Source: Netgalley

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ARC Review: It Started With Goodbye

May 15, 2017 Reviews, Young Adult 0 ★★★

ARC Review: It Started With GoodbyeIt Started With Goodbye by Christina June
Published by Blink/HarperCollins on May 9th 2017
Pages: 304
Source: Netgalley
Buy on AmazonBarnes & NobleThe Book Depository
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three-stars

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

Sixteen-year-old Tatum Elsea is bracing for the worst summer of her life. After being falsely accused of a crime, she’s stuck under stepmother-imposed house arrest and her BFF’s gone ghost. Tatum fills her newfound free time with community service by day and working at her covert graphic design business at night (which includes trading emails with a cute cello-playing client). When Tatum discovers she’s not the only one in the house keeping secrets, she finds she has the chance to make amends with her family and friends. Equipped with a new perspective, and assisted by her feisty step-abuela-slash-fairy-godmother, Tatum is ready to start fresh and maybe even get her happy ending along the way.

I was automatically drawn to this by the impressive and beautiful cover. In the end, it turned out to be a cute and well written debut. It definitely captured my interest for the most part, but I was expecting more from the romance. I thought that the character development for all the other characters was important, but I missed a solid romance. Ultimately, it was a good enough book, though it just missed the mark from being a really great one in my book. For me, it belongs in the category of contemporary books that I’ve read this year that have only been okay and weren’t extremely memorable for me. I think that many readers will likely enjoy it due to its similarities to Cinderella, and the characters in general. As a whole though, I can’t say that it was entirely the book for me on a personal level.

Tatum was a good main character. I can’t say that she’s my favorite or anything, she wasn’t totally memorable to me all around. I did like the fact that she was into graphic design. I thought that was at least one unique side to her personality that made her standout. Other than that though, I wasn’t super impressed. She did fit well into the Cinderella role. Meaning that was kind, smart, hard worker, and loyal. She was a decent character, and that’s honestly as much as I feel the need to say about her.

As for the love interest, I feel like he was a little weak. I won’t reveal his actual name since it isn’t discovered until near the end of the book. While the style of the relationship itself was done in a unique and fairly special way, it still wasn’t enough for me. For me to be totally on board with a relationship, I need to get to know both people involved. In this case, I felt like I didn’t know this guy at all. In a way, the relationship part was similar to Geekerella. The main difference being that we were actually inside the head of that love interest, so we knew him on a deeper level. I think I might have liked this specific character a little bit better if we received his POV.

Like I already said, the relationship was different, and it didn’t work for me. For a relationship that is built mostly through letters, I need to feel like the love interests personality really comes through. A perfect example of this is Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. We only get a few scenes of Blue in person, but we learn so much about his personality through the letters and you can’t help but fall in love with him. For whatever reason, the love interest in this one didn’t have a similar impact on me. I thought that the romance was a very weak aspect of the plot. It didn’t feel realistic to me, and I didn’t find the love interest to be all that swoony.

It Starts with Goodbye was a book that I wanted to absolutely fall in love with. I’m always a fan of modern day Cinderella retellings, especially when the changes made are pretty creative ones. Though I am saying plenty of negative things, I have to admit that there were still plenty of things that I did like about the book. It was fast paced, I was able to read it in just a number of hours. As I said earlier, the characters are all very well developed and there’s a lot of depth to them, besides the love interest. I wasn’t blown away by this book, but it was still entertaining. I think readers will really like this one!

three-stars

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ARC Review: Girl Out of Water

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

ARC Review: Girl Out of WaterGirl Out of Water by Laura Silverman
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on May 2nd 2017
Pages: 320
Source: Netgalley
Buy on AmazonBarnes & NobleThe Book Depository
Goodreads
three-stars

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

Anise Sawyer plans to spend every minute of summer with her friends: surfing, chowing down on fish tacos drizzled with wasabi balsamic vinegar, and throwing bonfires that blaze until dawn. But when a serious car wreck leaves her aunt, a single mother of three, with two broken legs, it forces Anise to say goodbye for the first time to Santa Cruz, the waves, her friends, and even a kindling romance, and fly with her dad to Nebraska for the entire summer. Living in Nebraska isn’t easy. Anise spends her days caring for her three younger cousins in the childhood home of her runaway mom, a wild figure who’s been flickering in and out of her life since birth, appearing for weeks at a time and then disappearing again for months, or even years, without a word.
Complicating matters is Lincoln, a one-armed, charismatic skater who pushes Anise to trade her surfboard for a skateboard. As Anise draws closer to Lincoln and takes on the full burden and joy of her cousins, she loses touch with her friends back home – leading her to one terrifying question: will she turn out just like her mom and spend her life leaving behind the ones she loves

I was expecting just a little bit more from this book. It was a solid debut, but my ridiculously high standards going into this might have been unfair. I’ve heard nothing but absolutely rave reviews about it so that’s what I was anticipating. It’s a good book, but not a great one. In my opinion, it felt as if it were missing something. I loved Lincoln, and there’s no way I can ever deny that. I just wasn’t a fan of the romantic choices made outside of Lincoln. Anyway, it was a nice light summer read that was mostly enjoyable. I just wasn’t completely captivated by it for whatever reason. It was just a mostly forgettable read that didn’t make that big of an impact on me personally. I hope I have better luck with this author’s next book!

