the dilemma of reading

the dilemma of reading

"Oh, all stories are the same, aren't they? Men and women fall in love or out of love. People are born; people die. It all ends happily or it all ends sadly, and the difference matters only to the people involved.”

--Gabrielle Zevin, Margarettown

Review
1.5 Stars
Beautiful Broken Girls/Kim Savage
Beautiful Broken Girls - Kim  Savage

After two teenage sisters, Mira and Francesca, drown themselves in a neighborhood quarry, their next-door neighbor Ben receives post-mortem letters from Mira. This letter challenges Ben to track down the hidden, cryptic notes hidden in seven places alluding to where the two secretly touched. As Ben uncovers each note, he starts to unravel the hidden lies and secrets that these girls kept, and just how complicated their bonds with the outside world were.

 

This one fell flat. What did I just read? I'm not entirely sure. Lovely premise, but I think this author would find some talents with poetry over pose.

 

I'm still confused about Francesca and her role in the world. She has a strange relationship with a teacher and a strange relationship with her father, and just a strange overall personality. I'm not sure if she made the book fall into a fantastical world or if it was real world with religion, but I was just confused.

 

I never grew emotionally attached to Ben. He doesn't seem very emotional himself, so I never really deemed him worthy of becoming emotionally attached to. His background is unique, but is mentioned as a trope and I'm not really sure how it exactly contributes to this book. I don't really see why he's so obsessed with Mira; their relationship isn't really developed, although she does remember him after death.

 

At the beginning, I tried hard to pay attention because I feel like all the extraneous minor details probably have some purpose and were all connected to a bigger theme or symbol, but I got pretty bored relatively quickly and it took me a long time to get through.

 

Perhaps I simply missed the deeper message of this book, but I found it a chore to get through. Unfortunately, Savage's writing is not for me.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review
3.5 Stars
Piecing Me Together/Renée Watson
Piecing Me Together - Renée Watson

A timely and powerful story about a teen girl striving for success in a world that too often seems like it's trying to break her.

Jade believes she must get out of her poor neighborhood if she's ever going to succeed. Her mother tells her to take advantage of every opportunity that comes her way. And she has. She accepted a scholarship to a mostly-white private school and even Saturday morning test prep opportunities. But some opportunities feel more demeaning than helpful. Like an invitation to join Women to Women, a mentorship program for "at-risk" girls. Except really, it's for black girls. From "bad" neighborhoods. And just because Maxine, her college-graduate mentor, is black doesn't mean she understands Jade. And maybe there are some things Jade could show these successful women about the real world and finding ways to make a real difference.

 

This book lent such an interesting perspective to the idea of opportunities for select groups of people.

 

I came away feeling like I had really grown from reading Jade's perspective. Her voice was well articulated and convincing, so that though, in general I agreed with her ultimate thoughts, her reasoning led to me completely following her trains of thought in the early stages of the book. She definitely showed the adults a new way to think.

 

While I didn't particularly love Jade at first, I grew more affectionate of her as I watched her grow. There were certain moments where she vexed me to no end, but she grew from those moments and I felt proud to see her maturing and learning to stand up for herself. Especially when she actually caused change, I respected Jade immensely.

 

As a white, middle class female reading this, I was intrigued by the challenges of blackness that Jade brought up that I quite frankly had not encountered. The ideas she raised will influence my future interactions and thoughts; for that alone, Watson deserves praise.

 

This was short and I felt like the author could have taken more time and covered more topics; however, as is, it was focused and a quick and easy read.

 

I definitely recommend this for anyone interested in education or looking for a unique YA book. I'll certainly be looking for more of Watson's books.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review
3.5 Stars
The Nearness of You/Amanda Eyre Ward
The Nearness of You: A Novel - Amanda Eyre Ward

Brilliant heart surgeon Suzette Kendall is stunned when Hyland, her husband of fifteen years, admits his yearning for a child. From the beginning they’d decided that having children was not an option, as Suzette feared passing along the genes that landed her mother in a mental institution. But Hyland proposes a different idea: a baby via surrogate.

Suzette agrees, and what follows is a whirlwind of candidate selections, hospital visits, and Suzette’s doubts over whether she’s made the right decision. A young woman named Dorothy Muscarello is chosen as the one who will help make this family complete. For Dorrie, surrogacy (and the money that comes with it) are her opportunity to leave behind a troubled past and create a future for herself—one full of possibility. But this situation also forces all three of them—Dorrie, Suzette, and Hyland—to face a devastating uncertainty that will reverberate in the years to come.

Beautifully shifting between perspectives, The Nearness of You deftly explores the connections we form, the families we create, and the love we hold most dear.

