Hope is spending some time in Montana with her mother while she does research on the land.  Cal is the son of the ranch owner they are staying with.  Emily is a young British girl traveling to San Francisco to meet her future husband.  Nate is a former soldier she briefly sees at one of the stops along the way.  When Emily’s coach crashes, Nate is there to rescue her.  However, he doesn’t return her to town so she can be on her way.  Instead he takes her home with him and teaches her the ways of the land.  Hope and Cal’s story is almost identical to Emily and Nate’s.  As Hope reads Emily’s journal she starts to see the similarities between the two stories and wonders if she discovered the journal for a reason.  Cal’s family has been feuding with the Hart family for centuries and it may be up to Emily and Cal to put an end to the feud before it kills any more people.
  • Characters:  To be completely honest, I liked Emily and Nate but Cal and Hope were a bit lacking, in my opinion. I’ll get to that part later though.  Emily and Nate were in an odd situation.  Emily didn’t know her future husband but she assumed she would be fine with him.  She was drawn to Nate from the moment she first saw him but that doesn’t mean she wanted to run away with him.  He essentially kidnapped her.  He didn’t force her to stay with him but he knew there was no way she could leave him.  She would have died in the wilderness on her own.  He used that to his advantage, that’s for sure.  He figured if he bided his time, she’d eventually come to love him.  I wouldn’t normally be okay with a situation like that but Nate was a good guy and he never took advantage of her.  He took care of her and he taught her how to take care of herself.  Emily was pretty helpless at first but Nate didn’t allow that for long.  It was easy to see that Emily really liked learning how to do things for herself.  She didn’t want to have to rely on Nate and eventually, she didn’t have to.
  • Romance: This is definitely one of those slow burn romances.  Emily and Nate are attracted to each other but they don’t act on it.  Rules were very different back in the 1800s and Emily was a proper lady.  She wasn’t sure she’d ever make it back to her fiance but she knew that if she did, she had to be pure.  She wanted to do what was right for her family and she wasn’t willing to risk that even though her feelings for Nate kept growing.  She also didn’t know anything about love or relations between men and women.  She was pretty clueless when it came to that so of course she wasn’t making any moves on Nate.  It was kind of adorable how awkward she was about it all.  As for Hope and Cal, they had a similar attraction but they knew they could act on it if they wanted.  There was an age difference between the two and Cal had lots of secrets from his past but that didn’t really slow them down all that much.  Their relationship moved a little too quickly for my tastes but I blame part of that on their situation.  It forced them to really get to know each other and in a really short period of time.

Cons:

  • Characters: Like I said, Hope and Cal didn’t hold as much appeal to me as Emily and Nate.  Hope was very sheltered and she could come across as kind of snobby.  Cal was blatantly rude to her at times.  While I felt like I could understand both of their issues, I would have been better with it if I felt like I knew them more.  Most of the book was set in the past and I felt like Hope and Cal’s stories sometimes got pushed aside.  I just didn’t feel the same connection to them as I did to Emily and Nate.
  • Ending:  The whole feud with the Hart family was not really explained very well and felt almost like an afterthought.  Everything tied together really nicely at the end but I felt like it just came out of nowhere.  I also felt like it was very rushed and some of the things were just not very believable.  It’s already a pretty long book so I understand why things needed to wrap up quickly but I would have liked a bit more backstory as far as how things got started between the Harts and the Crows.

Overall, Crow Mountain had things that could have been improved upon but was still an enjoyable read.  I loved that Lucy Inglis based a lot of it off of true events.   I’ll have to see what else she has written and look for more historical fiction from her in the future.

Overall reaction:

What others are saying about Crow Mountain:

The Review Diaries’ review: “A surprising read that really crept up on me when I least expected it with a beautiful love story woven through its pages.”

Daisy Chain Book Reviews’ review: “Crow Mountain is far from perfect, but it has drama, a wonderfully unusual setting, and a great story for fans who loved True Grit and The Next Together.”

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston | Review

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston | ReviewExit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
Published by Dutton Books for Young Readers on March 15th 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 248
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
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5 Stars

Veronica Mars meets William Shakespeare in E.K. Johnston’s latest brave and unforgettable heroine.