Anise was a character that I found it difficult to identify with. She was pretty selfish in the beginning, and I didn’t agree with some of her choices. At the same time though, she’s just a teenager who’s trying to figure out who she is. I feel like she did have some character growth throughout, but not really that much. However, it seriously bothered me that she just stopped talking to her friends when she went to Nebraska. There was no good reason for it and it pissed me off honestly. I thought it was awesome that she was a surfer, though we obviously don’t get many scenes of this since she leaves California at the beginning of the novel for the summer. I just thought it was cool that she did it at all. For me, she was just an average character that didn’t have that many unique things about her that stood out to me.

You guys, Lincoln is a super cool guy. I don’t know if he’s one of my favorite book boyfriends of all time, but he’s definitely one of the better ones of the year. I wanted to know even more about his adoption and his history. I felt like in their interactions, Anise was always talking about her life much more than Lincoln was talking about his. He’s a good guy all around that I desperately wanted to see even more. Part of me wishes that this was told in dual points of view so we could get his side of it as well. He’s a sweet and swoony character.

The romance between Lincoln and Anise was pretty good. I feel like it did progress rather quickly. But I really liked seeing all of the adventures that they went on together. I also thought it was awesome how they initially bonded over Lincoln teaching her how to skateboard. I didn’t identify with how competitive Anise was about learning this so quickly, but I did like how patient and fun Lincoln was about it. All in all, the relationship that they had was a cute little summer romance that I really enjoyed.

Girl Out of Water is a decent book all around. It’s not really my favorite, but it was still a light and remotely fluffy book that I needed. It’s a good summer book that I do recommend. It wasn’t totally my kind of book due to my lack of being able to connect with the main character. I did really enjoy the supporting characters. Her three cousins were seriously adorable and I loved them. I also loved Anise’s relationship with her dad. I thought that was well written. I recommend this if you’re just looking for a fun read to kick off your summer. For me, it just felt like something was missing.

three-stars

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ARC Review: Noteworthy

May 3, 2017 Reviews, Young Adult 0 ★★★★

ARC Review: NoteworthyNoteworthy by Riley Redgate
Published by Amulet Books on May 2nd 2017
Pages: 400
Source: Netgalley
Buy on AmazonBarnes & NobleThe Book Depository
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four-stars

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

It’s the start of Jordan Sun’s junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts. Unfortunately, she’s an Alto 2, which—in the musical theatre world—is sort of like being a vulture in the wild: She has a spot in the ecosystem, but nobody’s falling over themselves to express their appreciation. So it’s no surprise when she gets shut out of the fall musical for the third year straight.
Then the school gets a mass email: A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshiped ... revered ... all male. Desperate to prove herself, Jordan auditions in her most convincing drag, and it turns out that Jordan Sun, Tenor 1, is exactly what the Sharps are looking for.

Noteworthy was a pleasant surprise for me. I meant to read this author’s debut, but just never really got around to doing it. I’ve heard nothing but good things about this one so far, and since it’s also about a cappella groups, I thought it’d be my cup of tea. Turns out, this was exactly the book that I was looking for. I’ve had some bad luck with YA contemporary books here recently, but this one ended up breaking that streak thankfully! It was a wonderfully delight and lighthearted read that I was able to devour in just one sitting. I’m glad that I gave this one a chance and I’m hoping you’ll do the same.

So the plot for this book is basically She’s The Man meets Pitch Perfect. Jordan goes to a super rad arts school, but is sick of never being cast in any of the school productions. Once she sees that a spot is available for a male a cappella group, she immediately jumps at the opportunity. Much to her surprise, she gets the spot, which leads her to have to continually pretend to be a boy. I really liked how Redgate made a clear and sensitive distinction that Jordan is not transgender and she doesn’t mean to offend transgender people by crossdressing. I thought the exploration of her sexuality was really well written. Over the course of the novel, Jordan gradually comes to the realization that she’s bisexual. This is not touched on a whole lot, but I think that it’s done in a realistic way. Jordan is just a teenager who is trying to discover who she is, so obviously she doesn’t have her sexuality completely figured out yet. I thought that Jordan was an absolutely badass person. I totally connected with her and I love her a lot.

I’m not going to touch on the love interest too much here because I’d rather talk about the group as a whole. I will say that the love interest is in the a cappella group, and you’ll probably guess who it is from the first time that you’re introduced to him. Romance does play a pretty big part in the book, but I think the boys themselves are all rather important. I loved them all but especially Nihal. He’s the one who Jordan connects with the most (besides the love interest) and you can’t help but love him from the first page. He has such a big heart, and he’s such a diverse and beautiful character as a whole. While she wasn’t as close to them as Nihal, you can’t help but love Mama and Jon Cox, who were ridiculously hilarious and lovable. Trav, Isaac, Erik, and Marcus were all such unique and lovely developed characters. I could go on and on about the greatness of these guys, but I just want you guys to figure it out for yourselves!

