Monday, March 7, 2016

Blog Tour: Save Me, Kurt Cobain by Jenny Manzer | Review + Giveaway

Blog Tour: Save Me, Kurt Cobain by Jenny Manzer | Review + Giveaway

Blog Tour: Save Me, Kurt Cobain by Jenny Manzer | Review + GiveawaySave Me, Kurt Cobain by Jenny Manzer
Published by Delacorte Press on March 8th 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 272
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
5 Stars

What if you discovered that Kurt Cobain is not only alive, but might be your real father? This nuanced and bittersweet YA debut will keep you guessing until the end.

Nico Cavan has been adrift since her mother vanished when she was four—maternal abandonment isn't exactly something you can just get over. Staying invisible at school is how she copes—that and listening to alt music and summoning spirits on the Ouija board with her best friend and co-conspirator in sarcasm, Obe. But when a chance discovery opens a window onto her mom's wild past, it sparks an idea in her brain that takes hold and won't let go.

On a ferry departing Seattle, Nico encounters a slight blond guy with piercing blue eyes wearing a hooded jacket. Something in her heart tells her that this feeling she has might actually be the truth, so she follows him to a remote cabin in the Pacific Northwest. When she is stranded there by a winter storm, fear and darkness collide, and the only one who can save Nico might just be herself.

picadillyblue

Save Me, Kurt Cobain is one of those books that popped up on my radar and I added it to my TBR without even really knowing what to expect from it.  I can’t tell you how many times I read the synopsis and I still didn’t know what I was getting into.  I don’t know if that made any difference on my feelings for the book but either way, I devoured it.

Pros:

  • The writing: Jenny Manzer’s writing style engaged me from the very first page.  While contemporary is my favorite genre, I understand that it can be slower to get into sometimes.  The story itself caught my attention, for sure, but Jenny Manzer’s way of telling the story is what really hooked me.
  • The music: If you didn’t already figure this out, Save Me, Kurt Cobain, has quite a few music references.  Each title is named after a Nirvana song and while I actually am not a huge Nirvana fan (don’t hate me!), I really enjoyed this aspect.  Jenny Manzer also managed to include a lot of actual Nirvana facts and events while keeping a lot of things fictional.  Music is a huge part of my life so the way it was woven into this story really appealed to me and helped keep me interested.
  • The mystery: There are a lot of questions brought up early on in Save Me, Kurt Cobain.  Who is Nico’s dad? Is it Kurt Cobain?  Is Kurt Cobain alive?  Nico manages to weave this crazy tale of what might have happened to her mother all based on the idea that Kurt Cobain is her father.  Jenny Manzer uses this and keeps readers guessing until the very last page.
  • Nico: Nico was my favorite part of Save Me, Kurt Cobain.  My heart went out to her.  She manages to come up with this crazy conspiracy theory to explain away the fact that she doesn’t know who her dad is and her mom abandoned her.  She’s lost and confused and alone and this is what she does to try and cope with all that.  I’ve never gone through an experience like that but I really think that everyone who reads Nico’s story will love her.
  • Everything!: I admit that I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump lately and haven’t really wanted to read anything.  Save Me, Kurt Cobain fixed that.  This was one of the rare books I’ve read where I honestly couldn’t find anything wrong with it.  I loved Jenny Manzer’s writing, Nico’s story, the Nirvana history, every last thing.

Save Me, Kurt Cobain has a little something for everyone.  It’s one of those books that once you start, you’re not going to be able to put it down.  Jenny Manzer’s debut impressed me enough that I will definitely be checking out more from this author in the future.

Giveaway

US & Canada readers have a chance to win one of three copies of Save Me, Kurt Cobain.  Believe me, this is one you want to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Blog Tour Stops

Week 1: 
Week 2:

Monday, January 11, 2016

Blog Tour: Zero Day by Jan Gangsei | Review + Giveaway

Blog Tour: Zero Day by Jan Gangsei | Review + Giveaway

Blog Tour: Zero Day by Jan Gangsei | Review + GiveawayZero Day by Jan Gangsei
on January 12th 2016
Genres: Suspense
Pages: 368
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
4 Stars

Eight years ago, Addie Webster was the victim of the most notorious kidnapping case of the decade. Addie vanished—and her high-profile parents were forced to move on.

Mark Webster is now president of the United States, fighting to keep the oval office after a tumultuous first term. Then, the unthinkable happens: the president’s daughter resurfaces. Addie is brought back into her family’s fold, but who is this sixteen-year-old girl with a quiet, burning intelligence now living in the White House? There are those in the president’s political circle who find her timely return suspicious.

When the NSA approaches Darrow Fergusson, Addie’s childhood best friend and the son of the president’s chief of staff, he doesn't know what to think. How could this slip of a girl be a threat to national security? But at the risk of having his own secrets exposed by the powerful government agency, Darrow agrees to spy on Addie.

It soon becomes apparent that Addie is much more than the traumatized victim of a sick political fringe group. Addie has come with a mission. Will she choose to complete it? And what will happen if she does?

My Thoughts:

Zero Day is one of those books that automatically got added to my TBR when I read the synopsis.  I didn’t care about other reviews, that the author was a debut, none of that.  Suspense featuring the daughter of the President of the United States who also happens to be a kidnapping victim?  I was sold.  Jan Gangsei’s debut novel surprised me in many ways and was definitely worth the read.

