Friday, May 9, 2014

Killer Instinct by S.E. Green | Review

Killer Instinct by S.E. Green | ReviewKiller Instinct by S.E. Green
Published by Simon & Schuster on May 6, 2014
Genres: Psychological Thriller
Pages: 272
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss, Publisher
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1 Stars

She’s not evil, but she has certain... urges.

Lane is a typical teenager. Loving family. Good grades. Afterschool job at the local animal hospital. Martial arts enthusiast. But her secret obsession is studying serial killers. She understands them, knows what makes them tick.

Why?

Because she might be one herself.

Lane channels her dark impulses by hunting criminals—delivering justice when the law fails. The vigilantism stops shy of murder. But with each visceral rush the line of self-control blurs.
And then a young preschool teacher goes missing. Only to return... in parts.
When Lane excitedly gets involved in the hunt for “the Decapitator,” the vicious serial murderer that has come to her hometown, she gets dangerously caught up in a web of lies about her birth dad and her own dark past. And once the Decapitator contacts Lane directly, Lane knows she is no longer invisible or safe. Now she needs to use her unique talents to find the true killer’s identity before she—or someone she loves—becomes the next victim...

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Killer Instinct is one of those books that makes me wonder why I actually wasted my time finishing it.  Sure it’s short at only 272 pages but even 272 pages is too much for this book.  It started off promising but it all went downhill from there.

First off, Killer Instinct is the biggest rip off of Dexter.  Never in my life have I read something so blatantly copying from something else.  As I read Killer Instinct, scenes from season one of Dexter just kept popping into my head.  And I haven’t seen season one of Dexter in a while so that’s saying something about how blatant these comparisons were.  I don’t want to spoil Dexter for anyone who maybe hasn’t seen it and plans to watch it but I’ll just say that there were at least 8 things that were almost identical between Killer Instinct and season one of the show.  If you’ve seen the show, I’m sure you’ll catch what I’m talking about.

Second, Lane is one of the worst characters I’ve ever read about.   Sure she’s compared to a teenage version of Dexter but at least with Dexter, people can kind of relate to him and even root for him to come out ahead.  With Lane, I wanted her caught and done with.  She was so stupid!  The whole her being the “masked savior” was ridiculous and completely implausible.  She’s so skinny she’s nicknamed Slim but she can take down grown men at least twice her size.  Yeah, right.  Sure the author throws in multiple mentions that Lane does aikido but that still does not match up against someone with a gun.  Also, she mentioned multiple times how mature she was yet she acted like an immature whiny brat most of the time.

Then there were all the relationships in the book.  First there was Reggie, Lane’s supposed best friend.  What they had was not a friendship it was just something the author had to include so Lane had someone to help her hack into anything she might need.  Lane would call Reggie when she needed something and Reggie would drop everything to help Lane.  They had no real meaningful conversations, just phone calls and texts about whatever Reggie was looking up for Lane.  Then there was the relationship with Lane, Zach, and Belinda.  That was a convoluted mess.  Lane didn’t want anything to do with Zach until Belinda entered the picture and then she really liked him and wanted to be his friend and help him out of horrible situations.  Yeah, sure.  There was also Zach’s older brother, Dr.Issa, who had some shady scenes throughout the book that I thought might eventually mean something but really had nothing to do with anything.  Last but not least were the relationships of everyone in Lane’s family.  Lane and her mom started off with a seemingly strong relationship but it quickly deteriorated.  Her mom cared way more about her case than her family.  And don’t even get me started with Lane and her sister, Daisy.  That’s a whole other thing that set me off.  Daisy was 15 and her most characterizing trait in the book was that she was a slut. Those were  Lane’s exact words.  She called her sister a slut multiple times throughout the book.

Another thing that greatly annoyed me about the whole sex thing was that there was way too much mention of sexual situations that played no role in the story.  Lane went into great detail about her sex life, her parents’ sex life, and her little sister’s sex life.  It really did nothing for the story except make me feel rather uncomfortable and I’m not usually uncomfortable with that kind of stuff.  Also, can you say hypocrite?  Lane calls her little sister a slut but then she goes and gets some serious action with a boy she barely knows in between some shelves of her school library.  Not calling her a slut but I’m just saying that that’s a bit like the pot calling the kettle black.

The only thing about this book that even remotely impressed me was that I didn’t predict who the killer was, at all.  Yes I suspected it was somebody closely tied to Lane but I wasn’t sure how S.E. Green was going to work it.  I was pretty dang shocked by the time I got to the big reveal.  I did feel like it was a little rushed though.

Also, the killer is nicknamed the Decapitator and Lane is nicknamed the Masked Savior.  S.E. Green couldn’t come up with anything more clever than those nicknames?  They were so lame!