I sound like a broken record at this point, but you guys need this book in your life. I’m a big a cappella person in general, so this book was a dream come true for me. I’d say that it’s probably one of my favorite books of the year so far. I hesitated giving it five stars because it isn’t super realistic if you really think about it hard enough, but that doesn’t take away from how enjoyable and entertaining it was. I was fully invested in the characters and their relationships. I seriously want a spin-off dedicated to my amazing boy Nihal. He deserves a happy ending, that’s for sure. Noteworthy was a fun read that I wasn’t expecting. I’m glad that I gave it a chance, and I now know that I need to get around to reading Redgate’s debut. All I have left to say is read this!

four-stars

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ARC Review: Geekerella

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

ARC Review: GeekerellaGeekerella: A Fangirl Fairy Tale by Ashley Poston
Published by Quirk Books on April 4th 2017
Pages: 320
Source: Netgalley
Also by this author: We Own the Night
Buy on AmazonBarnes & NobleThe Book Depository
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four-stars

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

Cinderella goes to the con in this fandom-fueled twist on the classic fairy tale.
Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad's old costume), Elle's determined to win unless her stepsisters get there first.
Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons before he was famous. Now they re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he's ever wanted, but the Starfieldfandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.
Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom."

Wow, this was a great book! I didn’t really like this author’s book We Own the Night, but decided to give this a shot because of the summary. I’m also a sucker for sweet contemporary reads and anything about geek culture. This wasn’t my absolute favorite, but it was still a book that I really enjoyed. It was also extremely fast paced. I was able to read it in just a few sittings. I look forward to reading whatever Ashley Poston decides to write next. I’m glad that I was given the opportunity to pick this one up. You should read it if you’re a fan of fairytale retellings, geeky things, and just cute and light contemporary stories.

Elle was a strong character all in all. She was sassy and I just adored so much about her personality. I definitely related to her geeky side. I also understand her taking refuge in the internet instead of in the outside world. She was just an entirely relatable character. However, I desperately wanted her to stand up for herself. I get that the author was staying close to the original Cinderella story in this respect, but it was still frustrating, especially towards the end. I didn’t understand why she continually allowed her stepmother to treat her like trash when she had basically no reason to live with her. Maybe I’m making too much out of this, but it bothered me quite a bit.

Darian was a decent character. He might have been a big star who just landed a huge role, but he certainly didn’t always act like it. Though he comes off as a jerk to Elle, we learn that there’s a lot more to him. He actually turns out to be a complicated character. Becoming famous has caused him to lose all of his friends and he doesn’t know who to trust. His dad is also his manager, and isn’t much of a dad to him since he’s too concerned with his career. His problems might not be as rough as Elle’s, but he’s still got them for sure. Anyway, I thought he was sweet and swoony. He was a total geek fanboy before he became famous. He’s just as obsessed with Starfield as Elle is, and it was his dream role to play Carmindor. I thought that he was a great book boyfriend. He wasn’t perfect, but I still liked him a lot!

Darian and Elle made a sweet couple. Some people might be bothered that the majority of their interactions take place through text messages. They don’t meet each at the convention until the end of the book. When they do meet, they don’t know they’ve been talking and they don’t get along right away. That being said, I still found the relationship that they built over text to be adorable. It felt very real and sweet, there’s really no better words to describe it. We don’t get a lot of kissing scenes obviously, but I still thought the relationship was well written for the most part. It might not work for some people, but I thought it was great!

Geekerella was a refreshing and unique modern take on the classic tale. I thought that the fangirl angle was so relevant. Elle was a fabulous main character. The supporting characters were memorable as well, specifically her fairy godmother Sage. She was so hilarious and charming all around. Do you guys think I’ve used the word sweet enough in my review? That’s truly the best word I can think of to describe this book. It’s not perfect, but it’s still really great. I think readers are going to find it to be a compelling and charming read! I hope that you guys give it a chance.

four-stars

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ARC Review: Things I Should Have Known

March 29, 2017 Reviews, Young Adult 0 ★★★½

ARC Review: Things I Should Have KnownThings I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on March 28th 2017
Source: Netgalley
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three-half-stars

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

From the author of Epic Fail comes the story of Chloe Mitchell, a Los Angeles girl on a quest to find love for her autistic sister, Ivy. Ethan, from Ivy’s class, seems like the perfect match. It’s unfortunate that his older brother, David, is one of Chloe’s least favorite people, but Chloe can deal, especially when she realizes that David is just as devoted to Ethan as she is to Ivy.
Uncommonly honest and refreshingly funny, this is a story about sisterhood, autism, and first love. Chloe, Ivy, David, and Ethan, who form a quirky and lovable circle, will steal readers’ hearts and remind us all that it’s okay to be a different kind of normal.  

Things I Should Have Known is a fast paced and refreshing story. I’ve never read anything by this author before, but I’m definitely going to look into her other stories now. I was looking for a heartfelt and not overly heavy contemporary read, and that’s exactly what I received here. The plot is a rather unique one, and we need more YA novels that deal with teens caring for their sibling who is autistic. The romance was also realistic, sweet, and charming. I recommend reading this if you want to read something relevant and important, with some swoon thrown in for good measure. I’m happy that I read this!