Pros:

  • Suspense: The suspense in Zero Day was strong.  I grew up reading James Patterson, Harlan Coben, and many other adult crime writers that were fabulous at suspense.  I’ve only found that same caliber in a few young adult authors so I was a bit skeptical going into this one.  While I did manage to guess a few things, it was usually only right before they were about to be revealed anyway so it didn’t take away from my enjoyment.
  • Romance: I was iffy about this romance for a while.  Darrow and Addie grew up together and Darrow pretty much held himself responsible for Addie’s kidnapping.  He was also 9-years-old at the time so there really wasn’t anything he could have done but try telling him that.  When Addie is returned, he pretty much automatically has feelings for her.  I couldn’t tell if it was because of what they went through or not but he grew on me and I liked seeing him with Addie.  As for Addie’s side of the relationship, it was really hard to judge.  If you read the book you’ll understand what I mean but her personality was so odd that I had a hard time telling if she meant things or if she was attempting to play someone.  I wanted her to like Darrow and at times I felt that she did but other times I was a bit hesitant.  It was odd.
  • Characters: Where do I even begin with these characters?  I have some really mixed feelings about some of them but overall I loved the development of them and the complexities to all of them.  Just look at Addie.  She was all over the place with her feelings and thoughts.  I couldn’t tell from page to page what was coming next with her.  She obviously went through a ton of crazy stuff in the eight years that she was held captive but that wasn’t really what fascinated me about her.  I wanted to know more about what motivated her when she got home.  You will understand what I mean if you read the book.  Her parents were both good parents and bad ones.  They cared so much about public opinion and they couldn’t see how that was affecting their daughters.  Then again, they would spend private time with them and be completely wonderful.  I guess that’s how politics works.  And I won’t spoil anything about Addie’s captors but I will say that they were seriously messed up.  Very twisted.
  • Setting: I don’t know if it’s so much the setting that I loved but what comes along with the setting.  A lot of the story takes place in and around the White House and also at Addie and Darrow’s very classy high school.  Taking a peek inside the world of the offspring of high up government officials was really interesting.  I can’t tell you how accurate it is but I enjoyed it.  I love reading about the lifestyles of the rich and famous so that definitely appealed to me.

Pro/Con:

  • Story: The story had good and bad things going for it.  I loved the idea of the story but the execution left some things to be desired.  I read a majority of the book before I even realized what exactly Cerberus was hoping to gain from their terrorist attacks.  Also, once I figured it out, I couldn’t really see how what they were doing was going to achieve that goal.  It confused me.  However, the idea of someone on the inside of the White House working with terrorists really appealed to me and kept me very intrigued.  Things tied up pretty nicely at the end but I could see how there might be room for a sequel and I wouldn’t say no to reading that.

Cons:

  • Writing: The writing was a bit heavy.  I honestly can’t put my finger on what exactly about it caused the book to drag more than it should have but there was just something about it.  I was hoping that as  I read more of the book, I would get used to the style and the pace would pick up but that didn’t happen.  It’s also weird because the book features short chapters which tend to speed things along for me but that didn’t happen with Zero Day.  The story was interesting enough though that I didn’t every feel like giving up on it.

Overall, Zero Day had it’s flaws but it’s good parts far outweighed those.  It’s a great read for fans of suspense with hints of hacking and politics as well as a peek at the lifestyles of the rich and famous.  I will be keeping an eye out to see what Jan Gangsei does next.

What others are saying about Zero Day:

Bookish Babes’ review: “Zero Day by Jan Gangsei is a pulse pounding YA thriller that kept me guessing until the end.”

Kovescence of the Mind’s review: ” The strong female lead provides a refreshing addition to the realm of technology and mystery in young-adult fiction.”

Looking for something similar? Check out Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano!

Giveaway

Enter to win one of three copies of Zero Day!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Dangerous Lies by Becca Fitzpatrick | Review

Dangerous Lies by Becca Fitzpatrick | ReviewDangerous Lies by Becca Fitzpatrick
Published by Simon & Schuster on November 10th 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 400
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
4 Stars

A teen is forced to make a fresh start after witnessing a violent crime—but love and danger find her anyway in this novel from Becca Fitzpatrick, the New York Times bestselling author of the Hush, Hush saga.

Stella Gordon is not her real name. Thunder Basin, Nebraska, is not her real home. This is not her real life.

After witnessing a lethal crime, Stella Gordon is sent to the middle of nowhere for her own safety before she testifies against the man she saw kill her mother’s drug dealer.

But Stella was about to start her senior year with the boyfriend she loves. How can she be pulled away from the only life she knows and expected to start a new one in Nebraska? Stella chafes at her protection and is rude to everyone she meets. She’s not planning on staying long, so why be friendly? Then she meets Chet Falconer and it becomes harder to keep her guard up, even as her guilt about having to lie to him grows.

As Stella starts to feel safer, the real threat to her life increases—because her enemies are actually closer than she thinks…

picadillyblue

Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush series put her on my radar when I first started blogging but I have to say, Dangerous Lies is the book that kept me interested in her work.  Young adult suspense novels pretty much always get added to my TBR automatically but they don’t always impress me.  I’m happy to say that I was pretty happy with Dangerous Lies, at least enough to check out her other suspense novels.

