Source: Netgalley

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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
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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
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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
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.

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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ARC Review: Unsportsmanlike Conduct

October 20, 2016 Reviews 0 ★★★

ARC Review: Unsportsmanlike ConductUnsportsmanlike Conduct (Pilots Hockey, #4) by Sophia Henry
Published by Flirt on October 18th 2016
Pages: 266
Source: Netgalley
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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.

It’s really no secret that I’m a huge fan of sports romances. My favorite sports to read about are easily baseball and football, but I do enjoy a solid hockey romance every now and then. Though this series does center around hockey players, I do need to make it clear that there’s hardly any hockey at all in this particular book. So yeah, there wasn’t much sports in this one at all, but I did enjoy it. I thought that it was a very entertaining and fast paced read. I wouldn’t say that it was my favorite, I did have some issues with connecting with the characters and with the plot itself, but it was still a decent story.

Kristen was an interesting protagonist for the most part. She has cystic fibrosis, which is something that isn’t discussed nearly enough in romance books. I felt like the author did a fantastic job at describing everything about this, and how it affects so much of your life. Anyway, I thought she was a strong and fierce character. I like how she didn’t back down for the most part when it comes to certain things. Her personality itself wasn’t extremely memorable, but she was still fascinating and I cared a lot about her future.

Pavel was an alpha male hockey player who had a lot of positive qualities to him, despite his less than stellar reputation. He had a really challenging and tragic past, and I truly sympathized with everything that he had to go through. There was quite a bit of drama that he apparently caused in the first book, but I haven’t read the other books in this series. I still liked getting to know more about him and his past. My favorite thing about him was easily how understanding he is when it comes to Kristen having cystic fibrosis. She expected him to immediately run when he found out about it, but he surprised her by accepting it without any questions. Though I wasn’t a fan of some of the choices he made, like how he chose to tell her about his true identity, but he wasn’t terrible overall. I think that he actually made a pretty great book boyfriend, just not an amazing one to me.

The romance between them was another big issue for me. I get that the author wanted it to move fast since they had a limited time together on the cruise, but it was still insta-love, which I can’t stand. On top of that, the relationship was already being deemed as serious after just a few days, which was absolutely mind blowing to me. Another pet peeve of mine is when the couple has major communication issues, and this was completely the case here. Some of the ridiculous drama could have been easily solved if they were just open and honest with one another. Despite all the bad that I’ve talked about, they actually didn’t make a terrible couple, I still thought that they were cute together and truly balanced each other out. I just wanted them to get it together A LOT sooner than they actually did.

Unsportsmanlike Conduct was the fast paced romance that I was looking for. Yes, it could have used more scenes dedicated to hockey, but I guess that I can mostly overlook that. I will admit that it was kind of confusing jumping into this standalone series when it’s already on the fourth book, but the author did clue us in on most of the drama that went on between those characters. I probably won’t go back and read the other two, though I definitely plan on reading any future books in this series. It wasn’t my favorite, but it was still entertaining nonetheless.

three-stars

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ARC Review: My Unscripted Life

October 12, 2016 Reviews 0 ★★★

ARC Review: My Unscripted LifeMy Unscripted Life by Lauren Morrill
Published by Delacorte on October 11th 2016
Pages: 288
Source: Netgalley
Also by this author: The Trouble with Destiny, Being Sloane Jacobs
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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.

Perfect for fans of Jennifer E. Smith and Huntley Fitzpatrick, you'll love this funny and sweet contemporary romance about a Southern girl ready for a ho-hum summer until she meets the boy of her dreams who happens to be an international pop star.
Sometimes love stories go off script.
Another sultry Georgia summer is about to get a lot hotter. Dee Wilkie is still licking her wounds after getting rejected by the precollege fine arts program of her dreams. But if she'd gone away, she wouldn't have been around to say yes to an unbelievable opportunity: working on the set of a movie filming in her small Southern town that just happens to be starring Milo Ritter, the famous pop star Dee (along with the rest of the world) has had a crush since eighth grade.
It's not like Dee will be sharing any screen time with Milo—she's just a lowly PA. And Milo is so disappointingly rude that Dee is eager to stay far away from him. Except after a few chance meetings, she begins to wonder if just maybe there's a reason for his offensive attitude, and if there's more to Milo than his good looks and above-it-all Hollywood pedigree. Can a relationship with a guy like Milo ever work out for a girl like Dee? Never say never. . .

Lauren Morrill is an author that I just really enjoy. I can always count on her for sweet, quirky, and mostly lighthearted romances. My Unscripted Life wasn’t quite what I was expecting, it had a lot more drama and it was rather predictable. I still thought the plot was a creative one that I truly enjoyed reading about. I want more YA romances between a famous actor and an average girl! Yes, I am well aware that there are already some out there, though how they meet differs, but there can never be too many. However, it was still yet another sweet romance that I’m happy that I read. Lauren Morrill is such a good author, and I can’t wait to read what she writes next.

Dee was an interesting protagonist. I wouldn’t say that she’s my favorite of Lauren Morrill’s, but she’s still solid. I liked watching Dee grow as a character as the summer progressed and she learned more about what it’s like to make a movie. The most problematic thing about Dee is how delusional she is when it comes to Milo. Like girl, he’s not your boyfriend when you went on literally one date. I get that she’s had a crush on him since middle school, but she still needed to come to terms with who he actually is and not who she’s fantasized about all these years. I know that a lot of teens fangirl in this way, so maybe it’s just my issue, but it stuck out to me.

