Tag «Coming of Age»

Single Sundays: Zenn Diagram by Wendy Brant

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Zenn Diagram (from Goodreads):

The more I touch someone, the more I can see and understand, and the more I think I can help. But that’s my mistake. I can’t help. You can’t fix people like you can solve a math problem.

Math genius. Freak of nature. Loner.

Eva Walker has literally one friend—if you don’t count her quadruplet three-year-old-siblings—and it’s not even because she’s a math nerd. No, Eva is a loner out of necessity, because everyone and everything around her is an emotional minefield. All she has to do is touch someone, or their shirt, or their cell phone, and she can read all their secrets, their insecurities, their fears.

Sure, Eva’s “gift” comes in handy when she’s tutoring math and she can learn where people are struggling just by touching their calculators. For the most part, though, it’s safer to keep her hands to herself. Until she meets six-foot-three, cute-without-trying Zenn Bennett, who makes that nearly impossible.

Zenn’s jacket gives Eva such a dark and violent vision that you’d think not touching him would be easy. But sometimes you have to take a risk…

breakdown

Author: Wendy Brant
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Coming of Age
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: April 4, 2017
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I had never heard of this book until I stumbled upon Poulami @ Daydreaming Books review back in April. I’m not one for YA contemporaries in general but the mathematics aspect as well as Eva’s gift made this book seem unique and fresh. So I was definitely interested in seeing how everything plays out.

The Concept:

Eva’s gift of reading people’s emotions and anxiety was a very neat addition to this story. It helps to reinforce her personality and actions in a way that you wouldn’t get otherwise. And of course, it adds some drama to the backbone of this coming of age story.

At the same time, I can’t help but wonder if this story would have been stronger without it. While it plays a very important role in the first half of the novel, it doesn’t have too much of a role in the latter half. It gives the story a whimsical feeling to it that almost diminishes the overall emotion of the story–or it did to me a little bit.

But it’s still a super refreshing aspect and the story wouldn’t be what it is without it.

The Plot:

This story reads very much like your typical coming of age story, but with lots of twists. I have to say that this plot surprised me more than I ever anticipated! There is so much more to this story than a girl crushing on a boy she can’t touch and I was totally invested.

The Characters:

I thought Eva was absolutely hilarious as a heroine. I totally laughed out loud throughout this story at some of her comments and her wit.

She’s also very relateable as well. The inner math geek in my found a kindred spirit for sure. But the teenage girl in me resonated with her insecurities too. Like strains on your friendships because of boyfriends or other after-school commitments; anxiety with post-secondary school and simply just being confident in yourself. I think many of us have felt those things at one point or another.

However, I did find her a little judgey (or perhaps the word I want is pessimistic?) when it came to her fractals. She really jumps to some steep conclusions and assumptions about people simply by touch and not through knowing who they are. It’s easy to do for sure and I can’t blame her either (the feelings are powerful and overwhelming) but it irked me a little.

The Romance:

This was super cute and completely adorable. Zenn is such a swoon-worthy hero and I immediately fell for him. He’s got that mysterious aura around him and is so genuine that it’s hard not to like him.

My Rating: 4/5

overall

I devoured this book in one sitting! This book is fun but also serious when it needs to be and it’s just a heartwarming read that will have you laughing, swooning and perhaps shedding a tear along the way.

Read if You Like: coming of age, unique premises
Avoid if You: dislike YA contemporaries

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Single Sundays: Beyond the Stars by Stacy Wise

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Beyond the Stars (from Goodreads):
Falling for him wasn’t in the plans…

Most girls would kill for the opportunity to work for Jack McAlister, Hollywood’s hottest actor, but twenty-one-year-old Jessica Beckett is ready to kick him out of her red Ford Fiesta and never look back. She should be spending her junior year in France, eating pastries and sharpening her foreign language skills. Instead she’s reluctantly working as Jack’s personal assistant, thanks to her powerhouse talent agent aunt.

