Source: Edelweiss

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ARC Review: Queer, There, and Everywhere

May 22, 2017 Reviews, Young Adult 0 ★★★★

ARC Review: Queer, There, and EverywhereQueer there and Everywhere: 22 People Who Changed the World by Sarah Prager
Published by HarperCollins on May 23rd 2017
Pages: 272
Source: Edelweiss
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four-stars

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This first-ever LGBTQ history book for young adults will appeal to fans of fun, empowering pop-culture books like Rad American Women A-Z and Notorious RBG.
World history has been made by countless lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals—and you’ve never heard of many of them. Queer author and activist Sarah Prager delves deep into the lives of 22 people who fought, created, and loved on their own terms. From high-profile figures like Abraham Lincoln and Eleanor Roosevelt to the trailblazing gender-ambiguous Queen of Sweden and a bisexual blues singer who didn’t make it into your history books, these astonishing true stories uncover a rich queer heritage that encompasses every culture, in every era.
By turns hilarious and inspiring, the beautifully illustrated Queer, There, and Everywhere is for anyone who wants the real story of the queer rights movement.

Queer, There, and Everywhere is a wonderfully fascinating look at the history of queer people all over the world. I thought that it was extremely well researched and well written. It was never dull or boring, it held your attention the whole time. There are 23 queer people who receive pretty short biographies on their lives and what all they contributed to the community as a whole. There are familiar names like Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, Frida Kahlo, and Harvey Milk. And also not so familiar names like Kristina Vasa, Albert Cashier, Ma Rainey, and many others. I found that I ultimately enjoyed reading all of these stories. I think this is such an important book to read regardless of your sexual orientation, gender identity, age, or race, all of us could benefit from reading this comprehensive and beautiful book. I really hope that the author will write another one featuring other queer figures in the future!

So you might be able to tell by looking at some of my past reviews, but I don’t read a whole lot of non fiction, especially not Young Adult. However, I knew that I should read this one. I wanted to learn even more about queer history and this looked like such an intriguing work. Though it’s not something I’d normally read, I’m still glad that I did. I also learned so much from it. About a day after I finished it, I told my dad (who is a historian) about Abraham Lincoln and his buddy Joshua. I don’t think my dad still believes that they were actually a thing, he hit me with the fact that it was a common thing for guys to sleep in the same bed back then. But it did feel good to hit him with some interesting information that I read in the book. Anyway, this book was filled with people that you might be familiar with to an extent, but it’s still neat to learn more about their personal lives. Did you guys know that Greta Garbo had a female lover? I didn’t. She’s not featured, but her lover Mercedes De Acosta was.

So basically, I would read one of these biographies and automatically go off to Google to learn more about them. I really wanted to know about Ma Rainey, since she sounded like such an eccentric and amazing human being. I also had to know more about Harvey Milk, Frida Kahlo, Josef Kohout, and Glenn Burke. There were some truly touching stories as well. Specifically the story of Albert Cashier, a transgender soldier who fought in the Civil War. Although you hear stories about women who dressed as men in order to fight for their country, this isn’t one of those stories. Albert truly identified as a man, and was miraculously able to keep the fact that he was assigned female at birth a secret. I thought it was beautiful how the people who did find out ultimately kept it a secret, and accepted that he was a man. The story about his funeral will make you sob. Though so many other stories touched me as well, I’d have to say that this was probably my favorite.

There’s so many good things to say about this book. One of the few complaints that I have about it is that it was rather short. I would have loved to have some of these biographies be a little longer. But I understand that some who were less famous might not have as much information about them out there like others did. So this was my first non fiction YA book, and it definitely won’t be my last if there are other books released in the future that are similar to it! I highly recommend that you pick this up for both yourself and a teenager that you know. I’m honestly upset that we don’t learn more about these figures and what they’ve contributed to the queer community in history class.

four-stars

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ARC Review: Fireworks

April 11, 2017 Reviews, Young Adult 0 ★★

ARC Review: FireworksFireworks by Katie Cotugno
Published by HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray on April 18th 2017
Pages: 336
Source: Edelweiss
Also by this author: 99 Days
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two-stars

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

From Katie Cotugno, bestselling author of 99 Days, comes Fireworks—about a girl who is competing with her best friend to become the new pop star of the moment—and all the drama and romance that comes with it—set in Orlando during the late-'90s boy-and-girl-band craze.
It was always meant to be Olivia. She was the talented one, the one who had been training to be a star her whole life. Her best friend, Dana, was the level-headed one, always on the sidelines, cheering her best friend along.
But everything changes when Dana tags along with Olivia to Orlando for the weekend, where superproducer Guy Monroe is holding auditions for a new singing group, and Dana is discovered too. Dana, who’s never sung more than Olivia’s backup. Dana, who wasn’t even looking for fame. Next thing she knows, she and Olivia are training to be pop stars, and Dana is falling for Alex, the earnest, endlessly talented boy who’s destined to be the next big thing.
It should be a dream come true, but as the days of grueling practice and constant competition take their toll, things between Olivia and Dana start to shift . . . and there’s only room at the top for one girl. For Olivia, it’s her chance at her dream. For Dana, it’s a chance to escape a future that seems to be closing in on her. And for these lifelong best friends, it’s the adventure of a lifetime—if they can make it through.
Set in evocative 1990s Orlando, New York Times bestselling author Katie Cotugno’s Fireworks brings to life the complexity of friendship, the excitement of first love, and the feeling of being on the verge of greatness.