Oh and also, what was the point of Lane being the Masked Savior?  It really had nothing to do with the story and kind of dropped out of the story about halfway through.  I guess being a master investigator and the Masked Savior got to be too much for Lane.  Maybe she should have just left the Decapitator investigation to the FBI like a normal person.  But then again, she was way smarter than the FBI so they never would have been able to solve it without her.  Like I said, rather implausible story.

Overall, I was seriously disappointed with Killer Instinct.  I feel like I wasted my time reading when I could have just rewatched season one of Dexter and gotten the exact same story.  I would not recommend this one to anyone.

What others are saying about Killer Instinct:

Bookish’s review: “Killer Instinct is not a bad book.”

Good Books and Good Wine’s review: “Man, I have not been this disappointed with a book in a really long time.”

Conversations of a Reading Addict’s review: “I felt angry at the end, i felt myself rolling my eyes and saying “really?” over and over again because the killer did not seem believable to me. AT ALL.”

Friday, May 2, 2014

Something Real by Heather Demetrios | Review

Something Real by Heather Demetrios | ReviewSomething Real by Heather Demetrios
Published by Henry Holt on February 4, 2014
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 416
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought
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5 Stars

There’s nothing real about reality TV.

Seventeen-year-old Bonnie™ Baker has grown up on TV—she and her twelve siblings are the stars of one-time hit reality show Baker’s Dozen. Since the show’s cancellation and the scandal surrounding it, Bonnie™ has tried to live a normal life, under the radar and out of the spotlight. But it’s about to fall apart…because Baker’s Dozen is going back on the air. Bonnie™’s mom and the show’s producers won’t let her quit and soon the life she has so carefully built for herself, with real friends (and maybe even a real boyfriend), is in danger of being destroyed by the show. Bonnie™ needs to do something drastic if her life is ever going to be her own—even if it means being more exposed than ever before.

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Something Real by Heather Demetrios has garnered a lot of praise in the few short months that it’s been out.  I’m a huge contemporary fan but for some reason this one wasn’t on my radar until after publication.  It’s safe to say that every bit of praise this book has gotten has been well-deserved.  Heather Demetrios’ debut novel has definitely put her on my radar as an author to watch for.

Bonnie™ Baker is one of 13 kids and one of the key members of the reality show Baker’s Dozen.  The fact that she doesn’t want anything to do with the show or MetaReel, the company behind the show, means nothing to her parents.  4 years after the show is cancelled (following the split of Bonnie™’s parents) MetaReel decides it’s time for a reboot with the clever name of Baker’s Dozen: Fresh Batch.  Once again, Bonnie™ has no say in being on the show.  She is one of the main reasons people watch the show and MetaReel will do anything they have to to keep her on it.  What follows is a lot of televised drama and Bonnie™ coming to terms with who she is and who she wants to be.

First off, this book may come off as a fluffy contemporary read but that really isn’t all there is to it.  Bonnie™ has a lot more going on in her life than just being forced to be on a reality tv show with her crazy family.  She’s got high school, friends, boys, college, depression, anxiety, and all of it is broadcast to the world through 24/7 live streaming cameras throughout her house.  Her phone is bugged, she’s followed everywhere she goes by paparazzi and while the cameras aren’t allowed on school grounds, they are allowed in the car on the way to and from school.  Bonnie™ has nowhere to escape to and she’s got a lot to escape from.

Don’t get me wrong though, there are some very fluffy aspects of Something Real.  Patrick Sheldon, for instance.  I’ve heard a lot of people complain that he’s too perfect but in this case, I didn’t mind it.  I thought Bonnie™ deserved a little something perfect in her life and Patrick was it.  He was supremely quirky, super cute in a grungy way, smart, and so funny.  He got Bonnie™’s sense of humor and he completely understood where she was coming from with all the fame drama.  He was always there for her even when she tried her hardest to push him away.  He is my new literary love.

Bonnie‘s friends were also pretty perfect although they sometimes didn’t quite understand why she was so camera shy.  Tessa and Mer stood by Bonnie through everything and that was tough since she was kind of a bitch at times.  They got that she had been through a lot and just needed them by her side no matter what she wanted to do.  Benton™ was also always there for Bonnie™.  Her family may not have been the greatest but at least she got Benton™.  Benny cracked me up.  He definitely lightened the mood throughout the book.  Also, he and Matt had some of the most aww inducing moments.  They were adorable.  There was also Lexie™ who didn’t initially impress me but by the end I was pleased with her.  