 

Ahh, this one had so much potential and so many moments where I almost fell in love with it, but it simply covered too much ground in too little space.

 

Suzette was an absolutely fantastic character. She's an accomplished surgeon and there are many scenes that show her in surgery, and to me, that was just so darn cool. I had so much respect for her and as this is a piece of life I don't usually get through literature, I was excited to experience it. I also really respected her not wanting to pass on her genes due to her history of mental illness, yet her openness to having a child despite. She had so much strength, but she wasn't perfect and didn't always act as I thought she would. Seriously, I love Suzette.

 

The other characters I wasn't so into. Dorrie felt too simplistic and I was saddened by how she evolved during the book. Hyland gets a little characterization but I never really grow to care about them. While I normally adore having books told from many character's perspectives, I felt like there were too many perspectives in this one and it made it hard for me to really engage.

 

But ultimately my biggest issue with this book was how fast it moved. I normally have the opposite problem, yet in this case, I felt like there were many sections of life that needed to be expanded. The gap between the first and second parts was where the book really lost me; a significant period of time passes and I want to know how the relationships between the characters evolve in that section.

 

The prologue sets up the ending like a ciffhanger, but I felt like it was kind of obvious how the scene would be resolved. A plot twist came late that was cool and explained a little bit of Dorrie's motivations, but felt like it was there for shock value. I did love the entire concept of having a surrogate mother and the idea of motherhood, but this book simply attempted to cover too many points. Though it was an easy read, I think that if it had been twice its length, I'd have liked it twice as much.

 

Though I recommend this book for people interested in the topic, this book failed to capture me.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review
3 Stars
Somebody Like You/Donna Alward
Somebody Like You - Donna Alward

A kiss to last a lifetime

Aiden Gallagher was only five years old when he appeared in a photograph on the Kissing Bridge. The town of Darling, Vermont, has used Aiden’s image on the famed bridge—local legend has it that a kiss there results in everlasting love—as part of its tourism campaign. Now, twenty years later, Aiden is asked to recreate the moment with the woman he once kissed: Laurel Stone.

Recently divorced, there’s nothing Laurel wants less than to pretend happily-ever-after with Aiden. As teenagers, their romance was no fairy tale—and Laurel has never quite forgiven Aiden for breaking her heart. But now that she is back in her hometown, and keeps bumping into police officer Aiden, Laurel can’t deny that there’s still a strong flicker between her and her old flame. Could it be that the Kissing Bridge is working its magic on Laurel and Aiden—and that all true love ever needed was a second chance?

 

Though a relatively simple, this was a sweet enough romance set with a small town background.

 

Laurel was by far my favourite character. She's feisty, and I appreciated how she was setting up her own business and taking a leap of faith. I also related a lot to her as she found it challenging to say no to people and I know how hard it can be not to put others first.

 

A subplot revolved around a minor character, George, which I found to be an intriguing way of both building up the main plot and their romance. He was homeless but Aiden had always showed him some kindness, which intrigued Laurel, leading to some development that was probably the most unique aspect of this book.

 

My main issue with this book was probably how Aiden seemed to lack a dating history and a personality. While it's made quite clear that he had one kind of serious relationship, it wasn't really clear if after that he was a total player or if he was very solitary.

 

I'm not enamoured with this book--though there was nothing bad about it, it was fairly predictable and had nothing outstanding.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review
5 Stars
My Not So Perfect Life/Sophie Kinsella
My Not So Perfect Life - Sophie Kinsella

Part love story, part workplace drama, this sharply observed novel is a witty critique of the false judgments we make in a social-media-obsessed world. New York Times bestselling author Sophie Kinsella has written her most timely novel yet.
Everywhere Katie Brenner looks, someone else is living the life she longs for, particularly her boss, Demeter Farlowe. Demeter is brilliant and creative, lives with her perfect family in a posh townhouse, and wears the coolest clothes. Katie’s life, meanwhile, is a daily struggle—from her dismal rental to her oddball flatmates to the tense office politics she’s trying to negotiate. No wonder Katie takes refuge in not-quite-true Instagram posts, especially as she's desperate to make her dad proud.
Then, just as she’s finding her feet—not to mention a possible new romance—the worst happens. Demeter fires Katie. Shattered but determined to stay positive, Katie retreats to her family’s farm in Somerset to help them set up a vacation business. London has never seemed so far away—until Demeter unexpectedly turns up as a guest. Secrets are spilled and relationships rejiggered, and as the stakes for Katie’s future get higher, she must question her own assumptions about what makes for a truly meaningful life.
Sophie Kinsella is celebrated for her vibrant, relatable characters and her great storytelling gifts. Now she returns with all of the wit, warmth, and wisdom that are the hallmarks of her bestsellers to spin this fresh, modern story about presenting the perfect life when the reality is far from the truth.