Hermione Winters is captain of her cheerleading team, and in tiny Palermo Heights, this doesn’t mean what you think it means. At PHHS, the cheerleaders don't cheer for the sports teams; they are the sports team—the pride and joy of a tiny town. The team's summer training camp is Hermione's last and marks the beginning of the end of…she’s not sure what. She does know this season could make her a legend. But during a camp party, someone slips something in her drink. And it all goes black.

In every class, there's a star cheerleader and a pariah pregnant girl. They're never supposed to be the same person. Hermione struggles to regain the control she's always had and faces a wrenching decision about how to move on. The assault wasn't the beginning of Hermione Winter's story and she's not going to let it be the end. She won’t be anyone’s cautionary tale.

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I finished Exit, Pursued by a Bear a few days ago but I haven’t been able to properly put my thoughts into words.  I still can’t really do that but I’m going to try.

Trigger warning: As noted in the synopsis, this book deals with rape and teen pregnancy.  If those aren’t things you can handle reading about, this book is not for you.

Pros:

  • Characters:  If I had all the time in the world and I thought you guys would read a breakdown of each and every character in this book, I would give you one.  That would take so long though so I’m just going to focus on some of the key players and their strengths and weaknesses.  Hermione is obviously the most important person in Exit, Pursued by a Bear.  She is the captain of her school’s cheerleaders and she is a pretty popular girl at her school.  She’s still very down to earth though.  She knows what people think about cheerleaders and she is there to prove them all wrong. She’s smart and funny and amazingly strong.  She doesn’t just want to be another statistic but she also doesn’t want her rape and pregnancy to define who she becomes.  With the help of her family and friends, she’s willing to do what it takes to get the guy but also move on.  Her family is a huge help but it’s her best friend, Polly, who really helps her through.  Hermione and Polly are best friend goals.  They love and support each other through everything.  When Hermione can’t be strong, she has Polly.  Same goes for Polly.  The two of them love each other unconditionally.  It’s not often you see friendships like theirs portrayed in YA books but I loved seeing it.  And right now I can’t think of his name but I adored Hermione’s psychiatrist.  He was exactly what she needed.  He helped her feel like even though everything was wrong in her life, she wasn’t doing anything wrong and she was on the path to where she needed to be.  You could see that he really wanted to help her.
  • Story: I knew going in that this would be a tough story to read and I was right.  I cried so many times.  I’m glad I read it though.  Not only is Hermione raped, everyone knows about it.  It happens at cheer camp and quickly spreads around school and their small town.  She has no choice but to be faced with peoples’ pity.  She knows that she could let this be the moment that defines who she is or she can find a way to make herself known for something else, something good.  When she finds out she’s pregnant, it makes things even more difficult for her.  She never lets this stop her though.  She still cheers, gets good grades, and focuses on her future.  E.K. Johnston showed a very different side of the story than I ever expected and it showed that a terrible event doesn’t have to be the defining moment of your life.
  • Romance:  I’m just briefly going to mention this because there wasn’t much romance in Exit, Pursued by a Bear.  At the start of the book Hermione is dating fellow cheerleader, Leo, but that doesn’t last and I was happy about that.  They were not good for each other.  After the rape, Hermione is a little hesitant to have anything to do with boys her own age.  She puts up with it for cheerleading but that’s pretty much all she is doing.  However, Dion, a fellow cheerleader, is the only boy who really makes Hermione feel safe and like she might be okay with guys in the future.  Their friendship and possible romance is sweet and perfect for the story.

Overall, Exit, Pursued by a Bear is going to the top of my highly recommended list.  I know my review doesn’t even come close to doing it justice but take my word, you should read it.

Overall reaction:

 

What others are saying about Exit, Pursued by a Bear:

The Book Wars’ review: “In Exit, Pursued by a Bear, we see how the truth loses none of its potency when surrounded by people who are willing to trust in it. Highly, highly recommended!”