Chloe is a fierce and great character. She’s not perfect but what teenager is? I really respected her for being able to step up and take care of her sister when her mom isn’t so great at doing it. She’s a seventeen year old girl who has responsibilities that most teens never have to worry about. I wasn’t always a fan of how she didn’t stand up for her sister more when her friends/boyfriend would make rather offensive offhand comments about her. She didn’t want them to think that she was overreacting, which is something that I do understand. She made mistakes, but she was still a solid character as a whole.

The main thing that you need to know about David is that he’s a feminist. Some people may not love him right off the bat (or maybe at all) but I still liked him in the end. He’s a grumpy jerk for basically no reason at all. He doesn’t have some tragic backstory or anything. I ended up liking him so much because as the book progresses, we learn how sensitive and sweet he really is. The fact that he cries is awesome to me. We don’t get the chance to see that side of most love interests in YA books so I thought this was specifically refreshing. He was so sweet to his brother Ethan (who is also autistic) and I loved his relationship with him as well. So just keep in mind that while he has a grumpy exterior in the beginning, he’s a true softy underneath and I truly enjoyed seeing this.

So let’s talk about Chloe’s sister Ivy. As mentioned, she’s autistic and Chloe takes care of her for the most part since her mom is too concerned with her husband to primarily care for her. Anyway, I thought that Ivy was so sweet and brave. I thought that her autism was written in an honest and well researched fashion. The relationship between Chloe and Ivy is pretty much the entire purpose of the book. I felt like it was definitely well written and realistic. I loved the bond that they shared.

If you’re not a fan of hate to love romances, you’ll probably not like this one. There’s A LOT of hate going on. And it’s not like they used to be friends but now they hate each other. Nope, they’ve just always hated each other for whatever reason. There’s also the fact that Chloe has a boyfriend, which I didn’t love. I did appreciate how the relationship between them slowly and realistically progressed. The romance wasn’t my favorite, but it still had a little swoon.

Although it wasn’t exactly perfect, this was still a nice novel. Chloe was a funny, sarcastic, and kind teenager. I know a lot of people who aren’t a fan of some of the themes/tropes like hate to love, mean girls, and a love triangle, so you should probably stay clear if that’s you. If you’re able to overlook this, you get a clever and fairly unique story. I enjoyed this one for the most part. I felt like the author did a decent job at writing realistic teenagers. I’m glad that I had the chance to read this one.

three-half-stars

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ARC Review: Undeclared

March 13, 2017 Reviews 0 ★★★

ARC Review: UndeclaredUndeclared (Burnham College, #2) by Julianna Keyes
Published by Julianna Keyes on February 27th 2017
Pages: 236
Source: Netgalley
Also by this author: Undecided
Buy on AmazonBarnes & NobleThe Book Depository
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three-stars

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

Kellan McVey is Burnham College’s most prolific athlete, partier, and ladies’ man—and that’s just how he likes it. Returning to reign for his third year, he wants nothing to change. Then Andrea Walsh shows up.
It wasn’t too long ago that Andi and Kellan were lifelong friends, mortal enemies, and, for one hot summer, more. Then Kellan left and Andi stayed behind.
Kellan thought he’d moved past that last summer’s heartbreak, but with Andi sitting next to him in class, befriending his friends, and battling for the same once-in-a-lifetime job opportunity, he’s starting to remember why he hated her…and why he loved her.
Kellan has a long list of reasons that falling for Andi again is a terrible idea, though every new moment together challenges that theory. But Andi’s all too familiar with Kellan’s love ’em and leave ’em approach—and she’s found someone else to get serious about.
Burnham’s campus king has never had to fight for a girl, but if he wants Andi to give him another chance, he’ll have to do the one thing he’s never had the nerve to do: admit it.

Undecided was one of my favorite books last year, and easily the best NA book that I read. It was hilarious, easy to relate to, and memorable. I was beyond excited for Kellan’s story, but sadly, I didn’t find him to be as compelling and swoony as Crosbie. Honestly, I was just even more prepared to read Undecided all over again after reading this one. It definitely wasn’t bad, I just didn’t fully relate to it in the way that I was anticipating. This one had a bit more angst to it and a lot more side stories and characters. I would totally read a third book if Keyes decides to continue on, but this wasn’t my favorite. Hopefully I’ll have better luck next time.

Like I said, I didn’t love Kellan as much as my boy Crosbie. I found him intriguing in Undecided and in dire need of a girl to set him straight. I’m never a major fans of big playboys, and that’s exactly what Kellan is. Fortunately though, we don’t see that side of him in this book, he’s now a lot more grounded and less focused on women as a whole. He had his swoony moments, but I just wasn’t blown away by him for the most part. I thought he was a good guy, but not overly memorable. My standards might have been too high to begin with, but they still weren’t met. I’m glad that he received his own story, it just wasn’t exactly what I was expecting.