This was yet another book that I really wanted to like. I’ve heard a lot of positive things about this author, but I feel like I’m missing something. I strongly disliked 99 Days and I couldn’t even make it through How to Love. Sadly, none of her books have been for me. I thought this one would definitely be my cup of tea since it takes place in the 90’s and also involves boy and girl bands. I’m sure many contemporary fans will like this one, but not me. Fireworks had a lot of potential that it sadly didn’t live up to. The writer is good, but the plot and characters didn’t work at all. I doubt I’ll be reading any other books from this author in the future.

If you’re a fan of realistic contemporary stories, you’ll probably have some issues right off the bat with this one. The story revolves around Dana going to this audition to support her best friend Olivia. Somehow though, Dana gets roped into auditioning. She’s NEVER had any type of vocal lessons or any musical theater experience in her life, yet we’re supposed to believe that the man in charge picks her over all the more experienced girls? Nope, I don’t buy that this would happen to her just because she’s pretty.

It also takes place in the 90’s, which I originally thought was awesome. Truthfully, I found myself forgetting the time period most of the time. It didn’t seem like it took place back then besides a few TLC and Spice Girl references. The love interest of the story happens to be in a boy band, yet there’s no references to any other boy bands that were around in that time period. Maybe she was just trying to be creative, but I felt like that would have made the book just a little better. I hope that more people write stories that take place in the 90’s in the future, but only if they actually make it seem like it’s that decade.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the romance. I liked how sex positive it was all around. I just didn’t think Alex was a great character. He didn’t have much development, his whole purpose was basically to continually tell Dana how wonderful and perfect she is. Aside from that, we truly don’t know much else about him besides the fact that he comes from a decent family and has money. Did anyone else think it was creepy as hell how he would just randomly pop up literally everywhere that Dana would go by herself? For example, she goes down to the pool in the middle of the night, and he just randomly pops out of nowhere. It was a little weird in my opinion.

I think it’s misleading that people consider this to be a friendship novel. Going into this, I was expecting a really positive and strong female friendship but that’s not what I got. Without saying too much, the friendship is not what I was expecting it to be. Olivia is an unlikable character. I did sympathize with the fact that she had an eating disorder. Maybe it’s because one of my best friends struggles with an eating disorder, but I felt like it wasn’t treated with respect. It felt more like a plot device than something that was truly explored and developed. It bothered me that not only Dana but especially the adults didn’t take her eating disorder more seriously. This is an issue that so many teens deal with, and I felt like it could have been more carefully written as a whole.

Even though this book just released, it already seems as if I’m in the minority with my opinion. I don’t think that this author is bad by any means, but it seems like her style and plots just don’t match up with the books that I enjoy reading. If you’re able to get past all of the cliches and unrealistic things, you might like this book. Don’t get me wrong, this book wasn’t absolutely terrible. I didn’t have to force myself to read it, I was pretty sucked into it. I just wasn’t able to get past all of the other key elements of the story.

two-stars

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ARC Review: The Hidden Memory of Objects

March 30, 2017 Reviews, Young Adult 0 ★★★

ARC Review: The Hidden Memory of ObjectsThe Hidden Memory of Objects by Danielle Mages Amato
Published by Balzer + Bray on March 21st 2017
Pages: 336
Source: Edelweiss
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three-stars

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Megan Brown’s brother, Tyler, is dead, but the cops are killing him all over again. They say he died of a drug overdose, potentially suicide—something Megan cannot accept. Determined to figure out what happened in the months before Tyler’s death, Megan turns to the things he left behind. After all, she understands the stories objects can tell—at fifteen, she is a gifted collage artist with a flair for creating found-object pieces. However, she now realizes that her artistic talent has developed into something more: she can see memories attached to some of Tyler’s belongings—and those memories reveal a brother she never knew.
Enlisting the help of an artifact detective who shares her ability and specializes in murderabilia—objects tainted by violence or the deaths of their owners—Megan finds herself drawn into a world of painful personal and national memories. Along with a trusted classmate and her brother's charming friend, she chases down the troubling truth about Tyler across Washington, DC, while reclaiming her own stifled identity with a vengeance.