Jack is private, prickly, and downright condescending. Jessica pushes his buttons—she’s not the type of girl to swoon over celebrity heartthrobs, precisely why her aunt thought she’d be perfect for the job—and Jack pushes right back.

But as she begins to peel away his layers, Jessica is shocked to find she craves her boss’s easy smile and sexy blue eyes. The problem is, so does the entire female population. And what started out as the job from hell soon has Jess wondering if a guy like Jack could ever find love with a regular girl like her.

breakdown

Author: Stacy Wise
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Celebrity, Coming of Age
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: February 8, 2016
Source & Format: Read It Review It–eARC

disclaimer

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I first saw this book as a galley on NetGalley but never got a chance to request it. So it seemed like fate when a couple months later it was a part of the Read It, Review It program in my New Adult Book Club on Goodreads. I made sure I grabbed a copy ASAP!

I really enjoy the idea of celebrity romances with everyday people in my NA novels. Sometimes, it’s executed well but other times it’s a little whimsical and rushed. In other words, not my ideal. But this one sounded promising and I needed a good contemporary read to buffer a somewhat lacklustre one before I moved on to a fantasy novel.

The Plot:

This novel felt more like a coming of age story than a romance. Which is fine and even a little expected since New Adult novels tend to have this as a minor element. But the lack of a romance for almost 75% of the book drained me a bit. Especially when the last 25% seemed to pack everything in, rushing to wrap it all up. I would have liked to have seen those last few plot points scattered throughout the novel to give it that dramatic flare.

The Characters:

Jessica was alright. To be honest, something rubbed me the wrong way about her in the first chapter. I think it was her somewhat stubborn nature that made it hard for me to totally love her. But I did warm up to her as the novel progressed but she didn’t blow me away.

Jack was cute but unfortunately, a little to one-dimensional for me. I really wish this story was told in alternating POV because he did seem to have an interesting backstory that I would have liked to have explored more.

The Romance:

I really wanted some sexual tension and chemistry between these two but nothing ever happened. While I got that they had this emotional connection (the typical “she treats me like a real human being, not a celebrity” vibe), I didn’t really see much else between these two. At least, not enough to warrant the deep feelings they get so suddenly. Although it seemed to take forever to get to that romance point, only a couple of weeks had passed in the book so it made everything seem superficial to me.

My Rating: 3/5

overall

If you’re looking for a spicy NA romance featuring a celebrity, look elsewhere! But if you want a cute and sweet way to spend a summer afternoon, this is a great novel for you to read.

Read if You Like: sweet romances, coming of age stories, celebrity stories
Avoid if You: want a “spicier” read, more sexual tension

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Series Review: The DIMILY Trilogy by Estelle Maskame

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

  

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Did I Mention I Love You? (from Goodreads):

Love is everything but expected.

Eden Munro came to California for a summer of sun, sand, and celebrities—what better way to forget about the drama back home? Until she meets her new family of strangers: a dad she hasn’t seen in three years, a stepmom, and three stepbrothers.

Eden gets her own room in her dad’s fancy house in Santa Monica. A room right next door to her oldest stepbrother, Tyler Bruce. Whom she cannot stand. He has angry green eyes and an ego bigger than a Beverly Hills mansion. She’s never felt such intense dislike for someone. But the two are constantly thrown together as his group of friends pulls her into their world of rule-breaking, partying, and pier-hanging.

And the more she tries to understand what makes Tyler burn hotter than the California sun, the more Eden finds herself falling for the one person she shouldn’t love…

breakdown

Series: DIMILY Trilogy or Did I Mention I Love You Trilogy
Author: Estelle Maskame
# of Books: 3 (Did I Mention I Love You?, Did I Mention I Need You?, Did I Mention I Miss You?)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: July 2015 – December 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Paperback (Sourcebooks Fire edition); Netgalley (DIMIMY)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I first saw DIMILY on Netgalley but I wasn’t able to read a copy. So I patiently waited for my library to get a copy and eventually, I was able to read it.

I really, really enjoyed Rival by Penelope Douglas a couple of years ago which also has a step-sibling relationship. I love forbidden romances so I think it’s obvious why DIMILY was on my radar. I was hoping for a more New Adult version of a YA contemporary but was willing to give this one a chance because the plot-line really intrigued me.