The family aspect really grated on my nerves.  I was so mad at Bonnie™’s parents, both Andrew and Beth (her real parents) and Kirk (her stepdad).  None of them stood up for her rights.  They made her out to be the bad guy when it was very clearly all of them that were the bad guys.  I really wanted to reach in the book and slap some sense into all three of them.  For people who wanted a big family, they didn’t know how to act like a family at all.  

As for the ending, it was perfect for this situation.  I wasn’t happy necessarily but it was realistic and that made me happy.  While there were some things I really wanted to see happen, I’m almost glad they didn’t because I don’t think Bonnie™’s strength would have come across as well as it did.  

Overall, I’ll stop rambling now so you can go out and buy your own copy of Something Real.  Listen to all the amazing reviews and read this as soon as you can!

What others are saying about Something Real:

Alexa Loves Books’ review: “Something Real was absolutely riveting.”

The Book Rat’s review: “Something Real is a pitch-perfect coming of age story about finding yourself and your voice, and how much that struggle is compounded when all eyes are on you.”

The Bevy Bibliotheque’s review: “Thankfully a slew of positive reviews from bloggers I trust convinced me to buy it, for I now have a new favorite sitting on my shelf.”

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Not a Drop to Drink (Not a Drop to Drink #1) by Mindy McGinnis|Review

Not a Drop to Drink (Not a Drop to Drink #1) by Mindy McGinnis|ReviewNot a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis
Series: Not a Drop to Drink #1
Published by Harper Teen on September 24, 2013
Genres: Dystopian
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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4 Stars

Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water.

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn't leave at all.

Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.

But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….

picadillyblueNot a Drop to Drink, Mindy McGinnis’ debut novel, is a unique dystopian story that kept me hooked from beginning to end.  It’s a story that hasn’t been overdone in YA and readers should really enjoy that about it.

Not A Drop to Drink is not your typical action packed, evil government overlord dystopian.  It’s a much slower paced story about survival.  Water is scarce (at least purified drinking water) and people are dying left and right because of this.  Looting is popular, medicine is almost nonexistent, and people are not friendly.  It’s a very realistic futuristic story.

Lynn is not your typical heroine.  She’s not all that likable.  She is unfriendly, wary of everyone, and just outright mean sometimes.  She’s much rather shoot someone than get to know them.  That’s how her mother raised her.  She doesn’t stay that way though.  She starts to see the error of her ways.  Eli, Lucy, Neva, Stebbs; each one of them plays a role in reshaping Lynn’s outlook.

The danger in Not a Drop to Drink isn’t actually present for much of the book.  The greatest danger is that Lynn could run out of food and water before the winter is over.  It’s a danger that’s there but not something you can attack and get rid of.  There is some of that danger too.  There are people moving in on Lynn’s home and pond.  She has to protect her childhood home and her only water supply from this unknown danger.

Not a Drop to Drink perfectly ties everything up at the end.  I’m sure a sequel could be written (and is going to be) but this book makes for a perfect standalone.  All questions are answered for readers.

Overall, Not a Drop to Drink is a solid addition to the YA dystopian genre.  Mindy McGinnis is definitely going to be an author to watch for.

What others are saying about Not a Drop to Drink: 

Jenna Does Books’ review: “At the end of the day, NOT A DROP TO DRINK is one of the most realistic and believable speculative future stories I have ever read.:”

Effortlessly Reading’s review: “Overall, I highly recommend Not A Drop To Drink.”

Beauty and the Bookshelf’s review: “Not a Drop to Drink is different from a lot of YA out there, at least from what I’ve read; I can’t think of anything quite like it, though I can think of some books with that sort of realistic grit to it.”

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Dear Killer by Katherine Ewell | Review

Dear Killer by Katherine Ewell | ReviewDear Killer by Katherine Ewell
Published by Harper Teen on April 1, 2014
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss, Publisher
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3 Stars

Rule One—Nothing is right, nothing is wrong.

Rule Two—Be careful.

Rule Three—Fight using your legs whenever possible, because they’re the strongest part of your body. Your arms are the weakest.

Rule Four—Hit to kill. The first blow should be the last, if at all possible.

Rule Five—The letters are the law.

Kit takes her role as London’s notorious “Perfect KillerTh” seriously. The letters and cash that come to her via a secret mailbox are not a game; choosing who to kill is not an impulse decision. Every letter she receives begins with “Dear Killer,” and every time Kit murders, she leaves a letter with the dead body. Her moral nihilism and thus her murders are a way of life—the only way of life she has ever known.

But when a letter appears in the mailbox that will have the power to topple Kit’s convictions as perfectly as she commits her murders, she must make a decision: follow the only rules she has ever known, or challenge Rule One, and go from there.