Andi was Kellan’s love interest. She and Kellan have serious history with each other. I’ll talk more about their relationship and how it started in the next paragraph. So basically I feel like we don’t know enough about Andi. The main thing that we know about her is that she’s a tomboy who is on the volleyball team and loves playing all sports. She also has a strong idea about what she wants to do for the rest of her life. Other than that though, I didn’t feel very connected to her. I wanted to learn more about her personality and interests. Maybe part of it was that we didn’t get her perspective at all, I’m not sure. All I know is that I wanted more information. With what we knew, I wasn’t completely able to relate to her like I did with Nora. She was a good character with a good personality, but not memorable since I didn’t fully understand her and what she was all about as a person.

So as I mentioned, Kellan and Andi have some serious personal history. They were next door neighbors and best friends growing up. They also had a summer fling the summer before Kellan left for college. Andi was the person that the big playboy lost his virginity to. I’m typically a fan of second chance romances. I wasn’t 100% okay with this one because I thought that it was messed up how he knew that Andi was in love with him for so long but he still strung her along and treated her like crap. Sometimes he wasn’t even aware of what we was doing, but he still knew how she felt about him. I thought his past behavior was wrong, he could have handled how things went between them towards the end of their first romance way better. I did think that things between them were pretty steamy. I did like them as a couple once they got everything figured out, it just took them a very long time to finally get there.

Undeclared wasn’t a bad story by any means, but I simply didn’t enjoy it as much as I did Undecided. I’m not sure exactly what it was about it that didn’t completely click with me, I think it might have been the characters and the plot. I felt like some of the plot was a little scattered in how it focused on other characters outside of Andi and Kellan. I know that sounds weird to say, but there was this freshman who Kellan briefly goes out with and I thought it was weird how the plot spent some time on her. In my opinion, that time could have been spent on giving us even more insight into who Andi is and more of her friendship with Kellan. The writing was great, I just didn’t love this one in the end.

three-stars

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ARC Review: Off the Ice

March 6, 2017 Reviews, Young Adult 0 ★★★

ARC Review: Off the IceOff the Ice (Juniper Falls, #1) by Julie Cross
Published by Entangled: Teen on February 28th 2017
Pages: 320
Source: Netgalley
Also by this author: Whatever Life Throws at You, Third Degree, You Before Anyone Else
Buy on AmazonBarnes & NobleThe Book Depository
Goodreads
three-stars

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

All is fair in love and hockey…
Claire O’Connor is back in Juniper Falls, but that doesn’t mean she wants to be. One semester off, that’s what she promised herself. Just long enough to take care of her father and keep the family business—a hockey bar beside the ice rink—afloat. After that, she’s getting the hell out. Again.
Enter Tate Tanley. What happened between them the night before she left town resurfaces the second they lay eyes on each other. But the guy she remembers has been replaced by a total hottie. When Tate is unexpectedly called in to take over for the hockey team’s star goalie, suddenly he’s in the spotlight and on his way to becoming just another egotistical varsity hockey player. And Claire’s sworn off Juniper Falls hockey players for good.
It’s the absolute worst time to fall in love.
For Tate and Claire, hockey isn’t just a game. And they both might not survive a body check to the heart.

I’ve been a fan of Julie Cross since I read Whatever Life Throws at You over a year ago. This is my fourth book that I’ve read of hers so far, and I do plan on reading more from her in the future. However, this one was far from being my favorite. I was hoping since it’s about sports, that would make it automatically amazing, but it unfortunately didn’t for me. It wasn’t a bad book by any means, but it didn’t completely capture my attention because of the somewhat slow pacing and all of the drama. Hopefully some of the other books in this series will be more of my thing.

So Tate is one of our main characters. He is a junior hockey player who is the backup goalie, but winds up starting when the starting goalie quits the team. He’s dealing with A LOT of personal stuff in his life outside of the ice. I felt like his voice was pretty strong for the most part. I wasn’t a major fan of it at times, partially because I didn’t really relate to him and also because I found it somewhat boring. Tate was a character who I did sympathize with, but felt like some of the subject matter was a little too overwhelming at times. It felt like Cross was maybe trying to do too much, and it didn’t totally pay off for me. He wasn’t bad, but not my favorite and didn’t leave a huge impression on me as a whole.

Our other main character is Claire, who I liked but also didn’t love. She was yet another character who didn’t leave a lasting impression on me as a whole. It makes me sad to admit it, but I also found her to be boring at times. I liked that she was into singing and musicals, since that’s something that I also really enjoy. I wanted to see a lot more of that! Like Tate, I realize that she had quite a bit going on in her personal life, but I wanted to see more of her history in musicals and just her singing career as a whole. It might have captured my attention a bit more if the focus was less on her working at the restaurant and more on the signing part.

Claire and Tate were a rather solid couple all around. They weren’t as great as the awesome couple from Whatever Life Throws at You, but they were alright for the most part. I liked that Tate had a crush on Claire for such a long time now, and it was lovely to see that develop into something more this time around. It was a sweet relationship, though some of the petty drama that went down between them was a little off-putting at times. I also enjoyed that it was steamy. One of the things about Julie Cross’s books is that she never shies away from writing sex in YA, which I think is something realistic and nice to include.