The Plot:

The plot in Did I Mention I Love You (DIMILY) is your typical YA story set in California: lots of underage parties with the rich, beautiful kids and their overly dramatic lives. Don’t forget the teen angst! It’s here in buckets!

DIMILY is really just Eden trying to navigate her new everyday family life by immersing herself in the Californian way of life. She has her own insecurities from the past (that slowly get revealed in time but that I felt were pretty obvious) and she harbours a lot of (understandable) resentment towards her father whom she has agreed to stay with for the summer. She does a lot of rebelling which is interesting; it just gets monotonous over time because it is always the same thing.

Honestly, there isn’t that much to the plot but there is something addicting about the story in a guilty pleasure kind of way. Mostly, I think it was the enigma that is Tyler that keep me reading because I wanted to get to the bottom of his story and could have cared less about Eden and her issues.

Did I Mention I Need You (DIMINY) is your typical bridging trilogy romance BUT, I found it much easier to read (see in the characters section below for why). Again, it had this addicting quality to it that kept me intrigued from start to finish. Eden’s character development seemed to come to light more here as well.

The Characters:

As someone who reads a lot of New Adult novels now (I rarely read a YA contemporary), the problems these characters faced seemed a little petty. So it made getting comfortable with Eden as a narrator difficult; especially because she is so angsty at the start of the series. I did, however, manage to look past her angst in order to see why she acts the way she does and it did work for the most part. Eden has a lot of self-esteem issues that come to the surface and influence her character development too. I was really hoping for a little more focus on that as the story progressed but it doesn’t really happen all that much. Regardless, she does has some depth to her.

I also struggled with Eden’s actions as a character. I was never able to get a good read on her. It wasn’t like she was saying one thing and then completely doing another, but I really don’t think she thought things through all the way in most situations. Perhaps that is the result of her being a 16 year old girl and needing to mature a bit (I had to remind myself numerous times that these characters were still in high school) or simply a result of her self-esteem issues, I’m not really sure. She also comes across as slightly selfish–but that does get better as the series progresses. Regardless, I didn’t really love Eden as a character and it made it hard to root for her at times.

Tyler on the other hand was interesting. It could be the result of him not having a POV, leaving you to only know as much about him as Eden (the narrator) does but I found his character was much more complex than Eden’s. His journey kept me interested in the story more so than Eden did and I liked watching it unfold.

The Romance:

This was a little lacklustre for me in DIMILY. Seeing as it was the main selling point for picking up the series, I really wanted to be blown away.

While Eden is (understandably) intrigued by Tyler, I really didn’t think they interacted that much or at least enough to warrant the feelings they do. Yes, she keeps digging into his life and shows that she cares–which is great and obviously something he needed–but I didn’t get the fascination on either end truthfully.

Their relationship becomes stronger as the series continues but they definitely aren’t gracing my list of favourite couples ever–even if I have come to root for them.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

DIMINY’s ending has me very curious to see what is going to happen in the finale. Hopefully we see some mature characters who have learned from their past actions and get a super romantic finale. The more I read about these characters, the more I want to see things work out for everyone involved.

updates

–December 4, 2016– Book #3: Did I Mention I Miss You? (DIMIMY)

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I had high expectations for this finale. Everything has been building for this book and I couldn’t wait to dive in!

And it was perfect! This was exactly what I wanted in this final book.

The proof of character growth that we got here was fantastic. These aren’t the same characters we had in DIMILY. They’ve grown and it’s shown here perfectly. I loved watching Eden mature into the young woman she becomes. I wasn’t a big fan of hers at the start of this series but I’ve really grown to like who she has transformed into before my eyes.

And Tyler has the same great progression as well. Perhaps even more so.

I felt every range of emotions reading this book; in a completely great way. If you had asked me when I picked up DIMILY (where I watched these immature teenagers rebel with so much angst), I would have said “no”. But it’s amazing how much I fell in love with these two and their journey the more invested I became in this series.