 

I was sooooo excited to receive this book, and it exceeded my expectations! As kismet would have it, I received it one year to the day after I'd seen Sophie Kinsella speak in London (an experience that, if possible, made me fall even more in love with her!) I've yet to read a Kinsella book I haven't loved, and while this admittedly fell into her old patterns, it was nonetheless brilliant.

 

Sure enough, by the third page I had laughed out loud. Reading a Kinsella book is like having a chat with an old friend who gets you, putting on that sweater that's cosy and makes you look good, or sinking into a warm bubble bath. I felt like I knew Katie like an old friend and was rolling my eyes at her antics affectionately. She deals with the very real problem of having a not-so-perfect life that I totally related to.

 

One aspect of this book that I loved was how the entire romantic plot took more of a backburner than normal. Katie didn't let herself be defined by any men. I also had a lot of warm and fuzzy feelings inspired by her dad and her step-mom, and I loved the way Katie's feelings towards them and her relationship with them evolved.

 

Her career exploration was a lot of fun. The design details were much more interesting than I thought they would be. I have no desire to work in marketing, but Katie's descriptions of her work and the way she used her eyes for detail was really fun to read about. Her job search felt very real, as did her struggles with unpaid internships, long commutes, and expensive flats. Mainly, I thought that the job advice she received was important and widely applicable.

 

I went through a lot of emotions at the ending, but was ultimately disappointed. To be entirely ambiguous so as not to give spoilers, the ending flipped on me multiple times and I wasn't sure what was going to happen, which was a plus, but I texted my friend at 95% with a lot of excitement just to have what I thought had happened reversed. But then again, most readers I assume will find the ending very satisfying.

 

This addresses a lot of aspects of our world and how we portray it, and I really enjoyed how she made the book modern and relative to life today. She even threw in a reference to Trump, which could not be more timely. While a lot of books go overboard with texting and social media, I felt like this one had a stellar amount.

 

If you've liked any other Kinsella books, this will hit the spot. If you like any type of chick flick/rom com lit, you'll love this. Definitely something I'll read again, and I highly recommend it.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review
3.5 Stars
Forever is the Worst Long Time/Camille Pagán
Forever is the Worst Long Time: A Novel - Camille Pagán

When struggling novelist James Hernandez meets poet Louisa “Lou” Bell, he’s sure he’s just found the love of his life. There’s just one problem: she’s engaged to his oldest friend, Rob. So James toasts their union and swallows his desire.

As the years pass, James’s dreams always seem just out of reach—he can’t finish that novel, can’t mend his relationship with his father, can’t fully commit to a romantic relationship. He just can’t move on. But after betrayal fractures Lou’s once-solid marriage, she turns to James for comfort.

When Lou and James act on their long-standing mutual attraction, the consequences are more heartbreaking—and miraculous—than either of them could have ever anticipated. Then life throws James one more curveball, and he, Rob, and Lou are forced to come to terms with the unexpected ways in which love and loss are intertwined.

 

This book didn't go the way that I expected it to, but instead it was incredibly touching, leaving me in a bundle of emotions and tears.

 

Incredibly well written, this book actually made me go back several times to check that it was indeed a work of fiction and not a memoir. I enjoyed the occasional use of second person, which made me feel involved in the story and gave me another lens through which to read the story.

 

I can't say I was terribly fond of James as a character, but seeing him grow was nonetheless an intriguing experience. The way that he interacted with his dreams was so terribly realistic and very telling of what real people go through, but the way he ultimately chose an unexpected path was really sweet.

 

Lou, also, kind of irked me, but I think that's because of how James portrayed her. I appreciated her reality check when it came to the idea of love and how it lasts, endures, and changes throughout time, but in general James made her seem too perfect for no apparent reasons.

 

The way this dealt with death felt very poignant and realistic--from a scene early in the book to one near the end, I felt like characters dealt with death in a way that I could relate to, and the scenes were touching. James makes a lot of poignant observations about how humans grieve.

 

As long as you don't mind crying, I recommend this book.

Review
4 Stars
All Our Wrong Todays/Elan Mastrai
All Our Wrong Todays: A Novel - Elan Mastai

THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS THE LIFE YOU’RE “SUPPOSED” TO HAVE

You know the future that people in the 1950s imagined we’d have? Well, it happened. In Tom Barren’s 2016, humanity thrives in a techno-utopian paradise of flying cars, moving sidewalks, and moon bases, where avocados never go bad and punk rock never existed . . . because it wasn’t necessary.