Dear Killer is really hard for me to review. On one hand, I enjoyed it. On the other, there were things about it that really let me down. Dear Killer really is one book that is perfectly in the middle for me.

The concept for Dear Killer is what really caught my attention and it’s the one thing I really enjoyed about it. Reading about a teenage serial killer is something I can honestly say I’ve never done. It was fascinating to be inside Kit’s head. She didn’t see anything right or wrong about what she was doing. The concept of moral nihilism was something I hadn’t heard of before reading Dear Killer. Katherine Ewell went in depth with the concept and it really did leave me thinking.

However, I had some problems with Dear Killer. I’ll start with my main problem which was Kit herself. I did not like her at all. She was cocky and full of herself. Her nickname with the media was The Perfect Killer and that’s exactly how she saw herself. She considered herself untouchable and she let it go to her head. I wanted to slap some sense into her.

Another issue I had was with the whole killings. Maybe I’ve read too many adult murder mysteries and maybe it’s partly because I have two former police officers for parents but I really didn’t see how any of this could work. First off, Kit describes herself as a skinny, relatively average height teenage girl. How in the world would it be possible for her to overtake men much larger than her and much stronger? I don’t care how much training you’ve had, it just doesn’t work that way. Also, she was way too cocky with her killings. She would kill people right out in the open. As if that wasn’t bad enough, she was killing 3 to 4 people a month. That just does not work. With the police looking as hard as they were, someone would have caught her.

One good thing about Dear Killer was the relationship Kit had with her mom. Admittedly, it was based on murder but still, it was good. Kit and her mom had a close relationship. They told each other everything. Kit learned everything she knew about murder from her mom. She knew that she could always go to her with any problems or complications. It’s definitely not your typical mother/daughter relationship but it worked for them.

There was also one other thing about Dear Killer that I both liked and didn’t like; the writing. Katherine Ewell’s writing style is very distinct and I enjoyed it. It’s detailed and thorough and I really felt like I could picture everything as Kit was seeing it. The only problem was that it really slowed down the story. What I felt should have been a fast-paced book ended up taking me much longer to get through.Overall, Dear Killer will greatly appeal to some, just not to me. I enjoyed it and I would recommend it but it won’t be on my favorites list.

What others are saying about Dear Killer:

The (YA) Bookcase’s review: “The story of a teenage serial assassin is violent and contains some slightly graphic material; however, it does a good job of engaging the reader to ask what is moral or ethical.”

The Phantom Paragrapher’s review: “I leave with these parting words that if you are a fan of serial killers – the people themselves, the person behind the mask and wanting a book told from the killer’s POV then Katherine Ewell’s book “Dear Killer” is the story for you.”

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Find Me (Find Me #1) by Romily Bernard | Review

Find Me (Find Me #1) by Romily Bernard | ReviewFind Me by Romily Bernard
Series: Find Me #1
Published by Harper Teen on September 24, 2013
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 307
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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3 Stars

“Find Me.”

These are the words written on Tessa Waye’s diary. The diary that ends up with Wick Tate. But Tessa’s just been found . . . dead.

Wick has the right computer-hacking skills for the job, but little interest in this perverse game of hide-and-seek. Until her sister Lily is the next target.

Then Griff, trailer-park boy next door and fellow hacker, shows up, intent on helping Wick. Is a happy ending possible with the threat of Wick’s deadbeat dad returning, the detective hunting him sniffing around Wick instead, and a killer taunting her at every step?

Foster child. Daughter of a felon. Loner hacker girl. Wick has a bad attitude and sarcasm to spare.

But she’s going to find this killer no matter what.

Because it just got personal.

Find Me, Romily Bernard’s debut novel, has been garnering some high praise from reviewers lately. I went in with very high expectations and I think my expectations were maybe a little too high. While I enjoyed the story, I didn’t love it like I had hoped. It’s a good addition to the YA suspense genre but nothing too spectacular.

I wasn’t drawn into Wick’s story like I had hoped to be. For a suspense novel, it wasn’t all that suspenseful. I kept reading hoping for the pace to pick up but it took way longer than I felt it should have. I wasn’t all that interested in the story until the very end. I didn’t feel invested in any of the outcomes and I only really kept reading to see how things would turn out and if I could guess who the killer was.

As for that, I’ll give Romily Bernard points for keeping me guessing until the very end. I never actually figured out who the killer was. Romily Bernard does a great job and throwing in some red herrings and keeping readers on their toes. There’s more to the story than first meets the eye and I did really like that about Find Me.