The cover of The Hidden Memory of Objects is what initially drew me into this book. I wasn’t really sure how I was going to feel about the actual plot going into this though. I’ve tried to steer clear of books about death here lately since I’ve read so many, but I decided to try this one out anyway. Thought it wasn’t completely memorable for me, I’m still glad that I read this. I think readers who like contemporaries combined with a bit of history/mystery/paranormal. If it sounds like your cup of tea, then you should give this a try!

Megan is a decent protagonist. Honestly, there’s not a ton of things about her that really stand out to me. But I did appreciate how brave and bold she was throughout the entire novel. She never backed down from what she believed in, and that’s something that I always like to see. I’ll likely explain this more later on in the review, but I felt like her ability didn’t work at times. It was an interesting and unique thing for the character to have, but it didn’t totally make sense to me as a reader.

The romance isn’t a huge part of the plot, so I’m not going to touch on it all that much. I will say that the love interest is her brother Tyler’s friend that she didn’t know about until Tyler died. Nathan was a charming and sweet guy. I really enjoyed learning more and more about him as the book progressed. I won’t lie, I wanted more romance in the story, but I get that there were obviously more pressing matters. Another character that I wanted to talk about is her friend Eric. Oh man, Eric is absolutely hilarious. When he first learns about the power that Megan has when she touches certain objects, he’s obsessed with discovering her origin story. He might be a bit of a geek, but you can’t help but love him and his story so much.

As mentioned earlier, it’s the elements that go beyond contemporary that lost me somewhat. I can appreciate a good mystery, but the history and paranormal side wasn’t all that strong to me. Specifically, the paranormal element of Megan having the ability to touch objects and instantly be able to see a certain scene that took place. Like she was able to see the assassination of Lincoln and some specific details about that night. It was a unique plot that I’ve never seen done this specific way, but it still didn’t fully make sense to me. I’m a contemporary reader generally, and I like it when things are realistic to at least an extent, so some of this stuff just didn’t belong in my opinion.

If you don’t mind a combination of genres that might not seem to really go together, then you might like this one. I felt like the first half of the novel was very slow paced. In about the middle though, it did pick up speed and I was hardly able to put it down. Though I highly doubt this book will stay with me all that long after reading it, I don’t exactly regret reading it. It had some solid parts to say the least. The characters were all well developed and strong. The romance may haven’t been such an essential part of the plot, it was still sweet. I’m looking forward to the next book that this author writes!

three-stars

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ARC Review: The Hate U Give

February 28, 2017 Reviews, Young Adult 1 ★★★★★

ARC Review: The Hate U GiveThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Published by Balzer + Bray on February 28th 2017
Pages: 464
Source: Edelweiss
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five-stars

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, Angie Thomas’s searing debut about an ordinary girl in extraordinary circumstances addresses issues of racism and police violence with intelligence, heart, and unflinching honesty. Soon to be a major motion picture from Fox 2000/Temple Hill Productions.
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Guys, this book is easily the best book that I’ve read so far this year. It’s also the first five star rating that I’ve given this year. The Hate U Give is just a story that you need to read in order to fully understand the greatness of it. There honestly isn’t anything negative to say about it, only very rave and fangirl comments about how amazing it is from start to finish. On page one, it immediately sucks you in until you reach the end. I wasn’t able to put it down once I started reading it. This was such a mesmerizing and beautifully written novel all around filled with memorable and complicated characters. I can’t recommend it to you guys enough, you need to pick this one up!

Starr is seriously my girl. I immediately connected with her right away. She has such a beautiful and relatable personality. Starr is definitely a girl that I want to be best friends with. She’s smart, funny, kind, caring, and passionate. I sympathized with her struggles, the loss of her two best friends, one that happened when she was younger and one that just happened seriously broke my heart. Although I can’t relate to the fact that she lost them both to senseless violence, I also lost a childhood best friend far too young. Anyway, Starr is an extremely passionate person and I absolutely love that about her. She’s not afraid to take a stand for what she believes in. I was so proud of her for not letting her voice be silenced, no matter what the circumstances were.

Even though this book tackles the serious and timely issue of racism and police violence, it’s still surprisingly funny more often than not. A lot of those funny moments come from the hilarious main and supporting characters. Starr honestly has the best family. Her mom, dad, two brothers, Nana, Uncle Carlos, Chris, and DeVante are all fabulous and filled with personality. They might be dysfunctional sometimes, but they are still a great family. I loved how supportive each of them were towards Starr as she goes through this difficult and tragic time in her life. I loved them each so much that I really don’t know which one I liked them best, they all stood out for various reasons.

I don’t believe that Thomas could have tackled these difficult subjects any better than she did. As mentioned earlier, these are unfortunately such timely issues. It surprises me that more people haven’t written YA books on these topics yet, but I’m so happy that Thomas did and I hope that others follow in the future. The shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil is such a tragic event. Although we didn’t get to know him for very long in the book, we learn more and more about his real story that Starr wasn’t totally aware of since they hadn’t been hanging out recently. I believe that it was handled in such a realistic and touching way, similar in some ways to the shootings of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and countless other African American teens who were unarmed. It’s such a devastating thing that will never make sense to me, but I thought that Thomas’s take on making sense of it all was perfection.