Except Tom just can’t seem to find his place in this dazzling, idealistic world, and that’s before his life gets turned upside down. Utterly blindsided by an accident of fate, Tom makes a rash decision that drastically changes not only his own life but the very fabric of the universe itself. In a time-travel mishap, Tom finds himself stranded in our 2016, what we think of as the real world. For Tom, our normal reality seems like a dystopian wasteland.

But when he discovers wonderfully unexpected versions of his family, his career, and—maybe, just maybe—his soul mate, Tom has a decision to make. Does he fix the flow of history, bringing his utopian universe back into existence, or does he try to forge a new life in our messy, unpredictable reality? Tom’s search for the answer takes him across countries, continents, and timelines in a quest to figure out, finally, who he really is and what his future—our future—is supposed to be.

All Our Wrong Todays is about the versions of ourselves that we shed and grow into over time. It is a story of friendship and family, of unexpected journeys and alternate paths, and of love in its multitude of forms. Filled with humor and heart, and saturated with insight and intelligence and a mind-bending talent for invention, this novel signals the arrival of a major talent.

 

This one! This is a good one! I'm shaking my head slightly at how rapidly it moved but it was definitely a good one.

 

I've got to admit, this started off really slowly and if I wasn't reading to review, I probably would have put it down. However, once it sucked me in, it sucked me in hardcore. Probably around the quarter mark--or whenever the whimsically perfect yet tragically flawed character of Penelope was introduced--I became extremely invested very fast.

 

I felt like the final few chapters were rushed... As they basically encompass an entire lifetime, the book would have been far too drawn out, lengthy, and bloated if it had expanded upon these chapters so I'm not really sure how I'd fix that, but I did feel like it got to a point where Tom was speeding through the story.

 

On the topic of Tom. What a character. And again, the ending became too rushed. But the faucets of him that made him who he was, how all the various memories and parts of him intertwined to create him, those were strong.

 

As with all books about time travel, there were some aspects of this that I found challenging to comprehend or really understand. However, I found the basic premises that the science of the book was based upon was believable and comprehensible, and I appreciate how it was explained by someone who seemed to have about the same grasp on science as I do.

 

I appreciated the understanding of human desires and the perspective that time brings us. While at moments it was heartbreaking, unfair, this was one thread of the book that really stayed with me.

 

This might take a little time to sink into and it was complex at points, but it was well crafted and compelling.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review
2 Stars
Hey Harry, Hey Matilda/Rachel Hulin
Hey Harry, Hey Matilda - Rachel Hulin

Hey Harry, Hey Matilda is the story—told entirely in hilarious emails—of fraternal twins Harry and Matilda Goodman as they fumble into adulthood, telling lies and keeping secrets, and finally confronting their complicated twinship.

Matilda Goodman is an underemployed wedding photographer grappling with her failure to live as an artist and the very bad lie she has told her boyfriend (that she has a dead twin). Harry, her (totally alive) brother, is an untenured professor of literature, anxiously contemplating his publishing status (unpublished) and sleeping with a student. When Matilda invites her boyfriend home for Thanksgiving to meet the family, and when Harry makes a desperate—and unethical—move to save his career, they set off an avalanche of shame, scandal, and drunken hot tub revelations that force them to examine the truth about who they really are. A wonderfully subversive, sensitive novel of romantic entanglement and misguided ambition, Hey Harry, Hey Matilda is a joyful look at love and family in all its forms.

 

I didn't buy into this one. I was just... meh. And then the ending had implications that made me uncomfortable and I'm just very eh about this book.

 

I normally love the style of letters and emails to tell an entire story but in this case it fell short. Harry and Matilda lacked distinct voices and if not for the changing of font I really wouldn't have been able to know who was who without looking at salutations. Both were also bland. English professors and wedding photographers sound like careers that would be very intriguing, but the two of them did not live up to expectations.

 

If you asked me to describe a plot I'm not really sure where I'd go. The lie referenced in the blurb was barely a minor subplot point and didn't create the drama I expected. I'm not sure if they ever learned who they really were.

 

The ending just really killed all of my enjoyment of this novel. I guess there was foreshadowing that I chose to write off as my imagination, but ultimately it was weird and uncomfortable. I've read a book with a similar topic where the author made it okay, but this felt left field.

 

Interestingly, this was originally done as an Instagram novel. Fascinating concept. I wish the story had worked more for me.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

Review
4 Stars
Always/Sarah Jio
Always: A Novel - Sarah Jio

While enjoying a romantic candlelit dinner with her fiancé, Ryan, at one of Seattle's chicest restaurants, Kailey Crane can't believe her good fortune: She has a great job as a writer for the Herald and is now engaged to a guy who is perfect in nearly every way. As they leave the restaurant, Kailey spies a thin, bearded homeless man on the sidewalk. She approaches him to offer up her bag of leftovers, and is stunned when their eyes meet, then stricken to her very core: The man is the love of her life, Cade McAllister.