I know nothing about witness protection and I have to admit that I haven’t actually read anything or really seen anything about it.  Needless to say, I was intrigued when I read the synopsis for Dangerous Lies.  Stella’s life is turned upside down when she is forced to go into witness protection after witnessing a murder by a huge crime lord.  She has to leave everything she knows behind and take up a whole new identity in some tiny town in the middle of nowhere.  Needless to say, she’s not exactly happy about it.  She’s leaving her friends, her boyfriend (who also has to go into witness protection), and her whole existence behind.  She couldn’t care less about her mom (who got her into the whole situation) but yes, she does have to leave her behind too.

Dangerous Lies starts strong and has a pretty solid finish as well but the middle just dragged for me.  Like I said, I’m not always impressed with suspense novels and while this one is technically classified as that, it wasn’t really all that suspenseful or at least it didn’t seem that way.  I admit, towards the end there was a bit of a twist thrown in that definitely caught me by surprise.  However, that was really the only thing that caught me by surprise.  With this type of story, you know that the bad guys are going to eventually catch up to Stella.  For me, it just seemed like the middle of the book was a waiting game until they found where Stella was hiding.  That doesn’t mean it was bad, it was just a little slow at times.

The characters are what made Dangerous Lies hold up even with the slow middle.  Stella was a little bit of a bitch at first but it was kind of understandable.  Her mom was a total druggie who never paid attention to her daughter and was more upset about Stella testifying against the crime lord than about the murder that happened.  She made me so mad!  Every interaction she had with Stella just made me hate her even more.  Then there was Carmina, the total opposite of Stella’s mom.  She took Stella in (for reasons that come up later in the book and totally broke my heart) and she really came to care for her.  Carmina was harsh at first but it was what Stella needed.  She needed someone to drag her out of her funk and find a life in Thunder Basin.  That life came to include Inny, Chet, Dusty, and a few others.  I wish Inny and Dusty were more developed but I liked what I saw of them.  As for Chet, he was maybe a little too perfect but after finding out a bit about his past, I can see why he would be so perfect.

I also want to mention Reed even though readers barely find out anything about him.  He is Stella’s boyfriend who is also forced to go into witness protection and I have no clue how I feel about him.  Also, while Stella and Chet start a relationship of some kind, I don’t really consider it cheating since Reed and Stella are never expected to see each other again.  While they didn’t exactly end their relationship, there really was no future for it.  And hey, if you’ve read Dangerous Lies, did Reed’s ending bother anybody else?  I won’t say what happens but it’s pretty open ended and it’s one thing that really bothered me.

As for the setting of Thunder Basin, Nebraska; it was perfect.  Becca Fitzpatrick really captured the small town feel.  Everybody knew everybody’s business and it was impossible to keep a secret.  Maybe not the best place for someone in witness protection but I guess they figured that even if Stella’s secret got out in the town, it wouldn’t spread anywhere else.  The only problem with everybody knowing everything was that things did get around.  Especially when one person was involved: Trigger.  Trigger was a pain in the ass from the start and everything about him bothered me.  That was one person with absolutely no redeeming qualities.  He definitely caused a ton of problems for Stella and I felt terrible for her.  He seemed to be the one person who was nastier than Stella (in the beginning) and that took talent.

Overall, Dangerous Lies was an enjoyable read that will definitely have me checking out Becca Fitzpatrick’s other suspense novels.  If you want a pretty quick read that might surprise you, check this one out.

What others are saying about Dangerous Lies:

The Eater of Books’ review: “I loved this book, and I highly recommend it, especially to those who enjoy thriller/mystery/suspense types.”

My Bookish Fairy Tale’s review: “It was a thrill and I am actually upset that I finished it as quickly as I did.”

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Blog Tour: Love and Other Alien Experiences by Kerry Winfrey | Review

Blog Tour: Love and Other Alien Experiences by Kerry Winfrey | Review

Blog Tour: Love and Other Alien Experiences by Kerry Winfrey | ReviewLove and Other Alien Experiences by Kerry Winfrey
Published by The Studio on November 10th 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
4 Stars

In this heartwarming debut by HelloGiggles blogger Kerry Winfrey, a young agoraphobe begins a journey of first love that leads her to the true meaning of home—just by taking one small step outside of her house.

My name is Mallory Sullivan.

My therapist says I have an anxiety disorder.

My brother says I’m an “optimistic recluse.”

Everybody else says I'm a freak.

And they kind of have a point, because I haven't left the house in 67 days and only attend class via the webcam on my laptop. The person I talk to the most other than my mom and brother is the completely obnoxious BeamMeUp, and all we do is argue on New Mexico’s premiere alien message board.

But after yesterday, I have something: a chance. If I can win the homecoming crown by convincing resident hot popular guy and Friday Night Lights spawn Brad Kirkpatrick to go as my date, then maybe #stayathome will never appear next to the name @Mallory_Sullivan ever again.

First, I have to leave my room.

picadillyblue

Kerry Winfrey’s debut novel tackles the mental illness of agoraphobia with fun, flair, and facts.  Love and Other Alien Experiences is a strong debut that took me by surprise.  I can’t say what I expected but I think it would have exceeded those expectations that I might have had.

I don’t know what it is lately but this is the third book I’ve read recently about a girl who couldn’t or wouldn’t leave her house.  Agoraphobia is not something I’m familiar with but it is something that fascinates me and that was a big part of my draw to Love and Other Alien Experiences.  Kerry Winfrey chose a more lighthearted way to showcase this illness and I really enjoyed that take on it.  Mallory knows that there is something wrong with her and she knows she should do something about it.  She finally sees that chance to do something about it when she is nominated for homecoming court.  She could win some serious prize money if she actually won and that would be the perfect chance for her to set out to find her father.