The Hate U Give is a book that will stick with me for a long time after reading it. The characters, plot, and writing make it such a complicated and beautiful novel. It’s extremely hard to believe that this is only the author’s debut novel. I can’t wait to see what she writes next. This is such a powerful and memorable novel all the way around. There really isn’t much else to say on the topic other than other fangirl ramblings on it. It’s a difficult thing to make me laugh out loud while reading one page, but then cry on the next page. Somehow The Hate U Give was able to do just that and I can’t recommend it enough.

five-stars

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ARC Review: #famous

February 13, 2017 Reviews, Young Adult 1 ★★★

ARC Review: #famous#famous by Jilly Gagnon
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on February 14th 2017
Pages: 384
Source: Edelweiss
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three-stars

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

In this modern-day love story, Girl likes Boy, Girl takes photo of Boy and posts it online, Boy becomes accidentally insta-famous. And what starts out as an innocent joke spirals into a whirlwind adventure that could change both their lives—and their hearts—forever. But are fame and love worth the price?
Told in alternating points of view, #famous captures the out-of-control thrill ride of falling for someone in front of everyone.

So I was really excited to read this book. The plot is that this girl takes a picture of this cute guy from her school while he’s at work and posts it, then it becomes extremely popular. I’m sure you guys have heard of Alex from Target, and it’s a very similar concept to that one, though it obviously adds much more plot and drama to it. I enjoyed how this book took on the topic of social media and how it can easily impact someone so quickly. The interesting thing about it is what it means to become an overnight sensation, which is more and more common in our society of YouTube and other social media platforms. Though I liked the plot itself, I wasn’t a fan of all the typical high school cliches that went down. It didn’t feel all that unique in a lot of ways, which was disappointing. It was a good book, just not my favorite as a whole. It was mostly rather forgettable.

Rachel is a “nobody” who just happens to take a picture of her crush Kyle and is obviously shocked when it becomes insanely popular within hours. I thought that she was a solid character for the most part. I didn’t find her all that memorable though. I will admit that I sympathized with the fact that she was immediately cyberbullied for posting the picture. It’s definitely unfair how her appearance is automatically scrutinized though that had nothing to do with the picture itself. I do believe that’s realistic because the internet can obviously be really cruel for no reason.

Kyle is honestly kind of a douchebag. He’s working at a place in the mall when Rachel takes his picture and it goes viral online right away. He’s pretty popular in school and has a hot on and off girlfriend. He received his douchebag status for how he judged Rachel for literally no reason. I didn’t understand why he felt like she was weird. We had no evidence that she did anything weird besides the fact that her hair was curly. It just seemed like a super cliche and annoying thing to happen. He was just your typical high school cliche dude with not really anything special about him, in my opinion. There was nothing swoony or particularly memorable about his character. I will admit that I did find it interesting how fame affected him personally. I think the author did a nice job with this side of the storyline in particular.

As a couple, I honestly didn’t care all that much about Rachel and Kyle. I don’t know what it was exactly, I just wasn’t a fan. I think most of it was due to all the cliches that happened to them as a couple. There was the good old ex-girlfriend tries to break them up and several other tropes. I thought the whole fame thing did add an interesting dynamic here, but it wasn’t as developed as I was hoping it would be. I just wasn’t emotionally invested in them which made me sad.

Like I said, this wasn’t exactly a bad book but it wasn’t my favorite either. The writing and the plot itself was actually pretty good, it was the character, romance, and general cliches that made it not as enjoyable to me. It was still a pretty addicting read. I couldn’t stop reading it once I picked it up. Part of the reason why it wasn’t my favorite might be because I’m too old to really enjoy high school stories. So if you’re okay with a great deal of drama, you’ll probably like this.

three-stars

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ARC Review: Accidentally on Purpose

February 6, 2017 Reviews 0 ★★★★

ARC Review: Accidentally on PurposeAccidentally on Purpose (Heartbreaker Bay, #3) by Jill Shalvis
Published by Avon on January 24th 2017
Pages: 384
Source: Edelweiss
Also by this author: Sweet Little Lies (Heartbreaker Bay, #1), The Trouble with Mistletoe (Heartbreaker Bay, #2), One Snowy Night (Heartbreaker Bay, #2.5)
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four-stars