The characters were mediocre, at best. Wick was cool. Her talent for hacking was really awesome and something you don’t read about a lot. However, I felt that she could have been doing a lot more with her hacking skills than just helping people find out if their spouses were cheating. I was a little let down by that. Her sister, Lily, seemed very immature and naïve. Wick did everything to protect Lily but I felt that Lily was old enough to know at least a little about protecting herself. She blindly trusted people. With her past, you would think she would know better than to do that. As for the romance between Wick and fellow hacker, Griff, it was cute but nothing that really caught my interest. They didn’t really have much chemistry.

Overall, Find Me is good for a rainy day read but nothing super awesome. I’ll look out for Romily Bernard’s future books (including the sequel to this one) but I feel that this is one that could be skipped over.

What others are saying about Find Me:
Good Books and Good Wine’s review: “Y’all, I zipped through this hacker thriller in a single day.” 
Nick’s Book Blog’s review: “Find Me was a promising debut from Romily Bernard.” 
Realm of Fiction’s review: “Sadly, Find Me lacks too many things for it to be a title that I can easily recommend.” 
Monday, January 20, 2014

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge | Review

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge | ReviewCruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Published by Harper Teen on January 28, 2014
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 342
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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5 Stars

Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast in this sweeping fantasy about one girl's journey to fulfill her destiny and the monster who gets in her way-by stealing her heart.

Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she's ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex's secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

Cruel Beauty, Rosamund Hodge’s debut novel, is one of the best retellings I’ve read. Really it’s just one of the best books I’ve read in quite some time. I was hooked from the very beginning and I stayed up late into the night finishing it because I needed to know how it ended!

Everything about Cruel Beauty was fabulous but I have to draw attention to the characters. Nyx, Astraia, Shade, Ignifex, and even the minor characters were fleshed out. Nyx and Astraia are twins that couldn’t be more different. Nyx is our protagonist but to be honest, you may not like her to begin with. She’s a little cruel. She knows she has hatred and darkness in her heart and she’s not sure she can live like that but she doesn’t know how to change that. Astraia is the sweet daughter who is doted on and never has to face the truth. Both of them have a lot more to them though. Shade and Ignifex share some similar qualities but they are also two very different guys. Shade is sweet and caring whereas Ignifex is cruel, a little malicious, but oh so sexy. Oh and did I mention they look exactly alike? It’s only the personalities that cause the differences. And as I said earlier, even the minor characters, such as The Kindly Ones and Nyx’s family, are fleshed out.

The romance was a major focus of the story but it didn’t detract from the rest of the story. There is not instalove here. There is instant attraction but Nyx knows that she can’t possibly love either Shade or Ignifex immediately. She gets to know them both before she makes any sort of decision regarding her romantic feelings. The guys are both very different love interests though. Shade is a captive, just like Nyx. There is a sort of camaraderie between them. They have things in common and she knows that Shade is the guy she should love. Ignifex is her captor but he’s not as cruel and malicious as he seems. Sure he strikes bargains with people that usually lead to death but that’s not all there is to him. However, Nyx knows she should never love him because of what he did to her family. The romance really is twisted and I was torn between Shade and Ignifex for quite some time. (Ignifex won out in the end.)

The story is not your typical Beauty and the Beast retelling and I loved that. This time the beast isn’t so much a beast on the outside but instead he’s a bit beastly on the inside. What a twisted way to play things and I adored it. There’s also so much more going on. The beast is cursed in ways that I never saw coming. The creatures in charge have left Ignifex with very little actual power. It’s up to him and Nyx to figure out how to defeat them and save Arcadia without having to kill Ignifex. There were so many twists and turns with this story. I had no clue how things were going to play out in the end and I was on the edge of my seat.

Overall, Cruel Beauty is a must read for everyone. I dare you not to love it!

What others are saying about Cruel Beauty:

Wrapped Up In Books’ review: “I don’t doubt Cruel Beauty will find many fans.”

Christina Reads YA’s review: “An excellent, excellent debut.”

The Book Hookup’s review: “I inhaled this book in a few short hours and I couldn’t put it down until I was finished.”

Friday, September 27, 2013

Blog Tour: How To Love by Katie Cotugno | Review

Blog Tour: How To Love by Katie Cotugno | Review

Blog Tour: How To Love by Katie Cotugno | ReviewHow To Love by Katie Cotugno
Published by Harper Teen on October 1, 2013
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 389
Format: ARC
Source: BEA, Publisher
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5 Stars

Before:
Reena Montero has loved Sawyer LeGrande for as long as she can remember: as natural as breathing, as endless as time. But he's never seemed to notice that Reena even exists until one day, impossibly, he does. Reena and Sawyer fall in messy, complicated love. But then Sawyer disappears from their humid Florida town without a word, leaving a devastated—and pregnant—Reena behind.