Off the Ice was a nice start to Julie Cross’s brand new series. I was hoping that I’d love the hockey part of it, but sadly felt like it drug on at times. I do like that she included details, but found myself getting bored at some of it. I did really like the characters and enjoyed that the story went in different directions and wasn’t your typical stereotypical YA romance. However, the pacing wasn’t my favorite and I wish it would have sped up at times. I’m hoping that this series improves, and I do plan on reading the next book.

three-stars

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Difficult Women Review

February 15, 2017 Reviews 0 ★★★★

Difficult Women ReviewDifficult Women by Roxane Gay
on January 3rd 2017
Pages: 260
Source: Netgalley
Also by this author: Bad Feminist
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four-stars

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

Award-winning author and powerhouse talent Roxane Gay burst onto the scene with An Untamed State—which earned rave reviews and was selected as one of the best books of the year by the Washington Post, NPR, the Boston Globe, and Kirkus—and her New York Times bestselling essay collection Bad Feminist (Harper Perennial). Gay returns with Difficult Women, a collection of stories of rare force and beauty, of hardscrabble lives, passionate loves, and quirky and vexed human connection.
The women in these stories live lives of privilege and of poverty, are in marriages both loving and haunted by past crimes or emotional blackmail. A pair of sisters, grown now, have been inseparable ever since they were abducted together as children, and must negotiate the marriage of one of them. A woman married to a twin pretends not to realize when her husband and his brother impersonate each other. A stripper putting herself through college fends off the advances of an overzealous customer. A black engineer moves to Upper Michigan for a job and faces the malign curiosity of her colleagues and the difficulty of leaving her past behind. From a girls’ fight club to a wealthy subdivision in Florida where neighbors conform, compete, and spy on each other, Gay delivers a wry, beautiful, haunting vision of modern America reminiscent of Merritt Tierce, Jamie Quatro, and Miranda July.

So this was a rating that I really struggled with. I feel like Roxane Gay is a wonderful writer who can do absolutely no wrong. Anytime I read something by her, I automatically want to read more and more from her. Seriously though, I google her to see what blog posts she’s written that I haven’t read yet. In other words, I will read her grocery list and be totally satisfied with it. On the other hand, this was a bit of a it’s me, not you situation. A lot of the times I picked it up, I wasn’t really in the mood to read these stories. A lot of Gay’s fiction stories are pretty dark and can be hard to get through. I think that you have to be the kind of person who doesn’t mind reading difficult subject matter. The writing is absolutely beautiful, but some of the content was hard for me to personally push through.

I’m so conflicted with this rating because I think it’s good to be made uncomfortable from stories. I don’t think that all stories should be these happy tales filled with perfect people. Roxane Gay is so fascinating because she takes broken people and displays it in such a real and heartbreaking way. She doesn’t sugarcoat anything, she gives us the raw truth. I applaud her for doing this in such an unfiltered fashion. She’s a remarkable writer, that’s something that no one can deny.

Some of the stories completely punched me in the gut. Some of them sucked me in and made me want far more pages than what we had. Some of the other stories seemed to drag on a bit and I wasn’t sure where the story was going. A couple of the stories had such horrific events going on one after the other that I was just ready for something good to happen to the characters. But like I mentioned earlier, not all things are happy, and a lot of terrible things do happen so I’m glad that Gay isn’t afraid to include these things. I also feel like sometimes there’s a limit of how much darkness you want to read. That being said, I think you need to be well prepared for a dark book and I really wasn’t at that time so it was hard to push through. Some of my personal favorite stories were I Will Follow You, The Mark of Cain, Break All The Way Down, Best Features, The Sacrifice of Darkness, and Strange Gods.

In the end, I decided to give Difficult Women four stars. I enjoyed more stories than I disliked. There was only about three stories that I didn’t really relate to or understand. Though this is a heavy book filled with some dark subject matter like sexual violence, kidnapping, miscarriages, death, and gang rape, it’s also a beautifully written book. It took me awhile to read it, but I’m still glad that I stuck it out until the very end. Gay isn’t capable of writing a bad book and this was no exception. I can’t wait for Hunger to come out later this year.

four-stars

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Flying Lessons and Other Stories Review

February 9, 2017 Reviews 0 ★★★★

Flying Lessons and Other Stories ReviewFlying Lessons & Other Stories by Ellen Oh, Kwame Alexander, Kelly J. Baptist, Soman Chainani, Matt de la Pena, Tim Federle, Grace Lin, Meg Medina, Walter Dean Myers, Tim Tingle, Jacqueline Woodson
Published by Crown Books for Young Readers on January 3rd 2017
Pages: 225
Source: Netgalley
Also by this author: Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, The Great American Whatever
Buy on AmazonBarnes & NobleThe Book Depository
Goodreads
four-stars

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

Whether it is basketball dreams, family fiascos, first crushes, or new neighborhoods, this bold anthology—written by the best children’s authors—celebrates the uniqueness and universality in all of us.
In a partnership with We Need Diverse Books, industry giants Kwame Alexander, Soman Chainani, Matt de la Peña, Tim Federle, Grace Lin, Meg Medina, Walter Dean Myers, Tim Tingle, and Jacqueline Woodson join newcomer Kelly J. Baptist in a story collection that is as humorous as it is heartfelt. This impressive group of authors has earned among them every major award in children’s publishing and popularity as New York Times bestsellers.
From these distinguished authors come ten distinct and vibrant stories.