Pretty Deadly Reviews’ review: “This is a very different, very uplifting story about a girl coming to terms with being raped, and it is a necessary voice in a world telling girls they don’t own themselves.”

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff | Review

Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff | ReviewPlaces No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff
Published by Delacorte Press on May 17th 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
4 Stars

For fans of Lauren Oliver and E. Lockhart, here is a dreamy love story set in the dark halls of contemporary high school, from New York Times bestselling author Brenna Yovanoff.

Waverly Camdenmar spends her nights running until she can’t even think. Then the sun comes up, life goes on, and Waverly goes back to her perfectly hateful best friend, her perfectly dull classes, and the tiny, nagging suspicion that there’s more to life than student council and GPAs.

Marshall Holt is a loser. He drinks on school nights and gets stoned in the park. He is at risk of not graduating, he does not care, he is no one. He is not even close to being in Waverly’s world.

But then one night Waverly falls asleep and dreams herself into Marshall’s bedroom—and when the sun comes up, nothing in her life can ever be the same. In Waverly’s dreams, the rules have changed. But in her days, she’ll have to decide if it’s worth losing everything for a boy who barely exists.

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Places No One Knows is a step out for Brenna Yovanoff.  I’ve only read one of her other books (The Space Between, which I loved) but I felt like I got a sense of her writing from that one.  Places No One Knows is a completely different story from anything she has done before and anything I have read before.

Pros:

  • Writing: Brenna Yovanoff’s writing is what really grabbed me when I read The Space Between and while Places No One Knows is a completely different story, Brenna’s writing shines through.  Her writing is descriptive and can sometimes come across a little heavy but I have always loved that style and think it really worked well with the story here.  I can see why Brenna Yovanoff is Maggie Stiefvater’s critique partner because their styles of writing are similar.  Even if I had hated the story in Places No One Knows, I would have kept reading for the writing alone.
  • Story: The story had it’s strong points and it’s weak points.  When I started Places No One Knows, I was looking for a contemporary story set in high school.  Places No One Knows fits those criteria but it’s a lot more than that.  Waverly doesn’t sleep and in an attempt to get some sleep, she ends up visiting another classmate, without ever having left her room.  He’s the only one who can see her and he’s the only one she visits this way.  He doesn’t run in her circle at school but she is drawn to him for some reason.  They come from very different walks of life but they have more in common than either of them think.  Brenna Yovanoff doesn’t spend much time detailing exactly what Waverly does to be able to visit him but that’s okay because that’s not what the book is about.  It’s more about what happens when Waverly does spend time with Marshall and how that time together (away from everyone else) brings out the truth of who they are and who they want to be.
  • Characters: Pros and cons here, that’s for sure, especially with Waverly.  It’s odd because the thing I hated about Waverly also made me really like her.  She was very much a high school girl.  She let Maribeth put her down all the time, she cared so much about what everyone else thought of her, and she participated in all the cheesy school functions even if she didn’t care about them.  It may not be the case for everyone but I could relate to Waverly so much about those aspects.  It was almost exactly how I felt in high school.  As for Marshall, he was probably my favorite although Autumn gave him a run for his money.  I could understand why they were friends.  Autumn did what she wanted and didn’t care what anyone thought.  She was genuine and she cared deeply for her friends.  Marshall was the same way.  He had a seriously messed up home life and it showed through in everything he did.  He was a slacker and a bit of a nobody and he didn’t mind that until Waverly came into his life.  They both made each other stronger and brought out new sides of each other.  Waverly was finally willing to just be herself with him and he was willing to want more out of life when he was with her.  I loved that about their relationship.

Cons:

  • Waverly: While Waverly did have some pros about her, she also had some very big cons for me.  I almost gave up on this one at one point because I did not like Waverly at all.  She was so shut off from the world that she was kind of impossible to like or sympathize with.  I couldn’t understand her.  I didn’t get why she didn’t sleep and I think that impacted how she acted with people.  I would have liked a little more background about that.  I also would have liked more background about her friendship with Maribeth because it was obvious that she didn’t like Maribeth but she just put up with her, no matter what she said or did.