This book hit all the right notes and I have no doubt in my mind that fans of this series will LOVE this final novel.

I know I sure did!

Series Rating: 4/5

Did I Mention I Love You? 3/5 | Did I Mention I Need You 4/5 | Did I Mention I Miss You 5/5

overall

It you enjoy high school drama and angst, this is a great series for you! You need to be able to tolerate a lead you might not really connect with or like–but the story and relationships have this addicting quality to them that makes it entertaining to read. And the character growth from start to finish makes the journey worth it!

Read if You Like: YA contemporary, forbidden love
Avoid if You: dislike angst, teenagers pretending to be adults, cheating characters

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Single Sundays: The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for The Wrong Side of Right (from Goodreads):
Fans of Sarah Dessen and Huntley Fitzpatrick will enjoy this smart debut young adult novel, equal parts My Life Next Door and The Princess Diaries—plus a dash of Aaron Sorkin.

Kate Quinn’s mom died last year, leaving Kate parentless and reeling. So when the unexpected shows up in her living room, Kate must confront another reality she never thought possible—or thought of at all. Kate does have a father. He’s a powerful politician. And he’s running for U.S. President. Suddenly, Kate’s moving in with a family she never knew she had, joining a campaign in support of a man she hardly knows, and falling for a rebellious boy who may not have the purest motives. This is Kate’s new life. But who is Kate? When what she truly believes flies in the face of the campaign’s talking points, she must decide. Does she turn to the family she barely knows, the boy she knows but doesn’t necessarily trust, or face a third, even scarier option?

Set against a backdrop of politics, family, and first love, this is a story of personal responsibility, complicated romance, and trying to discover who you are even as everyone tells you who you should be.

breakdown

Author: Jenn Marie Thorne
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Coming of Age, Politics, Realistic Fiction, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: March 17, 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I found this book one day when I was trolling the blogs I follow. The cover captured my attention, as did the positive reviews; but it was the synopsis that made me want to read this book right away.

Meg Cabot’s All American Girl is one of my favourite teen novels ever. Typical of all Meg Cabot’s work, it just had that great blend of teen romance and humour with a dash of realism, making it so much fun to read. So while I knew The Wrong Side of Right was going to focus more heavily on the realistic world of politics, I was hoping it would capture my heart like All American Girl would.

The Plot:

The plot mostly focuses on Kate throughout the campaign trail. I truly think this book could have been 50 pages shorter and still got its message across. Because the beginning was strong, as was the end, but somewhere in the middle it started to lose me. It’s interesting for the most part (especially if you like following campaign stories) but after a while it gets a little monotonous. Like, I got the point: she wasn’t sure she was in the right place–now what was she going to do about it?

What I did enjoy about this story was Kate’s interaction with her new family. I loved the approach this story took with that respect because it seemed so real to me. It wasn’t plagued with over dramatics and I could easily see the situation happening to any family–whether they are in politics or not–when an unexpected child enters their lives.

The Characters:

I have such mixed feelings about Kate. There is no doubt about it: she is an extremely naive girl. I can’t say that I entirely blame her either given the situation she finds herself in. Politics–especially American politics–is its own world and you truly don’t understand it, I’m sure, until you’re immersed into it. I get that. However, what frustrated me is that she was so campaign savvy–she knew she had to act a certain way while in public–yet she was surprised when she did have to act a certain way. It’s confusing I know, which is what bothered me the most while reading.

I suppose her naivety is used to show a non-cynical view of politics. She is that fresh voice on her father’s campaign trail. (Why they gave her as much power as they did within the campaign still baffles me.) But it shows her age that she just doesn’t get it-and hey, what 16 year old really does get politics? I’m 23 and I still don’t get it! I think it’s the fact that she gave me the impression she had a better understanding of how it all worked–when in fact she really didn’t–that made her seem wish-washy to me. She was so strong in her political convictions and quickly interfered on those matters, yet struggled with the simplest aspects of her daily life when it came to her family. Yes, it is a coming of age novel and I totally get the journey she has to go on–I just didn’t enjoy the journey as much as I had hoped when we were first introduced to her.