When Kailey met Cade ten years ago, their attraction was immediate and intense—everything connected and felt right. But it all ended suddenly, leaving Kailey devastated. Now the poor soul on the street is a faded version of her former beloved: His weathered and weary face is as handsome as Kailey remembers, but his mind has suffered in the intervening years. Over the next few weeks, Kailey helps Cade begin to piece his life together, something she initially keeps from Ryan. As she revisits her long-ago relationship, Kailey realizes that she must decide exactly what—and whom—she wants.

Alternating between the past and the present, Always is a beautifully unfolding exploration of a woman faced with an impossible choice, a woman who discovers what she's willing to save and what she will sacrifice for true love.

 

I found myself completely engrossed by this book.

 

I adored Kailey as a character--she cares about everyone and has a lot of passion for her causes. In that regard, I didn't quite comprehend her relationship with Ryan, who had kind of an opposite view of the world, but I appreciated that they could put aside their differences. I also enjoyed seeing how she grew up a little bit and lost her naiveté across the two sections. However, I wasn't terribly fond of the way Jio dealt with other characters, as the ending was quite anticlimactic due to her portrayal throughout the book.

 

I absolutely adored the setting! The music references were a lot of fun and I definitely shoved the book in front of my friend's face multiple times to share my excitement over certain references. I felt like I got a real feel for Seattle in two different time periods and from two different lenses.

 

This was one time where I wasn't terribly fond of the alternating chapters from different time periods; I thought it would have been better done to simply have two parts as I felt like Kailey herself didn't change personality wise very much across the years and thus I had trouble remembering where I was.

 

This wasn't quite as predictable as I expected it would be, and there were times where I was genuinely unsure what would happen, which I appreciated greatly for the genre. However, I still felt like the romance was at times hard for me to buy, and that Kailey was kind of going through some of the motions.

 

I loved the social justice aspect of this book, and I loved how engaging it was. Definitely recommend for fans of romance.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review
1.5 Stars
Forgotten Boxes/Becki Willis
Forgotten Boxes - Becki Willis

Named sole heir to her aunt's estate, Charity Gannon arrives in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, hoping to find a link to her past. She's not looking for lost treasures; she is searching for a connection to the aunt she barely knew.

What she finds is a thirty-something-year-old mystery and questions with no answers. A sad, secluded cottage, all but hidden amid the vines. A man's suit of clothes, tainted with dried blood and a bullet hole. Four forgotten boxes, stuffed into a large bag and buried in the far corners of the shed.

These are not just any boxes. These are unopened, undelivered boxes, left behind by the now-defunct Kingdom Parcel. All four boxes are marked March 14, 1984... the very day her uncle, president and driver for the delivery service, was said to have committed suicide. Four forgotten boxes, whose owners might still be out there, waiting for a delivery that never arrived.

The undelivered boxes haunt Charity, tugging at her conscience. Hadn’t someone noticed them missing? Hadn’t anyone wondered about the failed delivery? Thinking it might be fun to surprise the recipients after all these years, Charity sets out to deliver the packages to their rightful owners.

Along the way, one of the love stories she discovers is her own. Fate throws her into the sturdy arms of Tarn Danbury, a burly sugarmaker with eyes as beautiful as the mountain pond from which he was named, and a voice as smooth and rich as the dark syrup he produces.

The story behind one box is delightful. Another is heartbreaking.

And one might very well be the death of her.

 

Although I was excited to read this book, it feel short of my expectations for a variety of reasons.

 

This book is not a mystery/thriller. It is a romance. It may be a romance with mystery/thriller elements, yes, but while the blurb led me to believe that there would be a romantic subplot to this, the story revolved around the romance far too much for a book selling itself as a mystery.

 

Let's start with my biggest issue. This book perpetuates the idea that suicide is a bad thing. Charity's uncle is thought to have committed suicide, and Charity wants to "clear his name." One should not be ashamed of someone who had committed suicide; depression and mental illnesses that lead to suicide are REAL illnesses, and I was extremely bothered by the complete disregard Charity had towards this. Okay, her uncle didn't commit suicide, but why would it have been a problem if he had? Suicide is a terrible, terrible action that takes many lives and this book completely disrespects that. And I'm not okay with that.