Overall, Places No One Knows may not be my favorite from Brenna Yovanoff but it’s still a solid addition to her books.  I think it really shows that her talent lends itself to any style story that she chooses to write and I look forward to seeing what she does next.

Overall reaction:

What others are saying about Places No One Knows:

  • Wrapped Up In Books’ review: “It’s a complicated and nuanced look at how difficult it can be to inhabit your own skin, especially in high school, and how sometimes, the right person can make it easier to breathe.”
  • BookPage’s review: “Few writers delve as intimately into raw emotion as Brenna Yovanoff as she strips her characters of their practiced self-delusions and faulty coping strategies.”
  • Read.Breathe.Relax’s review: “Places No One Knows offers an intriguing mystery, romantic tension and incredible writing, and if you don’t mind the inclusion of some tough topics then I would definitely recommend it.”
Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Beast (Black Dagger Brotherhood #14) by J.R. Ward | Review

The Beast (Black Dagger Brotherhood #14) by J.R. Ward | ReviewThe Beast (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #14) by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #14
Published by NAL on April 5th 2016
Pages: 508
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
3 Stars

Nothing is as it used to be for the Black Dagger Brotherhood. After avoiding war with the Shadows, alliances have shifted and lines have been drawn. The slayers of the Lessening Society are stronger than ever, preying on human weakness to acquire more money, more weapons, more power. But as the Brotherhood readies for an all-out attack on them, one of their own fights a battle within himself…

For Rhage, the Brother with the biggest appetites, but also the biggest heart, life was supposed to be perfect—or at the very least, perfectly enjoyable. Mary, his beloved shellan, is by his side and his King and his brothers are thriving. But Rhage can’t understand—or control—the panic and insecurity that plague him…

And that terrifies him—as well as distances him from his mate. After suffering mortal injury in battle, Rhage must reassess his priorities—and the answer, when it comes to him, rocks his world...and Mary’s. But Mary is on a journey of her own, one that will either bring them closer together or cause a split that neither will recover from...

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By book 14, you’d think I’d be over a series but that is so not the case with the Black Dagger Brotherhood books.  J.R. Ward still manages to surprise me with the twists and turns she keeps throwing in her books.

Fair warning: review is spoiler free if you’ve read the first 13 books.  Otherwise, I make no promises.

Pros:

  • Story: Things seem to be moving along with the Lessening Society again.  The Beast starts off with a huge battle and things seem like they are finally back on track with the war between the Black Dagger Brotherhood and the Lessening Society.  I admit, it’s a little frustrating because this war has been going on for 14 books and it doesn’t seem like it’s gone very far so it was good to see such a huge, impactful battle in The Beast.
  • Romance: Rhage and Mary have always been one of my favorite couples (let’s be real, it’s mainly because of Rhage) so I was a little nervous about the story coming back to them and threatening their relationship.  While it definitely puts things up in the air for them, it really shows that they have a strong relationship no matter what they go through and believe me, they go through a lot.  Rhage and Mary don’t have a perfect relationship and they never have.  They went through a lot to get their happy ending and yeah, J.R. Ward kind of throws everything up in the air with The Beast, but she definitely knew what she was doing.
  • Characters: I’m still totally in love with all the original characters and I love that J.R. Ward is revisiting some of their stories but I also really like that she still manages to introduce new ones and tie all their stories together.  There is one particular character that is introduced pretty early on in The Beast who didn’t make sense to the story for quite some time.  When things started to fall into place though, I couldn’t believe where things were going.  It’s hard to believe that I can still be so surprised by J.R. Ward’s books but she manages to throw in some amazing twists that I never see coming.

Cons:

  • Rhage and Mary: I had some serious issues with Rhage and Mary at times throughout The Beast.  Take the very first scene, for instance.  I’m not going to spoil anything but Rhage does something so incredibly stupid and doesn’t even have a very good reason for it.  He acts reckless and it really made me mad.  Then there was Mary.  Mary was so obsessed with Bitty (a child that Rhage and the brothers rescued in a previous book from her abusive father) that she loses sight of so many other things, including Rhage.  Those two had some things they needed to work out and they did not make me happy while they were working them out.  And also, they were pretty cheesy at times which is not something I ever expected from them and I didn’t care much for it.