I haven’t read Middle Grade in a LONG time. I honestly missed reading it. When I read that We Need Diverse Books was going to be creating a MG anthology, I knew that I had to read it. I actually ended up reading it the day of the inauguration instead of watching that, I felt like picking up this diverse book was a great response to that. Anyway, I thought that this was a wonderful collection. I’ve only read one (maybe two) of these authors previously, but I definitely plan on reading more of them in the future after this awesome introduction. The way this review is going to work is that I’m going to briefly touch on and rate all ten of the stories the best that I can.

How to Transform an Everyday, Ordinary Hoop Court into a Place of Higher Learning and You at the Podium by Matt de la Peña – 4 Stars

I’ve heard nothing but good things about this author, so I was excited to finally read something by him for myself. I felt like the use of the pronoun “you” throughout the story was a little weird and difficult to follow at times. However, the story itself was still really interesting and enjoyable. I thought that it was so cool how motivated the main character was to play basketball. He dedicated his entire early morning summers to improving his basketball skills. I found his character to be inspirational in general.

The Difficult Path by Grace Lin – 3 Stars

If I’m being honest, this was probably one of my least favorite stories in the collection. It’s really not anything personal, it’s just rare for me to love a fantasy/historical fiction story in an anthology. It’s typically the contemporary stories that stand out more to me, and it was no exception in this case. I thought that the writing itself was pretty good, I just didn’t feel extremely invested in this particular main character like I was hoping that I would be. I’m sure that some people will absolutely love this one because it involves pirates and some history mixed in there for good measure. The message is a solid one, but it just didn’t totally click for me.

Sol Painting Inc. by Meg Medina – 4 Stars

This was a wonderful and heartbreaking story that touches on a young girl who’s father works for a painting business, which she and her brother help out with in the summer, and she gets a big surprise when they get a job at her new school. This story is so important because it touches on the subject of racism in a heartbreaking and honest take on it. Though it touches on a heavy subject, it also had some lovely humor sprinkled in there. It was well written, and I’m going to be reading more from this author in the future.

Secret Samantha by Tim Federele – 3.5 Stars

I’ve actually read a YA short story by Tim in Summer Days and Summer Nights. It was one of my favorites in that collection so I was looking forward to reading this one as well. It was obviously a bit different just based on the genres alone, but it was still pretty good anyway. I personally preferred the YA story because I feel like it was longer and had more character development, but this was still cute and fun in it’s own way.

The Beans and Rice Chronicles of Isaiah Dunn by Kelly J. Baptist – 4.5 Stars

This was easily one of my favorites in the collections! I looked this author up and it seems like this is the first thing she’s ever written. I find that completely astonishing. This author writes like an old pro writer, and I love it. I can’t wait to read more from them in the future! I think this is such a good book because it’s emotional and touching. I’m always a sucker for a wonderful and heartbreaking story. It focuses on poverty, death, and grief, which are always relevant subjects that never get old.

Choctaw Bigfoot, Midnight in the Mountains by Tim Tingle – 2 Stars

I hate to say it, but this story just didn’t work for me. I can’t exactly pinpoint what it was, it just didn’t click for whatever reason. In my opinion, it was the weakest story in the collection. This is about an uncle telling a legend that’s been within the family for a long time now, and he’s telling the story to his young nieces and nephews. Maybe this particular story was just meant for younger readers and that’s why I wasn’t totally a fan of it.

Main Street by Jacqueline Woodson – 3.5 Stars

To be honest with you guys, this wasn’t all that memorable to me. I know that Woodson is a treasured author, and I am a fan of her writing and plan to read more from her. But the story itself didn’t completely make an impression on me. It wasn’t bad or anything, it just wasn’t one of the standouts from the collection for me. I do understand why other people have loved it though. I guess it just wasn’t my thing.

Flying Lessons by Soman Chainani – 5 Stars

If I had to pick only one, I’d have to say that this was likely my favorite story in the collection. It was filled with such memorable and lively characters, even besides the main character. This is a difficult thing to do in a short story, but somehow the author did it with ease. Nani is one of the funniest supporting characters that I’ve ever read. It’s about a grandma who decides that her grandson needs to have more adventure in his life the way that she does, so she takes him on an exciting trip. I think it’s also important and intriguing because it touches on the issue of sexuality and I believe that’s important to note even in MG books. I know that Tim Federele also does this wonderfully in the genre, but I think there can never be enough voices that are writing these stories. I will say that I was super confused by the ending, but I didn’t let that change my rating since the rest of it was so strong.