 

Charity is taking care of her deceased aunt's cottage... but it takes 13% of the book before Charity mentions that her aunt's cottage is in Vermont. She makes such a big deal about the small town vibe, but I'm not sure if we're in Texas, where the author is from, or somewhere more South, or where, and then all of a sudden we're in Vermont. After that, we don't forget it. But I literally had to go back through and skim reread because I was so confused as to where the setting was. And then, the setting becomes entirely about maple syrup. I do believe there is more to Vermont than maple syrup, as Charity should know, as she could list of about ten random facts about it.

 

My biggest issue with this book was the instalove. Charity and Tarn both claim that they've had very few previous relationships, yet during their first encounter they're both attempting to flirt in a way that feels completely unnatural and formulaic. They kiss (no spoiler alert because it's obvious that it'll happen) when they just barely know each others' names. I just don't get it. For someone who is supposedly so pragmatic, why does Charity go crazy so fast for him? Do they ever talk? Why do they like each other? There is absolutely zero substance other than lust and physical attraction.

 

And I haven't even started on the premise. I like the premise. I was really excited about the premise and greedy to read this. But it's not believable. There are several plot holes where I wondered how it got to the point that Charity was even involved. The timing of it all is far too coincidental, and I'm really not sure why the case wasn't resolved thirty years ago and why the bad guys didn't just get away with it.

 

I also couldn't enjoy the way that this was written. There is a dream scene in this book, which is a completely tired trope when, as in this case, it contributes nothing to the book. That scene could have been deleted completely. Charity talks to herself often, until one time she seems to realise just how much she talks to herself. Yes, Charity, I was judging you. Or at least, I was judging you as a character for needing to convey information in that manner.

 

There are also flashbacks in the past that could have been useful, but they are too infrequent and random that they instead just distract. If all relevant scenes had been in the past this might have worked, but instead I feel like I know information that Charity doesn't until the end when she magically figures things out. Even the one character that could shed light couldn't have known everything that happened in flashbacks.

 

Finally, this girl puts her entire self worth on the one guy's attraction. She runs her own business as a graphic designer (though I don't know how she was working during this book??) and is pretty darn self sufficient. Yet she is a total damsel in distress, and it takes a man getting an erection in response to her for her to finally gain some confidence. I would have loved to have seen her being validated in some other way--maybe an award for her business or something that she showed pride in. But the only time she shows confidence is when a man is attracted to her.

 

Also, I wish she received more affirmation for her weight. She talks about being "big" because she is 5'7". Well, I am 5'6", and now I feel like I, too, am a whale. Maybe I'm not petite as she desires to be, but I generally feel pretty confident until this book tells me that unless I find a giant mountain man, I will be big, and the only way I'll get affirmation is in his attentions. Great. Thanks.

 

I'm sorry, but there are just too many issues with this book for me to recommend it at all.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

Review
4 Stars
A List of Cages/Robin Roe
A List of Cages - Robin Roe

When Adam Blake lands the best elective ever in his senior year, serving as an aide to the school psychologist, he thinks he's got it made. Sure, it means a lot of sitting around, which isn't easy for a guy with ADHD, but he can't complain, since he gets to spend the period texting all his friends. Then the doctor asks him to track down the troubled freshman who keeps dodging her, and Adam discovers that the boy is Julian--the foster brother he hasn't seen in five years.

Adam is ecstatic to be reunited. At first, Julian seems like the boy he once knew. He's still kind hearted. He still writes stories and loves picture books meant for little kids. But as they spend more time together, Adam realizes that Julian is keeping secrets, like where he hides during the middle of the day, and what's really going on inside his house. Adam is determined to help him, but his involvement could cost both boys their lives.

 

This was a heart-breaking book with two extremely different boys.

 

Aspects of this book were so very sad and I think Roe did a lovely job of portraying the characters, especially Julian, as they dealt with things no people should deal with. The way that Julian saw the world was very enlightening to read.

 

This book had just the right amount of romance. It was great that it didn't center around a relationship as that would have completely detracted from the plot, but I loved that there was a tiny minor part that was very sweet and thus satisfied my romantic side.

 

The ending felt a little too simplistic for all of the challenges that the boys had faced and all of the themes that the books had addressed. I wanted to see the aftermath of a very serious, if accidental action.

 

While I really enjoyed the relationship the two boys had, I didn't quite buy Adam--the kid is too nice and too perfect--he has very few visible flaws and just didn't seem entirely realistic. Since we got his first person perspective, I wanted to see thoughts he might have had even if he didn't take action on them.

 

Though there are some aspects I'd change about this book, I thought it tackled a big issue in a great way and was definitely well worth reading.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review
3.5 Stars
Love and First Sight/Josh Sundquist
Love and First Sight - Josh Sundquist

On his first day at a new school, blind sixteen-year-old Will Porter accidentally groped a girl on the stairs, sat on another student in the cafeteria, and somehow drove a classmate to tears. High school can only go up from here, right?