Also, I just have to get this off my chest because it frustrated me to no end: (highlight until the | to read the spoiler rant) | Ok, so the whole deportation situation with her friend frustrated me to no end! Sure, I can get the initial assumption that her father ratted her friend’s parents out. HOWEVER, it wouldn’t take a genius to figure out that the family staring in a photo with Kate that is publicly released before her father’s apparent change in immigration are somehow linked. That just seemed like a MAJOR DUH to me and I guess I was the only one who saw it that way |

The Romance:

For some reason, I really thought this was going to play a bigger role in the story than it actually did. I think it was my All American Girl bias–which is book that is primarily a romance with a side-story of Samantha’s growing up. I wanted more personally but I understand that it was never to be the primary focus of Kate’s story.

My Rating: 3/5

overall

This book started strong but lost me along the way. I think Kate’s naivety may turn people off but I think you have to cut her some slack given the situation she is in. At the same time, this book helped me reaffirm that I am not the biggest YA Contemporary fan. I personally really struggle to connect with the characters in this genre so I think my rating may reflect this.

Read if You Like: YA Contemporary, the world of politics (especially American)*
Avoid if You: don’t like naive heroines, want more romance

*Don’t be turned off of the fact that this book may present political views you might not agree with. I didn’t find it preachy, pushy or biased in any respect. It focuses more on the world of politics in the sense of how politicians present themselves to the public rather than particular agendas/policies.

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Fresh Fridays: The Heartbreakers by Ali Novak (The Heartbreaker Chronicles #1)

Fresh Fridays: On Friday, I review a brand new series (ie. only has one book released so far) to see if the series is worth keeping up with. Here is this week’s offering:

The Heartbreaker Chronicles

Other books in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Heartbreakers (from Goodreads):
“When I met Oliver Perry, I had no clue he was the lead singer for The Heartbreakers. And he had no idea that I was the only girl in the world who hated his music.”

Stella will do anything for her sick sister, Cara—even stand in line for an autographed Heartbreakers CD…for four hours. She’s totally winning best birthday gift this year. At least she met a cute boy with soft brown hair and gorgeous blue eyes while getting her caffeine fix. Too bad she’ll never see him again.

Except, Stella’s life has suddenly turned into a cheesy love song. Because Starbucks Boy is Oliver Perry – lead singer for the Heartbreakers. And even after she calls his music crap, Oliver still gives Stella his phone number. And whispers quotes from her favorite Disney movie in her ear. OMG, what is her life?

But how can Stella even think about being with Oliver — dating and laughing and pulling pranks with the band — when her sister could be dying of cancer?

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Netgalley Read 2015
Series: The Heartbreaker Chronicles

This series is linked with her other novel, My Life With the Walter Boys

Author: Ali Novak
# of Books: 2 (The Heartbreakers, The Queen of Hearts)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: No, The Queen of Hearts is currently being published on Wattpad
Genre: Young Adult, Coming of Age, Romance, Music, Realistic
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: August 2015 – ongoing
Source & Format: Netgalley–eBook  |  Thank you SOURCEBOOKS Fire!

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thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Well of course, the cover drew me in, and it was a cover that kept popping up everywhere I turned. So, I read the synopsis and knew I IMMEDIATELY had to read it. Average girl falling in love with a popstar? That’s right up my alley (Rockstar romances are my favourite trend this year). But what really captured my attention was the ill sister–this was an aspect that promised a heartwarming (possibly heartbreaking) plotline.

Needless to say, I was super excited when I was a approved to read this and couldn’t wait to dive in!

What I Liked:

– The Romance –

Boy, I was swooning within five seconds of meeting Oliver! He was charming and genuine–basically everything you want in your favourite pop-punk crush. Watching Stella and Oliver interact had me wanting more and I couldn’t put this book down! (It was torture being at work when all I wanted to do was stay in bed and read this!)