After:
Almost three years have passed, and there's a new love in Reena's life: her daughter, Hannah. Reena's gotten used to being without Sawyer, and she's finally getting the hang of this strange, unexpected life. But just as swiftly and suddenly as he disappeared, Sawyer turns up again. Reena doesn't want anything to do with him, though she'd be lying if she said Sawyer's being back wasn't stirring something in her. After everything that's happened, can Reena really let herself love Sawyer LeGrande again?

In this breathtaking debut, Katie Cotugno weaves together the story of one couple falling in love—twice.

How To Love is by far one of the best debuts I’ve ever read. I truly had no idea what to expect from Katie Cotugno and I was completely blown away.

How To Love almost fits into the new adult category rather than young adult. It’s a much more mature story than normal YA books and I loved it. Younger readers can certainly get away with reading it (although there is drug use/alcohol use/sexual content) and older readers such as myself can truly enjoy it. While Sawyer and Reena are both in their teens, they are forced to deal with some much more adult issues and it was refreshing to read such a realistic story. There’s college, teen pregnancy, drug abuse, and so much more packed between these pages. Katie Cotugno tackles everything head on and doesn’t shy away from the tough stuff. Everything is handled so well, especially the sexual content, and I would love to see more stories like this one in the future.

The story is told from Reena’s point-of-view alone but I really felt like I got to know Sawyer just as well I got to know Reena. Reena is a smart girl. She’s funny (in a very sarcastic way), she’s kind, and she’s definitely a good girl. Sawyer is the opposite of Reena in almost every way. He’s definitely a bad boy. He’s got drug problems, he’s in a band, he’s living in a run down place with multiple other guys, and he’s not good for Reena. That doesn’t stop the two from falling completely in love with each other. This was definitely a case of opposites attracting. Personally I thought Reena and Sawyer were perfect together, at least the second time around.

The story is told in alternating chapters; before and after. It’s easy to see how their relationship isn’t really all that healthy in the before chapters but both of them have changed drastically since then. They’ve matured (especially Reena, having to raise a baby), they’re smarter, and they can see the truth of their relationship. The story is a very unique one and it completely drew me in. There were secrets between Sawyer and Reena that I just wanted to know and I couldn’t stop reading until I knew every last detail. I was captivated from beginning to end.

The last thing I want to mention about How To Love is the writing. It’s gorgeous. I don’t know any other way to describe it. Even if the story had completely sucked I would have kept reading just for the writing. However, seeing as the story was amazing, the writing was just the icing on the cake.

Overall, just go read How To Love. Please. Even if you’re not a contemporary fan, I really think everyone can find something to love about this one. I am highly anticipating Katie Cotugno’s next book.

What others have to say about How To Love:

Nick’s Book Blog’s review: “With How to Love by Katie Cotugno, I found a simple yet beautiful story that made me really feel for the characters.”

Enticed By Books’ review: “Anyway, How To Love was a well written book, but my disinterest in the characters and the storyline along with the poor execution of that said story was what made this book a thumbs down read for me.”

Swept Away by Books’ review: “All in all, How To Love wasn’t exactly what I imagined myself getting into, but I did love it all the same!”

About The AUTHOR
 
Katie Cotugno went to Catholic school for thirteen years which makes her, as an adult, both extremely superstitious and prone to crushes on boys wearing blazers. She routinely finds herself talking about the romantic endeavors of characters on TV shows as if they actually exist in the world.
Katie is a Pushcart Prize nominee whose work has appeared in The Broadkill Review, The Apalachee Review, and Argestes, as well as on Nerve.com. Her first novel, HOW TO LOVE, is due out from Balzer + Bray on October 1st, 2013.
 
The great loves of Katie’s life include child’s pose, her little sister, and mozzarella and honey sandwiches. She lives in Boston (and in sin) with her boyfriend, Tom.
 
You can follow Katie via her: Website | on Twitter | Goodreads
Monday, August 12, 2013

Something Like Normal by Trish Doller | Review

Something Like Normal by Trish Doller | ReviewSomething Like Normal by Trish Doller
Published by Bloomsbury on June 19, 2012
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 224
Format: ebook
Source: Bought
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5 Stars

When Travis returns home from a stint in Afghanistan, his parents are splitting up, his brother’s stolen his girlfriend and his car, and he’s haunted by nightmares of his best friend’s death. It’s not until Travis runs into Harper, a girl he’s had a rocky relationship with since middle school, that life actually starts looking up. And as he and Harper see more of each other, he begins to pick his way through the minefield of family problems and post-traumatic stress to the possibility of a life that might resemble normal again. Travis’s dry sense of humor, and incredible sense of honor, make him an irresistible and eminently lovable hero.