Overall, The Beast is a solid addition to the Black Dagger Brotherhood series and really sets things up for the next book and the next step in the war with the Lessening Society.  I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in book 15, especially with Xcor and Layla.

What others are saying about The Beast:

  • Smexybooks’ review: “To be honest, I wasn’t that excited for a second Rhage book, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this one.”
  • Vilma’s Book Blog’s review: “Life and death, marriage and love, sacrifices and surprises—J.R. Ward stirs things up in this intimate, evocative next chapter in the Black Dagger Brotherhood.”
  • Total Book Geek’s review: “Once again The Beast was amazingly written, and I love how well all the story-lines mix together.”
Monday, May 23, 2016

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson | Review

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson | ReviewThe Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on May 3rd 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 519
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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4 Stars

Andie had it all planned out.

When you are a politician’s daughter who’s pretty much raised yourself, you learn everything can be planned or spun, or both. Especially your future.

Important internship? Check.
Amazing friends? Check.
Guys? Check (as long as we’re talking no more than three weeks).

But that was before the scandal. Before having to be in the same house with her dad. Before walking an insane number of dogs. That was before Clark and those few months that might change her whole life.
Because here’s the thing—if everything’s planned out, you can never find the unexpected.

And where’s the fun in that?

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It’s been a while since I’ve read a Morgan Matson book (I know, I fail at life) and I’d forgotten how much I loved her writing, her characters, and the way she writes romance.  The Unexpected Everything was just what I was looking for in a summer contemporary novel.  I can’t help but smile just thinking about this book!

Pros:

  • The characters: This one is a little odd for me because some of the characters are on my pro and con list.  Take Andie, for instance.  I mostly loved her but she had some moments where I could not stand her.  I’ll get to that part later though.  For most of the book, I loved Andie.  I think the best part about her was the development she went through over the course of the novel.  She was almost a completely different person by the end of The Unexpected Everything and I think a lot of that had to do with her friends, her family, and Clark.  It just goes to show how the people around you help shape who you are.  Speaking of the people around her, I adored her friends and Clark.  Her friends were all really well-rounded and they were all so different but they just worked together.  I never had issues telling them apart because their personalities were so well developed.  As for Clark, he might be my dream guy.  He’s totally shy and nerdy and a little awkward and just so dang cute.
  • Family: Family plays a huge role in The Unexpected Everything and I wasn’t sure how I felt about it at first because Andie and her dad had a very weird relationship.  I didn’t like how her dad all of a sudden cared so much about what she was doing when he never had before.  He was a total absentee parent and then he decided to take a really active role in Andie’s life and came off a little overbearing at first.  However, once Andie and her dad hashed some things out between the two of them their relationship changed a lot and definitely for the better.  There were some absolutely adorable moments between them (the scavenger hunt!)
  • Friends: Andie and her friends were extremely close.  I can honestly say that I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that showcases a friendship like theirs.  These girls interacted with each other daily.  They told each other almost everything and they had these rituals (like talking about love lives at the diner) and their friendship was seriously adorable.  They had issues (boy did they ever) but they were pretty much always there for each other.  Friendship goals right here guys!
  • Romance: I’m just going to gush here.  Clark and Andie were so adorable.  They had probably one of the most awkward first dates ever but I knew that couldn’t be the end for them.  Bertie (the dog that Clark is dog sitting) brings them back together and things really took off from there.  They didn’t have a picture perfect relationship and that is what I loved so much about them.  They had issues and they disagreed on things and they didn’t have to spend every waking moment together.  They were so real and neither of them was perfect.