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

There’s no such thing as a little in love…
Elle Wheaten’s priorities: friends, career, and kick-ass shoes. Then there’s the muscular wall of stubbornness that’s security expert Archer Hunt—who comes before everything else. No point in telling Mr. “Feels-Free Zone” that, though. Elle will just see other men until she gets over Archer . . . which should only take a lifetime . . .
There’s no such thing as a little in lust…
Archer’s wanted the best for Elle ever since he sacrificed his law-enforcement career to save her. But now that she’s earned happiness and success, Archer just wants Elle 24/7. Their chemistry could start the next San Francisco Earthquake, and Archer doesn’t want to be responsible for the damage. The alternative? Watch her go out with guys who aren’t him . . .
There is such a thing as…
As far as Archer’s concerned, nobody is good enough for Elle. But when he sets out to prove it by sabotaging her dates, she gets mad—and things get hot as hell. Now Archer has a new mission: prove to Elle that her perfect man has been here all along…

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Jill Shalvis’s Heartbreaker Bay series. Ever since I first read Sweet Little Lies, I’ve been looking forward to getting the chance to read Elle and Archer’s book. From the previous stories, readers could tell that they had an electric chemistry that both of them were refusing to acknowledge. Anyway, I’m happy that we didn’t have to hold out any longer on getting a happy ending for the pair! I’m not sure if it’s my favorite in the series, but it’s definitely a memorable and awesome one to say the least. I recommend reading the other books in the series first due to how all the characters are connected and the small town life in general.

Elle has been an intriguing character to me from book one. She’s such a loving friend who is there for her girls automatically with no questions asked, but she’s also someone who doesn’t like needing people to be there for her. She’s stubborn and likes to take care of herself, and she’s pretty good at doing just that. Though she’s a badass boss, she does have a big heart. Basically, I love everything about this girl. She’s fierce, confident, and unapologetic about who she is but she has her vulnerable side as well. She isn’t as quirky as some of the other girls from the series like Pru, but she is still very unique and special nonetheless. She’s completely her own person, and that’s what is so great about her as a whole.

So Archer has always been this badass and mysterious guy who knows basically everything. He protects the people that he cares about at all costs, and he does everything he can to help out his friends, who might as well be his family. But like Elle, he’s also ridiculously stubborn and as some of his friends put it, he’s an “alpha.” Meaning, he feels like he has to dominate people and be in control at all times. Though he’s a tough egg to crack at times, I’ll be the first to admit that he’s an extremely swoony guy. Once you get down to it, he has a huge heart and at times it’s really adorable how he shows that he cares and loves Elle. He’s a guy who puts himself in danger all the time to help others, which is a seriously awesome and difficult thing to do. Sometimes he can be frustrating at times, but he’s a great character.

You guys, the romance between Elle and Archer was obviously a highlight of the book for me. It’s blatantly obvious to literally everyone but them that they have crazy chemistry, so it’s refreshing once they finally figure it out for themselves. At times, the romance gets rather hot, including a scene where they have “hate” sex. I’m always a fan when the characters have a history, and I thought that the story was well written. This isn’t a second chance love story though, they’ve never actually been together, but they have a sort of “platonic” history that we gradually learn about as the book progresses. I keep on saying it, but the romance is just seriously so fabulous that I have to ramble out it a little bit.

Accidentally on Purpose is a great addition to a wonderfully written series. There’s still so many characters in the series that have yet to receive a story and I can’t wait for that. Elle and Archer made an explosive couple from the start. I’m beyond happy that they were finally able to get their shit together and be happy as a couple. Although I clearly was a major fan of them as a couple, I also loved them separately. I thought they were both well developed characters who were just full of personality. This was a nice story and I recommend it! Next up, we finally get Spence’s story and I can’t wait for that.

four-stars

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ARC Review: By Your Side

February 4, 2017 Reviews, Young Adult 0 ★★★★

ARC Review: By Your SideBy Your Side by Kasie West
on January 31st, 2017
Source: Edelweiss
Also by this author: The Distance Between Us, The Fill-In Boyfriend, P.S. I Like You
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four-stars

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

In this irresistible story, Kasie West explores the timeless question of what to do when you fall for the person you least expect. Witty and romantic, this paperback original from a fan favorite is perfect for fans of Stephanie Perkins and Morgan Matson.
When Autumn Collins finds herself accidentally locked in the library for an entire weekend, she doesn’t think things could get any worse. But that’s before she realizes that Dax Miller is locked in with her. Autumn doesn’t know much about Dax except that he’s trouble. Between the rumors about the fight he was in (and that brief stint in juvie that followed it) and his reputation as a loner, he’s not exactly the ideal person to be stuck with. Still, she just keeps reminding herself that it is only a matter of time before Jeff, her almost-boyfriend, realizes he left her in the library and comes to rescue her.
Only he doesn’t come. No one does.
Instead it becomes clear that Autumn is going to have to spend the next couple of days living off vending-machine food and making conversation with a boy who clearly wants nothing to do with her. Except there is more to Dax than meets the eye. As he and Autumn first grudgingly, and then not so grudgingly, open up to each other, Autumn is struck by their surprising connection. But can their feelings for each other survive once the weekend is over and Autumn’s old life, and old love interest, threaten to pull her from Dax’s side?