Something Like Normal has been on my radar for a while but it’s one of those books that I just kept putting off. I was a little scared to read it because my expectations were pretty high after reading all the wonderful reviews. I’m happy to say that my expectations were met and exceeded.

Something Like Normal is a short book but don’t let that fool you. It will take you on a roller coaster ride of emotions in just a little over 200 pages. I laughed, I cried, and there were some times when I really just wanted to scream (I was on a plane at the time so I don’t think that would have gone over well.) From the very first page I felt connected and invested in the characters and I was rooting for a happy ending. Something Like Normal takes no time at all to get into and you won’t want to stop reading once you start.

Travis has not had it easy the past year. His best friend is dead, his girlfriend left him for his younger brother, his dad hates him, and his mom has become a little obsessive. Everything changed for him when he joined the military. It’s easy to see that he has post traumatic stress disorder but he doesn’t want to deal with it. He does everything he can to forget about what happened in Afghanistan but he can’t leave it behind. Travis is very emotionally messed up but I couldn’t help but love him. His heart was in the right place, even if his head wasn’t. He’s an easy character to grow attached to and you won’t be able to help loving him and wanting him to be happy. His family is really messed up but not one of the worse I’ve read. His mom was loving and supportive and awesome, no matter what he did. His brother was a little annoying. His dad was a downright ass. Just saying. As for Harper, she was everything I could have wanted in a love interest for Travis. She wasn’t his typical style (like his crazy ex-girlfriend) and that’s what he needed. He needed someone smart and stable and kind. Harper was perfect for Travis.

The story is a lot deeper than most YA. In fact, this one could pretty much be considered NA. I really liked that Trish Doller didn’t try to gloss over the gritty details. Travis has seen people die. In fact, he’s been the cause of some of those deaths. Trish Doller doesn’t leave out any of the details about what Travis has seen and done. She didn’t shy away from the hard stuff and it made Travis’ story so much better.

Overall, I highly recommend checking out Trish Doller’s debut novel. Contemporary fans will completely adore it.

What others are saying about Something Like Normal:

YA Book Queen’s review: Once I began, I couldn’t put this book down until the final page arrived.” 

Stacked’s review: Trish Doller’s Something Like Normal is an emotional read and one that hits every single note right.”

The Bookish Brunette’s review: Call me predictable, but given that this book has a Military Man in it, it pretty much rocked my face off.”

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay | Review

The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay | ReviewThe Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay
Published by Atria on June 4, 2013
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 448
Format: ebook
Source: Bought
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5 Stars

Former piano prodigy Nastya Kashnikov wants two things: to get through high school without anyone learning about her past and to make the boy who took everything from her—her identity, her spirit, her will to live—pay.

Josh Bennett’s story is no secret: every person he loves has been taken from his life until, at seventeen years old, there is no one left. Now all he wants is be left alone and people allow it because when your name is synonymous with death, everyone tends to give you your space.

Everyone except Nastya, the mysterious new girl at school who starts showing up and won’t go away until she’s insinuated herself into every aspect of his life. But the more he gets to know her, the more of an enigma she becomes. As their relationship intensifies and the unanswered questions begin to pile up, he starts to wonder if he will ever learn the secrets she’s been hiding—or if he even wants to.

This review is just going to be a jumbled mess of me gushing about Katja Millay’s debut novel. Let’s just get that out of the way from the start.

The Sea of Tranquility is not like a lot of other YA books and I’m actually not sure I’d classify it as YA. While the characters are in high school, they act a lot older and they are pretty mature. I’d definitely say that The Sea of Tranquility could fit into the New Adult category. The content is mature and it reads a little differently than other YA books. However, it definitely has the suspense and fast pace of a YA novel and will appeal to YA readers, for sure.

Nastya was a little hard for me to like in the beginning. I knew she had been through something traumatic but I didn’t know what and I didn’t understand quite why she acted the way she did. She was hilarious though. Even for a girl who didn’t talk, she had a great sense of humor, even if it was a little self-deprecating. I felt sorry for her more than anything in the beginning but I quickly grew to like her and I wanted to see her happy. I knew that wouldn’t come easy for her but I wanted to see it happen. Josh had a lot to do with that happiness. He was also very messed up but he was easier to like than Nastya. His problems were kind of out in the open and everyone knew about them (except Nastya.) Josh had issues letting people in but Nastya didn’t really give him much of a choice. Two people with so many problems really shouldn’t work but together, Josh and Nastya were amazing. Their relationship was so real and beautiful.