– The Family Dynamic –

Stella’s family situation was perfectly balanced with the romance. I enjoyed watching her grow as a person; learning what her fears were and how to conquer them. The situations she faces in her everyday life–a sick sister, a brother leaving home for college, herself leaving for college–really grounded this book in realism, making Stella relatable in an otherwise unorthodox situation. It added a depth to Stella’s character that I appreciated.

What I Didn’t Like:

– The required Romantic “Drama” Scene –

I was LOVING this book until this one romantic plot element that I could have done without. Now, because I don’t list spoilers, that previous statement makes it seem like some unfathomable event happened that ruined the entire book.

That isn’t what happened!

I saw this particular plot device a mile away but I had really hoped that wouldn’t happen. I see why it was added but for a book that was pretty logical and flowing, it really put a not-so-great kink in things. It made my love for the characters diminish just a touch BUT, it was really just one small aspect in an otherwise great novel.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I didn’t know this was going to be a series when I picked it up so I am ecstatic! I loved the rest of the band and I can’t wait to see what is in store for the rest of the boys!

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My Rating: 4.5/5

overall

It has been a long time since I wanted to put everything on hold just to finish a book! Normally, I’m not a huge fan of contemporary YA romance but this one had so many great elements that I loved. Can’t wait for more!

Read if You Like: coming of age stories, musicians, contemporary romance
Avoid if You: don’t like YA contemporary

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Single Sundays: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Fangirl (from Goodreads):
A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love.

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan…

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

breakdown

Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genre: Young Adult/New Adult, Coming of Age, Contemporary, Romance, Family, Realistic
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: Third Person, Single
Publication Date: September 30, 2013
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

If you don’t follow any YA blogs, I’ll let you know that there are two books that always get high praise: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins and basically anything by Rainbow Rowell–but more often than not, it’s Fangirl.

So, I was curious and just had to pick up this book. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was up for anything and I tried to not let the numerous positive reviews cloud my judgement as I read.

The Plot:

This is probably one of the greatest examples of a coming of age story in recent times. This story is all about Cath adjusting to the many changes in her life: college, separation from her twin sister, navigating her relationships with her parents and basically anything that a young adult has to go through. Oh, and don’t forget first love!

What makes this story great is that everyone can relate to Cath in some way. I think the most obvious one is going to college but we all can relate in some indirect way. Sure, I don’t have a twin but I sympathized with the evolving sibling relationship–and that relationship could just as easily be with your BFF. I think lots of bloggers can relate to Cath’s need to write fanfiction. I know there were times in my undergraduate career where I told myself “just finish this assignment and then you can write your book reviews” just like Cath.

And the fandom part…I think we’ve all been there about something in our lives.

This is a slow journey watching Cath evolve but it touches on so many different aspects that it keeps the pace steady and true. While it was long for my personal tastes, I thought it was very thorough and well-balanced. Nothing is resolved immediately so in that respect, I found it to be very realistic in how the characters react and deal with various issues.

The Characters:

Cath can be a very hard character to like. I’m a very stubborn person so I find it hard to read about other stubborn characters. Cath is the very definition of stubborn and I think that can be off-putting to a lot of readers. She can make it hard to root for her when she says or acts a certain way when she knows it’s wrong. But I think that’s what makes this book so great; you watch Cath evolve and grow up right before your eyes. Does that make it very easy to read all the time? Of course not! But I can appreciate the journey.

I really liked all the characters in this book. They were really close to being clichés but they just had that little something that kept them grounded in reality. I think we all have these people in our lives to some degree which again, adds to the realistic element of this story because it is very character driven.

The Romance:

Yeah, that didn’t go the way I expected! I wasn’t sure what to expect when it came to the romance. I thought it was going to play a minor role in the story but it definitely had a larger role than I anticipated–not that it was a bad thing. I thought it was really well developed and I feel like it contributed in a very beneficial way to the plot.

My Rating: 4/5

overall

I didn’t fall in love with this book. One part is that I’m not the biggest coming of age YA fan (which is weird because I love New Adult and that’s pretty much coming of age all the time) and I think part of the reason is because it is so hyped up. I was expecting this book to blow me away and put other coming to age novels to shame…and I’ll admit, it was great, but I just never got sucked into it. It just didn’t WOW me.