Mallory’s life consists of classes taken via webcam and interactions on message boards about aliens.  Hence the title.  She has these crazy interactions with someone online named BeamMeUp and that’s pretty much her only socialization.  Her mom and brother play a key role in her life but they can’t possibly provide all the social interaction that a person needs.  That’s where Mallory’s love interest comes in.  It’s a bit of a reveal so I won’t say anything about who it is but I will say that they work perfectly with Mallory.  Mallory’s illness is something she’s always been made to feel bad about and that’s not what he does to her.  Mallory herself is a great character with a wonderful personality.  She’s sarcastic and open about her illness.  I kinda loved her.

Overall, Love and Other Alien Experiences has me eager to see what Kerry Winfrey writes next.  If you’re looking for a quick, fun read that doesn’t gloss over the details of having a mental illness, this one is for you.

What others are saying about Love and Other Alien Experiences:

Sleepsontables’ review: “If you were a fan of Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone or Made You Up by Francesca Zappia I recommend Love and Other Alien Experiences.”

Welcome to Ladyville’s review: “Love and Other Alien Experiences is a cheeky little tale about a teenage agoraphobe, who by a surprise to everyone gets nominated for prom queen, and decides to win.”

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Lies About Truth by Courtney C. Stevens | Review

The Lies About Truth by Courtney C. Stevens | ReviewThe Lies About Truth by Courtney C. Stevens
Published by HarperTeen on November 3rd 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
4 Stars

Sadie Kingston, is a girl living in the aftermath. A year after surviving a car accident that killed her friend Trent and left her body and face scarred, she can’t move forward. The only person who seems to understand her is Trent’s brother, Max.

As Sadie begins to fall for Max, she's unsure if she is truly healed enough to be with him — even if Max is able to look at her scars and not shy away. But when the truth about the accident and subsequent events comes to light, Sadie has to decide if she can embrace the future or if she'll always be trapped in the past.

picadillyblue

The Lies About Truth is the first book I’ve read from Courtney C. Stevens and let me just tell you, I’m impressed.  The Lies About Truth is a gorgeous story about loss, love, and learning to move on.  It made me laugh, it made me cry, and in the end, it made me smile.

The Lies About Truth takes place almost a year after a car accident that takes the life of Sadie’s best friend, Trent, and leaves her permanently scarred.  Trent’s brother, Max, as well as Sadie’s boyfriend, Gray, and best friend, Gina, were also involved in the car accident but they walked away with less visible wounds.  Max’s vocal cords were seriously injured but it was more losing his brother that caused him to leave town with his family for most of the next year.  Through emails and letters, Max and Sadie start to become close.  Everything comes to a head when Max finally returns for the year anniversary of Trent’s death, finally forcing Sadie to face what happened and her part in it.

Sadie was extremely messed up from the accident.  She had physical scars but she also had mental scars.  She was afraid to get behind the wheel of a car, afraid to show off her scars, and afraid to tell anyone the secrets she was keeping for her best friend.  She basically shut herself away from everyone but Max and she really only kept herself open to him because he couldn’t see her.  She could be the old Sadie behind the screen of a computer and when she didn’t want to be the old Sadie, Max was willing to take anything she would give him.  They were completely honest with each other because they didn’t have to face each other every day.  When Max finally came home, that all changed.  Sadie had already showed him the dark parts of her on the inside so it was just time to show him those parts on the outside.  As for Max, he didn’t care about Sadie’s scars, he just cared about her.  He had his own scars (less visible but still obvious) and as long as she could accept his, he was willing to accept hers.

The other two people involved in the accident, Gray and Gina, weren’t left physically scarred but they were mentally messed up from that day.  Gray and Trent were best friends.  Gina and Trent had been dating for a long time.  Everyone involved in the accident was somehow closely linked to Trent and they were all grieving him but it seemed like they didn’t know how to grieve him together.  They were all keeping secrets from each other and it tore them apart.  Honestly the secrets and secret-keeping were a bit overdramatic to me.  Gray had secrets from Sadie, Sadie had secrets from everyone, Max wanted to be in on all the secrets about his brother, and Gina was tearing herself apart by keeping Gray’s secrets.  They may have been friends at first but all their secrets were keeping them apart and they couldn’t seem to move past them or to share them.  The anniversary of the accident is what finally brought everything out and started the real healing process for everyone.

One of my favorite things about The Lies About Truth was Sadie’s relationship with Trent.  Obviously you only get to see flashbacks but those flashbacks were great.  It was so obvious how much they cared for each other and it truly was a friendship thing.   Trent and Sadie loved each other like family.  They accepted each other no matter what.  I think Trent would have approved of Sadie’s relationship with Max because Max was like Trent in that he accepted Sadie just how she was.  Neither of the brothers ever wanted to change Sadie.

Overall, The Lies About Truth is one novel that everyone should have on their TBR.  It’s just the right amount of cute, funny, sad, and moving.  Courtney C. Stevens is an author I’m definitely going to be reading more from.

What others are saying about The Lies About Truth:

The Book Bratz’ review: “The Lies About Truth is a beautiful story that I recommend anyone looking for a fairly quick contemporary read.”

Reading Lark’s review: “The universality of Stevens’ novels is what keeps me coming back, and why I keep recommending them to other readers.”