As Will starts to find his footing, he develops a crush on a charming, quiet girl named Cecily. Then an unprecedented opportunity arises: an experimental surgery that could give Will eyesight for the first time in his life. But learning to see is more difficult than Will ever imagined, and he soon discovers that the sighted world has been keeping secrets. It turns out Cecily doesn't meet traditional definitions of beauty--in fact, everything he'd heard about her appearance was a lie engineered by their so-called friends to get the two of them together. Does it matter what Cecily looks like? No, not really. But then why does Will feel so betrayed?

Told with humor and breathtaking poignancy, Love and First Sight is a story about how we related to each other and the world around us.

 

This book was an uplifting read that tackled important questions in a reasonable manner.


Will is a lovely character--I enjoy how he manages to maintain an identity outside of being blind. I would have liked to see him have more of his own interests and passions, but despite him fitting into a character trait mould he was a lot of fun to read about. He maintained his independence and stuck up for himself and others.


I gained so much appreciation for the way I see from reading this book. Sundquist does an exemplary job of describing what it must be like to see for the first time. From the process of recognising colours to understanding the concept of objects being 3D, I definitely thought about my sight in different ways. Even terms like "perspective" are much more complex to describe than I previously would have thought.


I bought the fact that Will is eligible for a surgery that means he might regain eyesight for the sake of the book; however, I thought there was one other decision on a family member's behalf that was irrational. But this is YA, and though I rolled my eyes through the last part of the book, it came with the type of ending that one looks for.


Visually impaired people are definitely an underrepresented group in books, and though I was excited by the premise, I was simultaneously worried that this wouldn't be done carefully. However, I feel it was clear that the author carefully looked at many cases of blindness and formed an experience that was legitimate and gave me a new perspective.


This books gets extra points for bringing forward such a unique experience, but ultimately was a tale of acceptance and romance.


I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Review
2.5 Stars
What Light/Jay Asher
What Light - Jay Asher

This was so very... ordinary... for an Asher book. I've come to expect great things from him and I could not put down his previous two books.

 

But it's a nice Christmas read, I guess.

Review
2.5 Stars
You're the One That I Want/Giovanna Fletcher
You're the One That I Want - Giovanna Fletcher

Maddy, dressed in white, stands at the back of the church. At the end of the aisle is Rob - the man she's about to marry. Next to Rob is Ben - best man and the best friend any two people ever had. And that's the problem. Because if it wasn't Rob waiting for her at the altar, there's a strong chance it would be Ben. Loyal and sensitive Ben has always kept his feelings to himself, but if he turned round and told Maddy she was making a mistake, would she listen? And would he be right? Best friends since childhood, Maddy, Ben and Rob thought their bond was unbreakable. But love changes everything. Maddy has a choice to make but will she choose wisely? Her heart, and the hearts of the two best men she knows, depend on it...

 

This book managed to build itself up to be quite anticlimactic and was filled with fairly ordinary events instead of a lot of excitement. I enjoyed it, but felt a little let down.

 

Reading this in the US, I really enjoyed all the Britishisms--especially when the three go to university, just because it's different in some ways but similar in others to the American system, and I always enjoy hearing how things are done in other countries. Small details like the chocolate hobnob biscuits I found to be terribly amusing.

 

I also enjoyed watching the three grow up--with scenes like a wedding at elementary school graduation, there's a lot of sweetness to the story and in a way I felt like one of their parents, being able to see them mature.

 

Ben and Maddy both serve as the narrators for this book, and I unfortunately found them to be very similar--at points I could barely distinguish between the two voices. For people with very different lifestyles, ambitions, and points of view, I felt like the author could have done a better job at making their voices more compelling. Maddy, supposedly a siren, was probably the least developed because I really couldn't understand why the boys were in love with her other than out of habit.

 

My biggest issue with this book, however, was the first chapter and how it built up the entire rest of the book. It creates a lot of suspense, but then doesn't deliver, because if it hadn't been for the first chapter, I really wouldn't have found much of a conflict and the book would have just been more sad. I did like the ultimate resolution in one character, but there was a huge missed opportunity for conflict in that a third character knew very little of everything else... The entire book, I was waiting for this conflict, but it never happened.

 

This was enjoyable and I found the growing up of the characters to be very sweet, but it was a lot less conflict filled than the first chapter let on. I did read this in a day though--I was engrossed and kept waiting for a conflict.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

Review
2.5 Stars
Alterations/Stephanie Scott
Alterations - Stephanie Scott

Get a peek at the kisses behind the seams in this diverse YA retelling of Sabrina set in the glam fashion world.