Read if You Like: coming of age, stories about everyday relationships
Avoid if You: don’t like stubborn characters, want a more romance driven novel

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Single Sundays: Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Written in the Stars (from Goodreads):
This heart-wrenching novel explores what it is like to be thrust into an unwanted marriage. Has Naila’s fate been written in the stars? Or can she still make her own destiny?

Naila’s conservative immigrant parents have always said the same thing: She may choose what to study, how to wear her hair, and what to be when she grows up—but they will choose her husband. Following their cultural tradition, they will plan an arranged marriage for her. And until then, dating—even friendship with a boy—is forbidden. When Naila breaks their rule by falling in love with Saif, her parents are livid. Convinced she has forgotten who she truly is, they travel to Pakistan to visit relatives and explore their roots. But Naila’s vacation turns into a nightmare when she learns that plans have changed—her parents have found her a husband and they want her to marry him, now! Despite her greatest efforts, Naila is aghast to find herself cut off from everything and everyone she once knew. Her only hope of escape is Saif . . . if he can find her before it’s too late.

breakdown

Author: Aisha Saeed
Genre: Young Adult, Coming of Age, Romance, Culture, Realistic Fiction
Heat Rating
: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This book was floating around the blogosphere when it first came out and as soon as I read the synopsis I really wanted to read it. It’s also written by one of the founding members of the #weneeddiversebooks movement–Aisha Saeed–and I have yet to read a “diverse” book.

When it comes to culture/ethnicity I fit the typical Canadian mold. I don’t identify with a particular ethnicity/hertitage/culture as I consider myself Canadian which means I’ve grown up in a house with completely Western beliefs. The idea of arranged marriage is something I have no exposure to, and what exposure I do have is coloured in western stereotype and prejudice. So what I was expecting this book to be was a young adult version of Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns but with less oppression.

The Concept:

This book was hard for me to read–not because of the writing because it is very well done–but because of the topics it deals with. As a young woman who has never been put in a position of cultural expectations by my parents, it was hard for me to relate to Naila. It’s easy for me as someone who has never had to deal with these expectations to go “do your own thing girl!”and get frustrated with her because she doesn’t.

At the same time, I think we can all relate to the desire to appease our parents’ expectations for us when it comes to academics and life (to some degree). I know that I still do despite the fact that I am approaching my mid-20s and don’t live with my parents anymore. However, at the same time, I’m at the point in my life where I mostly consult my parents about what I am doing and feel confident enough to make my own decisions. That totally wasn’t the case when I was Naila’s age and I had to make sure I reminded myself of that as I was reading.

It’s easy to judge something you don’t completely understand and I really didn’t want to do that with this book. I really tried to keep an open mind reading this book and because I did, I think I enjoyed the book a lot more.

The Plot:

Perhaps this is my ignorance showing through, but by the midpoint I thought the book became a little “over-dramatic”. Some events happen that I thought were over the top and my initial reaction was that it ruined what was a fairly realistic story up until this point.

But the more I thought about it and the more I continued reading I realized that this is probably the case for some young girls in the world. That these events are reality for some women and not simply plot elements for dramatic purposes. And that is terrifying and disheartening all at the same time.

I loved Aisha Saeed’s message at the end of the novel and the impact it had on my reading experience. She has definitely accomplished her goal with this story.

The Characters:

As I said previously, I had a hard time connecting with Naila’s character because I’ve never had cultural expectations placed on me to the level that she has. At the same time though, I thought she was well written and realistic. Her narration was easy to follow and I really felt for her by the end of the story.

The Romance:

Don’t go into this book thinking there is going to be some great romance! Naila’s romance was Saif happens prior to the novel starting and her relationship with her husband isn’t a huge portion of the story. The story is mostly about Naila dealing with her parent’s expectations while trying to remain true to her own wants and desires for life.