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Mayhem (Mayhem #1) by Jamie Shaw | Review

Mayhem (Mayhem #1) by Jamie Shaw | ReviewMayhem (Mayhem, #1) by Jamie Shaw
Series: Mayhem #1
Published by Avon on January 20th 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 258
Format: ebook
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
4 Stars

When college freshman Rowan Michaels meets gorgeous, up-and-coming rock star Adam Everest, she knows a player like him is the last thing she needs after her ex-boyfriend shattered her heart. But she can't stop thinking about the kiss they shared on his tour bus.

On the first day of school, Rowan is stunned when Adam saunters into her French class. He's soon failing miserably, and, on a whim, she offers to tutor him. But Adam doesn't recognize her as a makeup-free, glasses-clad college student—a far cry from the beautiful, mysterious "Peach" he met at his concert.

During a wild weekend on tour with the band, Rowan can't help falling for the sweet guy buried beneath Adam's rocker persona. Yet she knows she could never compete with the girls constantly throwing themselves at his feet. She'd just end up hurt … again.

Peach is all Adam thinks about, though, and when Rowan realizes this, she has a decision to make: stay just friends to protect her fragile heart … or reveal the truth about the night they met and admit she's fallen completely, hopelessly in love with him.

picadillyblueI saw someone talking this series up on Twitter one day and I had the urge to read a new adult book so I decided to give Mayhem a shot. Boy am I glad I did. Jamie Shaw is a new author to me but she impressed me with Mayhem and continued to do so with the following books.

Admittedly, the story wasn’t anything new or all that unique but I found myself hooked from the start. Rowan and Adam meet, hook up, and then go their separate ways. Rowan didn’t expect to see Adam in her French class on the first day of school, however. That throws her for a loop, especially since she is still extremely attracted to him and he doesn’t even recognize her. Rowan can’t avoid him though, especially when she volunteers to tutor him so he doesn’t flunk out of their French class. During a weekend on tour with the band, she starts to get to know Adam and the attraction becomes more than just physical.

Adam and Rowan were extremely cute together. Their banter and bickering were adorable. Adam was so full of himself and Rowan put him in his place more than once. She didn’t let the fame go to his head. She brought out the normal guy in him and I could definitely understand why she fell for that guy. As for Rowan, she was smart, levelheaded, confident, and kind. I would have slapped Adam if he didn’t fall for her. They kept pushing each other away, though. (Nothing can ever be easy in new adult books.) It was fun watching them try to figure each other out and decide what exactly they could mean to each other.

The romance was steamy, the characters were hilarious, the story was captivating, and the ending left me with a smile on my face. Mayhem had everything I wanted and definitely left me intrigued about the other members of Adam’s band.

Overall, Mayhem was the perfect place to start with this series and Jamie Shaw definitely has a new fan.

What others are saying about Mayhem:

Cocktails & Books’ review: “Cute, in a Disney sort of way.”

Book Binge’s review: “In the end it was a fun book that didn’t have a whole lot of angst – which was awesome.”

Little Dixie Readers’ review: “Filled with fun sexy times and a great voice in the New Adult genre, Jamie Shaw is a rising star!”

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Drowning Is Inevitable by Shalanda Stanley | Review

Drowning Is Inevitable by Shalanda Stanley | ReviewDrowning Is Inevitable by Shalanda Stanley
Published by Random House on September 8, 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 288
Format: ARC
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
4 Stars

"A literary knockout with the loudest of beating hearts."
John Corey Whaley, Printz Award winner of Where Things Come Back

Olivia has spent her whole life struggling to escape her dead mother’s shadow. But when her father can’t even look at her because Olivia reminds him of her mother, and her grandmother mistakenly calls her “Lillian,”  shaking a reputation she didn’t ask for is next to impossible. Olivia is used to leaning on her best friend, Jamie; her handsome but hot-tempered boyfriend, Max; and their wild-child friend, Maggie, for the reality check that her small Louisiana town can’t provide. But when a terrible fight between Jamie and his father turns deadly, all Olivia can think to do is grab her friends and run.

In a flash, Olivia, Jamie, Max, and Maggie become fugitives on the back roads of Louisiana. They’re headed to New Orleans, where they hope to find a solution to an unfixable problem. But with their faces displayed on all the news stations, their journey becomes a harrowing game of hide-and-seek from the police—and so-called allies, who just might be the real enemy.

Shalanda Stanley’s breathtaking debut novel explores the deep ties between legacy, loyalty, and love, even as it asks the question: How far would you go to save a friend?

picadillyblueThis is one of those books that’s really hard to review.  It’s not that I didn’t like it or that I loved it, it’s just kinda right there in the middle.  Drowning is Inevitable is definitely a strong debut but it’s one of those books that will appeal to some people but not at all to others.

Shalanda Stanley’s writing is beyond stunning. She’s one of those authors that could write a phone book and make it captivating. I wish I still had my ARC of the book so I could share some quotes but just take my word for this.  Her style of writing is extremely lush and descriptive.  It’s perfect for the setting of a small-town in the south and New Orleans.

Olivia is a hard character to like.  She’s spent her whole life in the shadow of her dead mom and she’s come to accept that she is not her own person.  It takes some extremely drastic measures for her to finally realize that she is an individual who makes choices of her own and has a life ahead of her that is all her own.  Even after she starts living her own life, she doesn’t make the best decisions.  She’s completely loyal, though.  I will give her that.  She loves Jamie with all her heart and can’t, even for a second, see that there might be something bad in him.  Personally, I couldn’t see the bad in him either.  He made a bad decision that affected him, his family, and his friends, but he did it out of love and terror.  As for Max and Maggie, I didn’t have many feelings for them, one way or the other.  Max was not the smartest guy out there and he was extremely jealous of how close Olivia was with Jamie.  That doesn’t mean he wasn’t willing to do whatever it took to see Olivia and Jamie safe.