Seventy-Six Dollars and Forty-Nine Cents by Kwame Alexander – 3 Stars

This was another story that wasn’t a standout to me. It started out pretty strong, and I love how unique the writing style itself is. It’s not written in traditional verse, which is obviously a very different choice to make. However, it got pretty weird around the middle part of it. I wasn’t sure what direction the story was taking at all. In the end, it turned out to be rather entertaining and funny. But it was A LOT longer than basically all of the other stories. I feel like this didn’t need the extra pages the way that some of the other stories really needed them.

Sometimes a Dream Needs a Push by Walter Dean Myers – 5 Stars

He’s the only author on here who I’ve read a complete work from. I read Monster and thought that it was just so powerful and striking. This short story followed the similar theme of heartbreaking and touching, like a lot of the stories in this collection have done. It’s such a sad story, but it’s also filled with hope. It was a story that I desperately needed to read right then. I’m not going to talk much more about it because I feel like I could ramble for days about its greatness. I’ll just say that if you choose to read one short story from this collection, it should be this one, if you’re in the mood for something sad but also filled with hope.

All in all, Flying Lessons and Other Stories was such a well written anthology. I’m so glad that it was put together! I think that Ellen Oh has formed such a diverse and lovely group of authors here who contributed such powerful and beautifully written stories. I truly believe that younger readers need diverse stories like these, and I’m so glad that this anthology is out there in the world. I can’t wait to read more middle grade this year, especially from this fabulous group of authors.

four-stars

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ARC Review: This Is Our Story

November 14, 2016 Reviews, Young Adult 2 ★★★★

ARC Review: This Is Our StoryThis Is Our Story by Ashley Elston
Published by Disney-Hyperion on November 15th 2016
Pages: 320
Source: Netgalley
Buy on AmazonBarnes & NobleThe Book Depository
Goodreads
four-stars

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

No one knows what happened that morning at River Point. Five boys went hunting. Four came back. The boys won’t say who fired the shot that killed their friend; the evidence shows it could have been any one of them.
Kate Marino’s senior year internship at the District Attorney’s Office isn’t exactly glamorous—more like an excuse to leave school early that looks good on college applications. Then the DA hands her boss, Mr. Stone, the biggest case her small town of Belle Terre has ever seen. The River Point Boys are all anyone can talk about. Despite their damning toxicology reports the morning of the accident, the DA wants the boys’ case swept under the rug. He owes his political office to their powerful families.
Kate won’t let that happen. Digging up secrets without revealing her own is a dangerous line to walk; Kate has her own reasons for seeking justice for Grant. As she and Stone investigate—the ageing prosecutor relying on Kate to see and hear what he cannot—she realizes that nothing about the case—or the boys—is what it seems. Grant wasn’t who she thought he was, and neither is Stone’s prime suspect. As Kate gets dangerously close to the truth, it becomes clear that the early morning accident might not have been an accident at all—and if Kate doesn’t uncover the true killer, more than one life could be on the line…including her own.

The concept for this one seemed intriguing to me so it’s been on my radar for awhile now. Once the early rave reviews started coming in, I decided that I had to put this at the top of my TBR list so I instantly started reading it. It turned out to be just as interesting and well written as I was expecting. I’m always a fan of YA thrillers, and this one wasn’t disappointing to me. I’ve read quite a bit of books in this genre plus I watch too much TV, so I didn’t find the twist to be all that surprising, but it wasn’t extremely predictable either. My point here is, this book was just as great as I was hoping it would be. The writing had a unique style to it that drew me in from page one. I’ve never read anything from Ashley Elston before but she’ll certainly be an author to watch for me in the future.

Kate was a rad character. She was ridiculously smart and perceptive. Let’s be real, if it was me this was happening to, I’m not sure I would have picked up on all the things that this girl managed to do. She was determined to get to the bottom to what happened out in the woods, and she didn’t let anything or anyone stop her from accomplishing just that. Kate was a cool and collected character, that’s for sure. She was a strong MC and I think that reads will really be able to connect with her.

Usually I talk about the romance at this point in my reviews, and this book does have quite a bit of romance in between the main plot. However, I don’t want to talk too much about it since I’m afraid that it might be a slight spoiler. It seems like other early reviews that I’ve read have left any names out, so I’ll do the same. I will say that there are some swoony boys, and just leave it at that. The romance truly isn’t the main thing since Kate has a lot of other things to worry about, but it’s a nice break from all the action when it does happen.

The writing style is a unique and fascinating one. The first narrator is unknown to us, and those are fairly short chapters that talk in a little bit more detail about what went down in the woods from a mysterious POV. Our narrator the rest of the time is Kate in first person. I felt like the second narrator really gave us some perspective on what was going on inside the boy’s head after the death of their friend while they were all out hunting. As the book progresses, we learn more and more about who this person is.

This was one of those books that I just had to read in one sitting. I’m not going to lie, I have a bad habit of skipping to the end of books just to see how everything ends up. I was tempted multiple times to do that here, but I’m glad that I was able to resist that temptation and just read it for myself. It was a well written novel that sucked me in instantly. I can’t recommend it enough to readers who love a good YA thriller that has strong characters that you will fall in love with immediately.

four-stars

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