As you can probably tell by now, I’m a big fan of Kasie West. There isn’t a book by her that I haven’t really enjoyed. I’ve given her past two books five stars because I loved them so much. I’m happy to report that By Your Side is pretty great as well. It has a lot of angst going on here, but I really did enjoy the main storyline. I was just honestly expecting a little more focus on the whole library part of the story since that’s what the synopsis talks about. Anyway, it was yet another solid and swoony book from my girl Kasie, and I can’t wait to read her next book! Seriously though, is she capable of writing a bad book? I don’t think so.

Autumn was a wonderful protagonist. I have to admit that she probably isn’t the most memorable, but she’s still a real and relatable character that I really enjoyed all around. I felt like her struggles with anxiety were well discussed and portrayed. As someone who’s struggled with anxiety, I’m happy to see that authors are representing it more and more since it’s a topic that needs to be discussed in YA books specifically. So yeah, I liked Autumn and I felt like she was well written and well developed as a whole. Was she perfect? Of course not, but who is? She’s your average teenager who makes some dumb mistakes along the way, but that’s what makes her so easy to relate to.

Dax was definitely a troubled character. I normally don’t really go for the “bad boy” types, but she actually makes this one work for the most part. Dax has a lot of baggage and a history that is extremely tragic and heartbreaking all around. As far as I can remember, Kasie has never written a love interest quite like him. Because of his past, he was understandably pretty closed up and refused to let anyone close to him. At first this was a little annoying because we weren’t sure why he acted this way, but as the book progressed, we learned more and more about his history. I think that Kasie did a great job writing his character. I honestly just wanted to hug him again and again at certain points in the book.

As a couple, they make a pretty cute one eventually. They have a great deal of drama that gets in the way of things at times, but they are a sweet couple once it really comes down to it. The romance is a rather slow-moving one, but I thought it was at a realistic pace. Although at times I just really really wanted them to get it together already. As I mentioned, Dax has a rough background, and he’s very very careful about who he lets in. As they are trapped in the library, they slowly begin to rely on each other a little bit more and he slowly lets his guard down with her. It’s a beautiful moment once this finally happens. There were so many cute scenes that happened between them during their time in the library. They didn’t kiss or anything, but the moments where they were just getting to know each other was so adorable and I loved reading it.

Kasie West has written another fun and easy book to read. I started this one with absolutely no intention of reading it in one sitting, but somehow I managed to do that anyway. It’s a wonderful and sweet read. Who hasn’t thought about being trapped in a library? I know that I have, but especially if someone hot was trapped with me. There was a lot of drama, and some of it was a little much at times. However, I think that Kasie did the best that she could. Though this wasn’t my favorite, it was still pretty good.

four-stars

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ARC Review: Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World

January 24, 2017 Reviews, Young Adult 1 ★★★★½

ARC Review: Here We Are: Feminism for the Real WorldHere We Are: Feminism for the Real World by Kelly Jensen
on January 24th, 2017
Source: Edelweiss
Buy on AmazonBarnes & NobleThe Book Depository
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four-half-stars

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Let’s get the feminist party started!  Here We Are is a scrapbook-style teen guide to understanding what it means to be a twenty-first-century feminist. It’s packed with contributions from a diverse range of voices, including TV, film, and pop-culture celebrities and public figures such as ballet dancer Michaela DePrince and her sister Mia and politician Wendy Davis, as well as popular authors like Nova Ren Suma, Malinda Lo, Brandy Colbert, Courtney Summers, and many more. All together, the book features more than forty-four pieces and illustrations.
Here We Are is a response to lively discussions about the true meaning of feminism on social media and across popular culture and is an invitation to one of the most important, life-changing, and exciting parties around.

I’ve been tremendously picky about giving five star reviews, I have still yet to give one out in 2017. However, this one comes about the closest to getting one so far. I really enjoyed this because it’s a beautiful and intriguing take on feminism. It’s also the most inclusive collection about the topic that I’ve seen yet. Kelly Jenson did an incredible job at picking from such a huge variety of voices from all walks of life. Regardless of your thoughts on feminism, this is an important thing to read. This was extremely easy to read, I read it in just a sitting or two. Like I said, you need to read Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World, that’s honestly all there is to say on the matter.

So I could go on and on about how important this is, but I won’t bore you with those repetitive details. Feminism is something that people have very strong opinions about. A lot of people that I know, particularly girls my own age, think that it isn’t important. There’s this one article in particular that a Facebook friend recently shared (she called it ridiculous thankfully) that made me absolutely crazy. The author says that she’s so “over” feminism and that she completely twists around basically everything that feminism stands for in the first place. I personally learned even more about feminism and how much I needed it when I was a junior or senior in high school. At the same time though, I’m still constantly learning more about feminism and how exactly it works. My rant about this subject here is to show my own personal history with feminism. The reason why I think this is such an important matter to talk about is due to people like the college student who wrote that piece totally trashing it. At it’s core, feminism simply means that both men and women are equal, and what’s so wrong about that? Yes, there is obviously a lot more to it than just that, which I think the book explains in a fabulous and informative way.