The story is a lot more slow moving than I expected from the synopsis and the start of the book.  Things take off early but from there they fizzled out a bit.  Jamie, Olivia, Max, and Maggie go on the run and things only get worse for them from there.  They don’t know who they can trust and they don’t always trust the right people.  Family means nothing to these kids’ actual families.  They are more family to each other than any of their parents.  They were pretty much on their own and they did whatever they had to do to protect one another.

As much as I could see things coming, I couldn’t stop reading.  This book is very much like a train wreck.  You know it can’t end happily but you just can’t look away.  Even though they may have been in less trouble if they’d turned themselves in early, you know they can’t completely get away with what they’ve done.  They either take their chances on the run (which they do) or they take their chances with the law.  It was a lose-lose situation from the start.

While the story really does center on these 4 teens while they are on the run, it’s also a story about Olivia and her mom.  Her mom committed suicide shortly after she gave birth to Olivia and that death defined the beginning of Olivia’s life.  Her dad couldn’t stand to look at her because of the similarities to her mom and her grandmother only saw the similarities between Olivia and her mom.  Then there was the fact that everyone in town expected her to follow in her mom’s footsteps.  Olivia’s life wasn’t her own for most of the book and it took this crazy trip for her to finally start to see that maybe she could make her own decisions and her own mistakes.

Overall, Drowning Is Inevitable is a stunning debut novel that will take readers by surprise.  It’s a story full of layers that continued to take me by surprise.

What others are saying about Drowning Is Inevitable:

Emily Reads Everything’s review: “This book was both heartwarming and heartbreaking.”

The Book Hookup’s review: “Drowning is Inevitable perfectly captured life in all its complicated glory.”

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Boy Most Likely To (My Life Next Door #2) by Huntley Fitzpatrick | Review

The Boy Most Likely To (My Life Next Door #2) by Huntley Fitzpatrick | ReviewThe Boy Most Likely To (My Life Next Door, #2) by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Series: My Life Next Door #2
Published by Dial Books on August 18th 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 432
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
5 Stars

A surprising, utterly romantic companion to My Life Next Door—great for fans of Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han Tim Mason was The Boy Most Likely To find the liquor cabinet blindfolded, need a liver transplant, and drive his car into a houseAlice Garrett was The Girl Most Likely To . . . well, not date her little brother’s baggage-burdened best friend, for starters.For Tim, it wouldn’t be smart to fall for Alice. For Alice, nothing could be scarier than falling for Tim. But Tim has never been known for making the smart choice, and Alice is starting to wonder if the “smart” choice is always the right one. When these two crash into each other, they crash hard.Then the unexpected consequences of Tim’s wild days come back to shock him. He finds himself in a situation that isn’t all it appears to be, that he never could have predicted . . . but maybe should have.And Alice is caught in the middle.Told in Tim’s and Alice’s distinctive, disarming, entirely compelling voices, this novel is for readers of The Spectacular Now, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, and Paper Towns.

picadillyblue

Is it any surprise that this book is getting 5 shoes from me? Contemporary is my jam and Huntley Fitzpatrick is amazing. If you thought My Life Next Door was good, you’ll  love this one just as much, if not more.

It took me no time at all to dive right back into the world of the Garretts.  I admit that I re-read My Life Next Door right before starting this one so maybe that had something to do with it but the re-read was not necessary at all.  I’ll say now that I do recommend reading My Life Next Door before you read this one though (I mean, if there is anyone out there who hasn’t read it already.)  The Boy Most Likely To picks up right after the events at the end of My Life Next Door and being able to read from Alice’s point of view shows things in a whole new light.  Alice and Tim each get about equal time narrating and I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about that at first.  I was really looking forward to reading from Tim’s point of view but I didn’t care all that much for Alice in My Life Next Door.  I felt the same way at the beginning of The Boy Most Likely To but she grew on me pretty quickly.  Alice and Tim are both forced to grow up too soon because of their circumstances.  Tim’s circumstances have more to do with his own crappy decisions but that didn’t change how I felt for him.  Alice, on the other hand, didn’t really have much of a choice when it came to her situation.  Because of the accident with her dad, it was on her and her older siblings to take care of the little ones and keep the shop open and attempt to figure out how to pay for everything.  I was exhausted just reading about all she had to put up with because of the accident.  Lucky for her though Tim stepped up his game and was there to help.

The Garrett family takes center stage in The Boy Most Likely To and I only thought I adored them in My Life Next Door.  I only have one sibling and I always thought that was enough for me but if my siblings were anything like the Garretts, I would want a ton of them.  George was just as cute as ever but I think Patsy really won me over in this one.  Her, I guess you could call it relationship, with Tim was so dang cute.  Oh my gosh, she adored him.  Who wouldn’t, right?  That girl may be a baby but she’s already got good taste.  Any time Tim was in the room, she wanted to be with him.  And to make Tim even more perfect, he loved her too.  And I can’t mention the Garretts without mentioning Jase.  Yes he’s back, yes he’s awesome, yes I still love him.  I don’t think that boy could do anything to make me not love him.  I don’t know what I would do if someone told me to choose between Tim or Jase because I love them both for very different reasons.