The supporting characters in The Sea of Tranquility were also pretty dang fabulous. My favorite would have to be Drew, Josh’s best friend. Drew is a total womanizer and at first I thought he was going to be the typical jerk but that wasn’t the case at all. Drew ended up being a great guy and his friendships with Josh and Nastya were great. Drew’s family was also pretty great, except for his little sister, Sarah. Sarah was a bitch. That’s the nicest way to put it. She grew a little bit throughout the book but she didn’t really have that big a role. I kind of forgot about her after finishing the book. Drew’s parents were the best part of his family. They were kind and non-judgmental. They accepted Josh and Nastya with all their problems even when Nastya’s own family couldn’t. To be honest, I didn’t care for her family but I understood them better by the end of the book.

The mystery of what happened to Nastya really kept me hooked. There was enough going on in the book that I never lost interest but I really just wanted to know what happened to her. It played such a huge role in the book but readers really only get glimpses of it until closer to the end. Even after I found out though the story didn’t lose it’s fast pace. In fact, things might have even picked up after the big reveal. The Sea of Tranquility really is just one of those books that you won’t be able to put down until you finish it. And even then you won’t be able to stop thinking about it.

Overall, read The Sea of Tranquility. I don’t care if you hate contemporary novels, just read it. It’s so perfect. I can’t wait to read whatever Katja Millay writes next.

What others have to say about The Sea of Tranquility:

Dear Author’s review: “It was an emotionally satisfying book in large part due to the ending.”

Lovin’ Los Libros’ review: “Nothing that I’m about to say is even going to scratch the surface of helping you all understand how amazing this book truly is.”

Paper Fantasies’ review: “I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting going into this book, but whatever my expectations were, they have been exceeded.”

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Meant To Be by Lauren Morrill | Review

Meant To Be by Lauren Morrill | ReviewMeant To Be by Lauren Morrill
Published by Random House on November 13, 2012
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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5 Stars

Meant to be or not meant to be . . . that is the question. 

It's one thing to fall head over heels into a puddle of hazelnut coffee, and quite another to fall for the—gasp—wrong guy. Straight-A junior Julia may be accident prone, but she's queen of following rules and being prepared. That's why she keeps a pencil sharpener in her purse and a pocket Shakespeare in her, well, pocket. And that's also why she's chosen Mark Bixford, her childhood crush, as her MTB ("meant to be").

But this spring break, Julia's rules are about to get defenestrated (SAT word: to be thrown from a window) when she's partnered with her personal nemesis, class-clown Jason, on a school trip to London. After one wild party, Julia starts receiving romantic texts . . . from an unknown number! Jason promises to help discover the identity of her mysterious new suitor if she agrees to break a few rules along the way. And thus begins a wild goose chase through London, leading Julia closer and closer to the biggest surprise of all: true love.

Because sometimes the things you least expect are the most meant to be.

Meant To Be was very high on my to-read list for 2012.  I’m such a huge fan of contemporary and pretty much every review I read just raved about Lauren Morrill’s debut novel.  I’m very happy to say that I loved it just as much as every review I read.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about Julia at first.  She was very goody goody.  She seemed almost too perfect.  She never did anything spontaneous, she always followed the rules, and she just didn’t seem to live much.  Her attitude was difficult to like but she was still very easy to relate to.  She was bookish and kind of nerdy and she reminded me a lot of myself.  However, unlike me, she saw the error of her ways and started to try some new things.  Of course, she had some help along the way.  Jason, class clown and arch nemesis of Julia, gets paired with her on their class trip to London.  He is the opposite of Julia in every way and he is determined to pull her out of her shell.  Jason really reminded me of a lovable puppy.  He was funny, smart, sarcastic, and cute.  He was impossible not to love.  He and Julia were a match made in hell but it was so much fun to read about them and their mishaps.

The story was a little predictable but it still had a couple fresh twists to it.  The setting, for one.  Having the story take place in London really added to the awesomeness of the book.  I honestly felt like I was visiting London while reading Meant To Be.  Lauren Morrill included a ton of famous places in London in Meant To Be and it was almost like I could picture them.  The mystery aspect also added to what made the book so great.  Julia was determined to find out who her anonymous texter might be and I did guess it before Julia but it took me quite some time.  I had to keep reading so that I could see if my guess was right.

The romance might have been the best part though.  This was no case of insta-love, let me tell you that.  It’s pretty obvious from the summary alone which guy Julia is going to end up with but the road there was a rocky one.  There were obstacles along the way but it only made things more realistic.  Jason and Julia brought out the best and the worst in each other.  Theirs was a very true relationship.

Overall, Meant To Be is a fresh addition to the contemporary YA selection.  Lauren Morrill is an author to watch for.

Looking for more reviews of Meant To Be?

Beauty and the Bookshelf’s review
365 Days of Reading’s review