I never really know how to review anthologies like this one. In this case, I’m not going to go over them one by one since there’s a lot of them, but just going to discuss some of my personal favorites. After reading the introduction of the book, I was afraid that there would be tons of essays that were previously published elsewhere. For example, an excerpt from Roxane Gay’s book Bad Feminist is included here. I loved Bad Feminist and highly recommend that you read all of it. I was afraid that there wouldn’t be a lot of totally creative content here, but I was definitely wrong about that. Though they’ve included some other work that was previously published somewhere else, each of them makes complete sense in this specific collection. I love that Lily Myers’ “Shrinking Women” is included here. I heard this spoken word poetry a few years back and absolutely loved it. At the same time, I feel like I understand the true meaning of it a lot more clearly now that I’m a little bit older. Some new content that I loved were fantastic essays by Senator Wendy Davis, Sarah McCarry about growing up hating girls, Siobhan Vivian’s personal letter, Ashley Hope Perez about being a nice girl, and Brenna Clarke Gray’s take on fandom and fanfiction, and many more!

This book was a wonderful and unique take on feminism. I truly hope that it will make a difference on the lives of teenagers who know very little about the topic. I’m not sure if it will change minds that are already fully against feminism, but I think that it just might be able to do that. If you want to read a more in-depth and powerful review about this collection, go check out Emily’s because she makes some awesome points that I didn’t touch on. As I keep saying, we need this book now more than ever. Feminism shouldn’t be a dirty word, we need to embrace that and I hope that this book will help get that started even more than it already has. I can’t recommend it enough!

four-half-stars

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ARC Review: History Is All You Left Me

January 19, 2017 Reviews, Young Adult 1 ★★★★

ARC Review: History Is All You Left MeHistory Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
Published by Soho Teen on January 17th 2017
Pages: 320
Source: Edelweiss
Also by this author: More Happy Than Not
Buy on AmazonBarnes & NobleThe Book Depository
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four-stars

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course.
To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart.
If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.

So I read this book back in August and I planned on re-reading it closer to the release date, but haven’t had the time to do that yet. Luckily though, this book is such a powerful one that it’s still managed to stick with me all these months later. I think that this is a compelling and beautiful story. Yes, it’s a highly emotional one and you’ll probably cry throughout most of the story. Regardless, Griffin’s story is so important and it needs to be told. I strongly recommend reading this one. You just have to be prepared to read it all in just a few sittings because you won’t be able to put it down.

My heart was totally broken for Griffin throughout the novel. On top of the fact that his first love and best friend just died, he’s also doing his best to manage his OCD. Though I personally am not OCD, one of my best friends is and I feel like he would be pretty pleased with Silvera’s portrayal of it here. I’m not entirely sure if the author does have this or not, but either way, he still managed to capture how scary and overwhelming it is. It’s not something that you can just turn off, and I loved how realistic Adam showcased this. Like I said, the dude is also understandably a hot mess over the death of his best friend and first love, who he never really got over. I definitely wanted to give poor Griffin so many hugs as he struggled with this huge loss. I really liked Griffin and found him easy to relate to, but at the same time, I wanted to shake him before he made some terrible choices. Although it was sad to see him make some of these choices just due to how hurt he was, it was also very real. As humans, we all make some huge mistakes that we probably wouldn’t under normal circumstances. Maybe it’s frustrating, but I like that he’s messy and flawed just like everyone else is.

So talking about the other characters is where it gets a bit more complicated. We have Theo, who is the ex-boyfriend that I keep mentioning. Though he isn’t alive at the start of the book, we do get to see a lot of him through flashbacks. There we get to learn about how adorable the friendship and relationship was between them. Part of the reason why I shipped it despite knowing that it wasn’t going to end well was because of all the nerdy references that this relationship was basically built on. There’s so many perfect references to things like Harry Potter and Star Wars. I wasn’t a fan of how things ended between them just because I was so invested in them as a couple. Then more characters are added to the equation like the boyfriend that Theo had in California named Jackson. I wanted to hate Jackson since he was with Theo, but it slowly became more clear that his feelings for him were extremely genuine in an entirely different way so I ultimately sympathized with him as well. Although Griffin knew Theo much longer, Jackson was suffering a tremendous amount as well.