Milo was a character that I didn’t like at all for the majority of the book. I don’t know exactly what it was about him that bothered me so much because he honestly wasn’t such a diva once Dee got to know him, but I didn’t find him swoony. He needed a bit more development going on, in my opinion. It felt like his character wasn’t as fully explored as it could have been. It makes me sad because I usually love Lauren Morrill’s love interests, this one simply fell somewhat short for me.

The romance moved WAY too fast. Like I said, Dee was delusional and automatically assumed that Milo was her boyfriend after one date. Really? You need to chill sister. The romance in general was very juvenile. Milo didn’t even give her his cell phone number until towards the end of the book, let alone did they actually define the relationship. It got to a point where I was honestly rooting for Dee to end up with Benny, a boy who was friend’s with her best friend’s older brother who also works on the movie. She ends up striking up a friendship with him, but I wanted more for them! I honestly didn’t feel the chemistry between Milo and Dee. I was more interested in the plot itself than all that drama going on with them.

My favorite part was definitely that Dee worked on the set of a movie. I thought it was really interesting to explore how production works. In my opinion, not enough of the romances between celebrity and an average person explore that side of things, so I felt like it was significant. The detail was awesome, and I enjoyed it so much. All of the other drama I could have done without, but the whole backstage thing that went down was beneficial to the plot and caused me to like this book a lot more than I probably would have otherwise.

Some of these YA books make me feel like I’m getting way too old for all of the drama that goes down. My Unscripted Life was definitely one of those at times, like some of the predictable drama that occurred between Dee and Milo. I feel like the book would have been much stronger without it. All in all, this was still an entertaining and fast paced read. I wasn’t able to put it down once I started reading it! I recommend it if this kind of romance interests you and you don’t mind a lot of high school drama.

three-stars

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ARC Review: The Lovely Reckless

October 3, 2016 Reviews, Young Adult 0 ★★½

ARC Review: The Lovely RecklessThe Lovely Reckless by Kami Garcia
Published by Imprint on October 4th 2016
Pages: 384
Source: Netgalley
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two-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.

I’ve become an expert at avoiding things that could hurt me—which means I will figure out how to stay away from Marco Leone.
Seventeen-year-old Frankie Devereux would do anything to forget the past. Haunted by the memory of her boyfriend’s death, she lives her life by one dangerous rule: Nothing matters. At least, that’s what Frankie tells herself after a reckless mistake forces her to leave her privileged life in the Heights to move in with her dad—an undercover cop. She transfers to a public high school in the Downs, where fistfights don’t faze anyone and illegal street racing is more popular than football.
Marco Leone is the fastest street racer in the Downs. Tough, sexy, and hypnotic, he makes it impossible for Frankie to ignore him—and how he makes her feel. But the risks Marco takes for his family could have devastating consequences for them both. When Frankie discovers his secret, she has to make a choice. Will she let the pain of the past determine her future? Or will she risk what little she has left to follow her heart?

I’ve actually never read anything by Kami Garcia before. The Beautiful Creatures series was something that didn’t interest me at all. I figured that The Lovely Reckless would be a little more my taste since it’s a contemporary romance YA novel. For the most part, I was definitely right about this book. Though it wasn’t the best YA book I’ve read this year, it still had some strong points to it. I think that this is a book that fans of this genre will really enjoy, especially if you like love interests that are bad boys. I highly recommend it for fans of Katie McGarry and Simone Elkeles. I hope that Garcia writes more contemporary books in the future!

Frankie was an interesting character for the most part. I respected the fact that she was never afraid to stand up for what she believes is right. I also sympathized with her over the loss of her boyfriend/childhood best friend. I thought the PTSD that Frankie had as a result of witnessing her boyfriend be beaten to death was pretty well done, though I would have liked to see it explored even more than it was. I didn’t think that her finding out who the killer was at the end was realistic though. In my opinion, this should have been done a little differently because it was unexpected but not in a good way. Meaning, there needed to be more details and lead-up to this big reveal.

Honestly, I personally didn’t find Marco to be all that swoony. That’s just my personal taste though. I’m not big on the street racer appeal. However, I did like that he had a little bit of Ryan Atwood and Tim Riggins in his personality. The things that he did were in order to help the person that he loves, in this case it was his little sister who he completely takes care of full time. There were certainly some major cliches concerning his character. As a whole though, I did like him, I just didn’t love him or find him all that memorable overall.

The romance didn’t work for me. Insta-love is a major pet peeve of mine and The Lovely Reckless totally has it. They fall in love after about two or three conversations. Nope, that’s not how love works in real life, especially not in high school. There was just a lot of the typical “forbidden love” cliches all over this romance and it got old pretty fast. To be fair, I will say that I did find it to be a cute romance at times, but other times it felt way too over the top.

Overall, this wasn’t really a bad book, it was just an okay one for me. I know I had quite a bit of critical things to say about it, but it really wasn’t terrible, I thought it was still pretty entertaining. I think that it could have had more depth to the characters and the plot in general. As already mentioned, I think you’re likely to really love this book if you’re a fan of Perfect Chemistry or Katie McGarry. That being said, I do plan on reading more Kami Garcia contemporary books in the future and hope that they fit my personal taste better!

two-half-stars

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