Cons:

  • The characters: Like I said, a couple of the characters fit on both my pros and cons list.  Andie was one of them.  She was so uptight at first.  She was so unwilling to accept changes and she kept everything bottled up.  So many things could have been solved so easily if she was just willing to say something about it.  Her relationship with her dad was one of those things.  She was never willing to tell him how she felt about her mom’s death or their relationship without her and it finally just all bubbled over and she couldn’t keep it inside anymore.  She was closed off and just unwilling to let people in and it really bothered me.  But like I said earlier, she developed a lot throughout the book and by the end of it, I really did like her. One character that I still didn’t really like at the end of the book was her friend Toby.  I’m not going to spoil anything but Toby did some really crappy things and she was so selfish.  She only ever thought about herself and she made that very clear.  Also, I think I may have liked her even less by the end of the book.  She was a minor issue for me though.

Overall, The Unexpected Everything is another stunner from Morgan Matson.  I couldn’t read it fast enough and I never wanted it to end (and that’s saying something for a 500+ page book!)  If you’re looking for the perfect summer read, this is it!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Blog Tour: Summer Days and Summer Nights edited by Stephanie Perkins | Review

Blog Tour: Summer Days and Summer Nights edited by Stephanie Perkins | ReviewSummer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories by Stephanie Perkins
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on May 17th 2016
Genres: Young Adult
Pages: 400
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher, Netgalley
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4 Stars

Maybe it's the long, lazy days, or maybe it's the heat making everyone a little bit crazy. Whatever the reason, summer is the perfect time for love to bloom.

Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, written by twelve bestselling young adult writers and edited by the international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins, will have you dreaming of sunset strolls by the lake. So set out your beach chair and grab your sunglasses. You have twelve reasons this summer to soak up the sun and fall in love.

Featuring stories by Leigh Bardugo, Francesca Lia Block, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Brandy Colbert, Tim Federle, Lev Grossman, Nina LaCour, Stephanie Perkins, Veronica Roth, Jon Skovron, and Jennifer E. Smith.

picadillyblueWhen I heard that Stephanie Perkins was editing (and contributing to) another collection of young adult short stories, I was beyond ecstatic.  I was a fan of My True Love Gave to Me and I’ve really come to love collections like this one.

This is a little hard for me to review since if I had the time, I’d review each story separately.  Who knows, maybe I’ll get around to doing that eventually but today I’m just going to touch on the book as a whole!

Pros:

  • Authors: Summer Days and Summer Nights has a wide variety of authors, some I’ve read before and others that were new to me.  It’s also great that it’s not just one genre represented.  It didn’t hurt that a few of my favorite authors were included here (Leigh Bardugo, anyone?)  I feel like readers who already love these authors will enjoy getting even a little bit more from them and if the book includes new authors for you, maybe you’ll find some new books to check out.

Okay, that’s really the only point I can make in a pros and cons review.  The rest is just going to have to be more traditional.  I tried but I just don’t know how to word it to make things fit with all the stories.

Let’s break it down here:

My favorite story would have to be Stephanie Perkins’ (no surprise there) but I also loved Brandy Colbert’s and Tim Federle’s and I’ve never read any of their books.  I also really enjoyed Nina LaCour’s and look forward to reading more of her work.  A few others that were up there on my list were Lev Grossman’s, Jennifer E. Smith’s, and Jon Skovron’s.

Stories that were right in the middle for me were Libba Bray’s and Francesca Lia Block’s.  I’m not really a huge fan of either author so I didn’t know what to expect with these two which actually helped me like them more, I think.  I went in with no expectations so they couldn’t really disappoint me.  I know that’s sad but it’s true.  I think if you enjoy either (or both) author you will like these stories from them.

I was let down a bit by both Leigh Bardugo and Cassie Clare’s stories.  I think for Leigh Bardugo’s it had more to do with the subject than the author.  I still love her writing but I wasn’t impressed with the story and just didn’t get into it.  As for Cassie Clare, I think I’ve just read too much of her work and need a break from it all.  I find her stories to be really fun and that’s what I expected from this one but it just didn’t hit the right note with me.

Overall, while Summer Days and Summer Nights had a few stories I didn’t love, I really did enjoy it as a whole.  Overall, take some time to read through this one.  Not only did I get the chance to read some new things from some of my favorite authors, I got to read a couple new authors (Lev Grossman is a new one for me) that I’ll have to check out more from now.  Summer Days and Summer Nights really is the perfect book to take out with you on a summer day!