In the end, History Is All You Left Me is a book that you need to read. Adam Silvera has written such an emotional story, but it’s also a beautiful and hopeful book as well. So you should prepare to get your soul completely crushed over much of this writing. Griffin was a wonderfully complex and fascinating main character to read about. He made some devastating choices along the way, but that’s what made him even more human and perfectly flawed to me. I don’t know about you guys, but I love reading books that contain realistic characters. I prefer not to read stories with characters that contain these wonderful qualities that you never come across in real life. The point is, you need this book in your life and be prepared to weep over it.

four-stars

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ARC Review: The Secret of a Heart Note

January 11, 2017 Reviews, Young Adult 0 ★★★★

ARC Review: The Secret of a Heart NoteThe Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on December 27th 2016
Pages: 384
Source: Edelweiss
Also by this author: Outrun the Moon
Buy on AmazonBarnes & NobleThe Book Depository
Goodreads
four-stars

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

An evocative novel about a teen aroma expert who uses her extrasensitive sense of smell to mix perfumes that help others fall in love while protecting her own heart at all costs
Sometimes love is right under your nose. As one of only two aromateurs left on the planet, sixteen-year-old Mimosa knows what her future holds: a lifetime of weeding, mixing love elixirs, and matchmaking—all while remaining incurably alone. For Mim, the rules are clear: falling in love would render her nose useless, taking away her one great talent. Still, Mimosa doesn’t want to spend her life elbow-deep in soil and begonias. She dreams of a normal high school experience with friends, sports practices, debate club, and even a boyfriend. But when she accidentally gives an elixir to the wrong woman and has to rely on the lovesick woman’s son, the school soccer star, to help fix the situation, Mim quickly begins to realize that falling in love isn’t always a choice you can make.
At once hopeful, funny, and romantic, Stacey Lee’s The Secret of a Heart Note is a richly evocative coming-of-age story that gives a fresh perspective on falling in love and finding one’s place in the world.

So Stacey Lee’s book Outrun the Moon was one of the only non-contemporary books that I really enjoyed last year. It had a memorable and touching plot, and also an incredible main character. Although this book is absolutely nothing like her last book, I knew that I had to pick up this one since it has more of a romance and contemporary vibe to it. Besides, Stacey Lee is such a beautiful writer, I can already tell that I’m going to be picking up basically anything that she writes. The Secret of a Heart Note was a fast paced and well written book all around. I highly recommend it if you don’t mind a little bit of magical realism. It’s a great and fun read overall!

Mimosa or Mim was such a cool character, and I loved her right off the bat. She’s such an honest and real character. She has her flaws for sure, but she always means well. I definitely sympathized with Mim as she longed to fit in at her school. Being an aromateur, or a love witch (what the kids call her) can’t be an easy job, but she does the best that she can. Her and her mom are the only aromateurs that are left. They both have an extremely sensitive sense of smell and they use that to mix special perfumes that help the right people fall in love. Though Mim does enjoy her job to an extent, she also wants to be a typical teenager, not someone that most teens are afraid of being around. I feel like a lot of teens can relate to her desire to fit in on some level. She’s a realistic and fascinating character. She’s certainly one that I’m not going to be forgetting anytime soon!

You guys, the romance in this book is all kinds of different levels of adorable. I absolutely loved it and felt like it couldn’t have been written any better. It’s actually a rather small part of the novel in the grand scheme of everything else. However, I still liked it anyway because of how subtle yet memorable it turned out to be for me. Court is just a downright nice guy, though I would have enjoyed learning and seeing more of him in the book. But I have to say that I completely understand that this is Mim’s story, not Court’s. So in the beginning, Mim is afraid of letting him in because boys automatically get a crush on her if she accidentally contaminates them with her perfume somehow. She keeps a special perfume that her and her best friend call “Boy Be Gone” which gets rid of the feelings. This side of things make it very complicated once she falls for Court.

There’s a lot of themes in this book that ultimately stay with you as a reader. One theme is the friendship that Mim has with her best friend Kali. Kali is pretty much Mim’s only friend, but she’s an incredible one to her. I really thought this friendship was beautiful and real all the way around. It wasn’t a perfect one, but what friendship or relationship in general ever is? I thought Kali was a fabulously diverse and fantastic character, and her friendship with Mim was fun to read about. Another theme revolves around family. Mim’s mom is nothing but tough on her about pretty much everything. This makes it basically impossible to have a normal teen life with her mom constantly pushing her and wanting something from her. This might seem like your typical teen parental problems, but I felt like it was much more complicated and compelling than just that. We also have the relationship between Mim’s mom and her twin sister, who gave up being an aromateur for love, which caused the sisters to stop speaking. I thought this was another unique and cool theme to have.

As a whole, I’m happy that I read this one. I honestly wasn’t sure if I’d like it since I’ve never read a magical realism story before. I thought I’d take a chance on this author since it paid off the first time around, and it definitely paid off this time as well. Have I mentioned that I’m happy that I read this one yet? I also don’t really care much about scents or flowers, but Lee made me actually care about all of this information. Though an aromateur isn’t an actual thing, it still seemed like the author did so much research on what it was. In other words, she made it seem totally real to me, which isn’t an easy thing for an author to achieve. This should really be a book that you don’t miss and I recommend trying her other stories while you’re at it!

four-stars

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