If anyone saw the prom boards Amelia Blanco makes on her favorite fashion app, they'd think Ethan Laurenti was her boyfriend. They wouldn't know that all the plans she's made for them are just dreams, and that she's the girl who watches him from the kitchen while her parents cook for his famous family.

When Amelia's abuelita enrolls her in a month-long fashion internship in NYC, Amelia can't imagine leaving Miami—and Ethan—for that long. As soon as she gets to New York, however, she finds a bigger world and new possibilities. She meets people her own age who can actually carry on a conversation about stitching and design. Her pin boards become less about prom with Ethan and more about creating her own style. By the time she returns to Miami, Amelia feels like she can accomplish anything, and surprises herself by agreeing to help Ethan's awkward, Steve-Jobs-wannabe brother, Liam, create his own fashion app.

As Liam and Amelia get closer, Ethan realizes that this newly confident, stylish girl may be the one for him after all . . . even though he has a reality TV star girlfriend he conveniently keeps forgetting about. The "new and improved" Amelia soon finds herself in between two brothers, a whole lot of drama, and choice she never dreamed she'd have to make.

 

I had pretty mixed feelings about this book, but entirely felt rather apathetic.

 

The first half was devoted to Amelia's internship in New York City. The biggest problem I had with this was that the blurb had basically already summarized this entire section. Maybe had I not read this blurb I'd have been more exciting, but I knew what was going to happen and I just felt like reading it actually happen was redundant. The entire book could have been cut in half and started after that part and it still would have made sense. I was also less fond of how Amelia's grandmother submitted her application for an internship--this felt fake to me. If the internship was as competitive as it sounded and Amelia received a scholarship, then it seems like she would have put more time into short answer questions etc. in order to have a competitive application.

 

Amelia is less than honest to her new friends about her life at home and I didn't really understand her motivations behind that. She's characterised as being quite shy, but she doesn't feel that way when she's socialising and going out to New York parties. I felt conflicted about how to view her, and I didn't really have a strong understanding of her as a character. It frustrated me that, while she spent a lot of time making herself really cool sounding clothes, she was constantly putting them down.

 

I really enjoyed the trope of Amelia having crushed on a boy for basically her entire life without really knowing him. This felt very realistic and I also saw her growing up a little bit as she realised how little she knew him. I also adored her passion for fashion--though I could really care less about clothing, it was fantastic that she had some aspect of herself that she really cared about and spent a lot of time on. Seeing her realise how many different directions she could take also felt very real as it is something many teens face.

 

While there were aspects about this book that irked me a little in addition to its strengths, this book just didn't make much of an impact on me. It was an enjoyable read, but I felt often as though I was rushing through the pages because I had predicted (correctly) how it was all going to end based on the blurb.

Review
4.5 Stars
Fractured/Catherine McKenzie
Fractured - Catherine McKenzie

Welcome, neighbor!

Julie Prentice and her family move across the country to the idyllic Mount Adams district of Cincinnati, hoping to evade the stalker who’s been terrorizing them ever since the publication of her bestselling novel, The Murder Game. Since Julie doesn’t know anyone in her new town, when she meets her neighbor John Dunbar, their instant connection brings measured hope for a new beginning. But she never imagines that a simple, benign conversation with him could set her life spinning so far off course.

We know where you live.…

After a series of misunderstandings, Julie and her family become the target of increasingly unsettling harassment. Has Julie’s stalker found her, or are her neighbors out to get her, too? As tension in the neighborhood rises, new friends turn into enemies, and the results are deadly.

 

I finished this book several days ago and am still reeling from the complete suspense it kept me in. I kept finishing chapters simply to get immensely frustrated at still not solving the mystery, and absolutely could not put this book down.

 

I really enjoyed how carefully drawn the neighbourhood that Julie moved to was. I felt as though the characters I saw could be people I would find in the town where I grew up, and though I almost would have liked them to have been more cariacatural, I enjoyed how one member of the area really took things over the top.

 

Characters in general were exceptionally well drawn and I felt like I had a feel for even the more minor characters. I liked that they had their strengths and their weaknesses. I liked that they had their own interests and how they demonstrated these. I liked that there were a lot of children that also had their own personalities and tropes.

 

But this book's strength comes from the suspense. The ultimate revelation of the mystery honestly was rather lackluster after the entire buildup, yet that didn't take away from how much I enjoyed the buildup to the revelation. The contrast between the characters in the past and the present, and how their desires had changed, too, was incredibly strong.

 

I could not put this book down, and I highly recommend this to anyone who loves to be sucked into a gripping story.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.