It’s hard for me to go into detail without giving things away about the story but let’s just say that Tim’s situation wasn’t really surprising to me at all but that doesn’t mean Huntley Fitzpatrick didn’t surprise me more than once in The Boy Most Likely To.  From the very first page of the book I was proud of Tim for taking things into his own hands.  He royally screwed up his life but he realized what happened and he decided it was time to change things.  Sure he continued to do some stupid things but he always found his way back on track.  I think Alice helped a lot with that and of course Jase did too.  Alice was a hard nut to crack.  She was a little cold and standoffish at first but that was just her way of protecting herself and her family.  I came to understand her pretty quickly and her relationship with Tim didn’t make sense but it was perfect for them.  That wasn’t the only relationship of the book though.  Tim and Nan really had to take a look at how they affected each other.  I’ll admit, I’m still not a fan of Nan, but seeing her with Tim really showed how she became that person.

I think one of the things about Huntley Fitzpatrick’s books that just gets me is how they aren’t just romances.  There is always something more going on with the characters and there is always some kind of lesson that can be learned if you look hard enough.  I’m not saying her books are preachy or anything like that but they also aren’t just fluff.  They are the perfect balance between the two.  And yeah, the romance doesn’t hurt either.  If you thought Jase and Samantha had chemistry, just wait until you read about Tim and Alice.  Ooh boy!

Overall, The Boy Most Likely To broke my heart and put it back together again.  If it was up to me I’d just have Huntley Fitzpatrick write books about all the Garretts.  Seriously.  I’d read that series over and over again.  However, since that probably won’t happen, I’ll settle for rereading My Life Next Door and The Boy Most Likely To over and over again.

What others are saying about The Boy Most Likely To:

Christina Reads YA’s review: “Although I liked My Left Next Door more — because I am more like Jase/Sam and I would take Jase over Tim lol any day — I’m pretty sure that fans of MLND will love this sequel and the rising stakes that have been laid.”

The Eater of Books’ review: “Overall, I liked the book – I just did not love it, and felt disappointed by it.”

Universal Longings’ review: “As far as characters go, I think this is Huntley Fitzpatrick’s strongest book yet.”

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli | Review

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli | ReviewSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Published by Balzer + Bray on April 7th 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 303
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
5 Stars

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

picadillyblueSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is one of those books that has been getting a lot of buzz lately.  I truly do not think I have read a single bad review for this book and I’ll go ahead and tell you now that my review is going to be just as lovely as the rest.  Becky Albertalli’s debut novel was completely epic.  She is definitely one author I have added to my auto-buy list.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is unlike any book I’ve read.  It’s a romance and a mystery and a drama and so much more.  From the start of the book I was hooked and I probably only put the book down once and that was only because I was forced to at work.  The mystery of who Blue was kept me guessing until the end and while I did figure it out before the big reveal, it didn’t take anything away from my love of the book.  Like seriously, I’m not kidding when I say I squealed and maybe even threw in a fist pump when I discovered who Blue was.  Let’s just say I was pretty invested in the relationship by that time.   The interactions online between Blue and Simon were too cute and too perfect for words.  They built up this amazing relationship without even knowing who they were talking to.  Yes, Simon gave more clues than Blue about his identity but I think there was still a lot of mystery for Blue too.  And let me just say, things did not fizzle when they finally met in person.  No, in fact, things just got better from there.  I have a new favorite couple and it’s Simon and Blue.

The blackmail scheme bothered me so much.  I couldn’t believe anyone would threaten Simon the way Martin did.  I didn’t see Martin as this terrible person but he made some huge mistakes and he was definitely not someone I liked or could ever like.  I also hated that Simon didn’t ever do anything about it.  He went along with Martin’s scheme even though I thought he should have told someone.  I thought it was adorable how he wanted to protect Blue more than anything but Martin didn’t deserve to get away with what he did.

The friendships throughout the story were amazing.  Really all the relationships were fabulous.  Leah, Nick, and Simon had this bond from knowing each other for so long.  Sure there were times when they were at each other’s throats but it was easy to see how much they loved each other.  They had a true friendship without all that backstabbing and jealousy that seems to be present in so many friendships.  And while Abby wasn’t necessarily part of that original group, she was quickly finding her place with them and I thought she was a great addition to the group.  I loved the friendships but my favorite relationships in the book were definitely between Simon and his family.  They were so quirky and funny and they reminded me so much of my own family.  I don’t believe family plays a big enough role in most YA books and that was not the case with this one.  Sure Simon may have found his parents and siblings to be a little nosy but they cared about each other and all they wanted was to be involved.

Now let’s talk one minor thing that may not matter much to some people but that I really loved: Harry Potter.  Simon loved Harry Potter and he wasn’t afraid to show it.  The references to Harry Potter just made me smile.  I adored every little mention, no matter how small.  Simon Spier, will you be my best friend?

Oh and drunk Simon is possibly the cutest thing ever.  And Bieber!  I could go on and on about this book.

Overall, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a new addition to my list of favorite books.  I look forward to reading anything Becky Albertalli ever writes.  This book was just pure perfection.

What others are saying about Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda:

Prettybooks’ review: “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a majorly cute LGBT romance with awesome friends, many adorable moments, and a lot of laughs.”

Writability’s review: “5/5 stars to this one for sure, and I can’t wait to see what Albertalli comes up with next.”

The Tales Compendium’s review: “As I said before, I didn’t want Simon to end, I was just so happy being in Simon’s world.”

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway | Review

Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway | ReviewEmmy & Oliver by Robin Benway
Published by HarperTeen on June 23rd 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
5 Stars

Emmy’s best friend, Oliver, reappears after being kidnapped by his father ten years ago. Emmy hopes to pick up their relationship right where it left off. Are they destined to be together? Or has fate irreparably driven them apart?Emmy just wants to be in charge of her own life.She wants to stay out late, surf her favorite beach—go anywhere without her parents’ relentless worrying. But Emmy’s parents can’t seem to let her grow up—not since the day Oliver disappeared.Oliver needs a moment to figure out his heart.He’d thought, all these years, that his dad was the good guy. He never knew that it was his father who kidnapped him and kept him on the run. Discovering it, and finding himself returned to his old hometown, all at once, has his heart racing and his thoughts swirling.Emmy and Oliver were going to be best friends forever, or maybe even more, before their futures were ripped apart. In Emmy’s soul, despite the space and time between them, their connection has never been severed. But is their story still written in the stars? Or are their hearts like the pieces of two different puzzles—impossible to fit together?Readers who love Sarah Dessen will tear through these pages with hearts in throats as Emmy and Oliver struggle to face the messy, confusing consequences of Oliver’s father’s crime. Full of romance, coming-of-age emotion, and heartache, these two equally compelling characters create an unforgettable story.

picadillyblue Ever since I read Audrey, Wait! a few years ago I’ve been wanting to read another of Robin Benway’s books. For some reason I only just now got around to doing that but I’ll go ahead and say that it was worth the wait.  Emmy & Oliver was just what I was looking for.

Emmy, Oliver, Drew, and Caro were best friends growing up and Emmy, Drew, and Caro remained best friends even after Oliver’s disappearance.  While Drew and Caro felt Oliver’s loss, it was nothing compared to how it affected Emmy.  When Oliver returns 10 years later, Drew, Caro, and Emmy don’t exactly know what to do with him.  He’s not the same boy that left them and they aren’t the same people that he used to know and none of them realize exactly how his return is going to affect their lives.

The friendship aspect of this book was by far one of my favorite things.  Emmy, Drew, and Caro were so perfect together.  They really had been best friends since they were extremely young so they knew everything about each other and they went through everything together.  They accepted each others random quirks and they were not afraid to do completely goofy stuff together.  (The Beatles thing cracked me up.)  Having Oliver come back changed everything for them.  At one point it had been the four of them but that was a completely different Oliver.  That’s not to say they didn’t welcome him back though because they did.  There were bumps along the way but even after all those years, he was still their friend and they proved that time and again.

The romance was something that you will see coming from a mile away (I mean, hello, the title says it all) but that didn’t detract from it at all.  In fact, it may have made it even better.  It was so fun to see Emmy and Oliver attempt to come back from everything and really start over.  There were things they remembered from growing up together but a lot of stuff was completely new to them.  It was kind of a conundrum since their relationship seemed to progress rather quickly but it was also something that probably would have grown from friendship to more over the years if Oliver hadn’t been taken.  I have never had a problem with instalove and I don’t think that’s really the case with Emmy and Oliver but at times it does come across that way.

The kidnapping aspect was something that has definitely been done before but I liked Robin Benway’s spin on it.  Oliver never saw his dad as the bad guy.  He was the one who wanted him and he always thought that his mom didn’t.  He comes to find out that that was not the case but it’s been 10 years and it’s hard to change the way you view people overnight.  Being back with his mom, with her new husband and twin daughters, throws him for a loop.  Add to that the fact that everyone wants him to help get his dad arrested and Oliver is a really confused guy.  I felt so bad for him.  His dad never meant to hurt him but he did.  I don’t approve or condone what he did but let’s just say that Oliver wasn’t the only one that I ended up feeling bad for.  His dad loved him and was afraid that he would lose him if he didn’t do something so he took some drastic measures.

Also, the only books I’ve ever read about this subject were told from the point of view of the kidnap victim.  This one was different because it was told from the point of view of someone that was left behind.  Emmy was Oliver’s next door neighbor and best friend before he left.  His parents were also good friends with Emmy’s parents.  That meant that everything that happened to Oliver, Emmy’s parents knew about and it changed how they parented and controlled Emmy’s life.  Emmy became extremely sheltered and anything she wanted to do, she had to take into her own hands.  She had to hide aspects of her life because her parents would be terrified if they knew about them.  I actually really liked that Robin Benway chose to show how the kidnapping would affect not just the family of the victim but also the people around the victim.  It was a fresh take on things.

Overall, Emmy and Oliver was a lot deeper than I expected but also still managed to contain tons of love, laughter, and friendship.  I’m definitely not waiting this long before I read another of Robin Benway’s books.

What others are saying about Emmy & Oliver:

Adventures in Reading’s review: “I’m so glad that I stuck with this book. I ended up really enjoying it.”

The Perpetual Page Turner’s review: “OMG DID I REALLY JUST READ THAT IN 4 HOURS? I DIDN’T MEAN TO. OOPS. OH WELL. SO GOOD.”

YA Midnight Reads’ review: “Sure, there is a hella adorable romance… but at it’s core, Benway’s story is one about friendship, growing up, making your own path in life, and more importantly, family.