My Rating: 3.5/5

overall

While I didn’t love this book as much as I had hoped, it definitely left a lasting impression on me. It has made me more aware of what some young woman (and men) face everyday that I have remained ignorant on. It was a very touching and eye-opening read for me.

Read if You Like: books about cultural expectations, growing up, parent relationships
Avoid if You: want an epic romance
similarreads

  • A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

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Single Sundays: 99 Days by Katie Cotugno

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for 99 Days (from Goodreads):
Day 1: Julia Donnelly eggs my house my first night back in Star Lake, and that’s how I know everyone still remembers everything—how I destroyed my relationship with Patrick the night everything happened with his brother, Gabe. How I wrecked their whole family. Now I’m serving out my summer like a jail sentence: Just ninety-nine days till I can leave for college, and be done.

Day 4: A nasty note on my windshield makes it clear Julia isn’t finished. I’m expecting a fight when someone taps me on the shoulder, but it’s just Gabe, home from college and actually happy to see me. “For what it’s worth, Molly Barlow,” he says, “I’m really glad you’re back.”

Day 12: Gabe got me to come to this party, and I’m actually having fun. I think he’s about to kiss me—and that’s when I see Patrick. My Patrick, who’s supposed to be clear across the country. My Patrick, who’s never going to forgive me.

breakdown

Author: Katie Cotugno
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Coming of Age, Drama, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Heat Rating: warm *spicy YA*
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: April 21, 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Normally, I would stay FAR FAR away from any YA/NA/Adult contemporary romance that primarily deals with a love triangle. I don’t like reading about someone who is torn between two people she loves equally simultaneously. And I LOVE romance stories. There is just something about love triangles that gets on my last nerve and frustrate me to no end. Especially if there is cheating involved.

So it’s still a little shocking to me that I even picked up 99 Days because it is the very definition of an annoying love triangle. One girl. Two brothers. Cheating. Need I say more?

However, the concept of the story being told as “days” instead of chapters interested me and I loved the cover. The reviews I had read were so-so but I was willing to give it a shot and entered into it with an open mind and unsure expectations.

The Concept:

I really loved the execution of using each day as a chapter. I found it cut of the unnecessary prattle and got to the gritty part of each day. It made things seem so much faster as I was reading because I wasn’t getting bored by mundane details.

The Plot:

You know, I got really into the plot of this book! I won’t lie: I really wanted to know what happened that caused Molly to sleep with Patrick’s brother when it seems like she really, truly loved him. Patrick and Molly’s past relationship was shown bit by bit and I found myself addicted to those presented moments. I could have easily read this book in a sitting if I had the time because it flows really nicely.

I would say that the book is split 50/50 between the romance and the coming of age aspect. Molly (and the rest of the characters) have a lot of growing up to do (understatement) and that focus was split equally on which brother she would end up with.

This book was also more realistic than I expected. A lot of the situations Molly finds herself in I could easily say happen at most high schools to a certain degree. I think as teens a lot of us struggled finding the direction we wanted our life to go in; had a hard time balancing our romantic and social lives; and maintaining our relationship with our parents. I also thought the talks about sex and drinking were really realistic as well. And the whole “slut-shaming” bit was super frustrating to read because HELLO, it takes two to tango and Gabe is just as much at fault! Ugh, I hate double standards and I’m glad it’s addressed (though not as much as I would have liked personally) in this book.

The Characters:

Molly is really a make-or-break character. If you don’t like cheating protagonists or characters who aren’t strong in their convictions–stay AWAY from this one! You will really find Molly to be a frustrating character and not enjoy this novel whatsoever.

Which is a shame because I think Molly gets a bad rap in both the book and with readers. She is a young and confused girl–watching her work out these issues is the whole point of a coming of age story! You can’t expected her to be flawless and selfless or else you wouldn’t have a story!

Does that mean I support the decisions she makes throughout this book? HELL NO! But at the same time I cut her some slack (at least with the stuff in the past) because that’s some tough shit to go through emotionally and I can’t entirely blame her for thinking that she only had those options. And again, DOUBLE STANDARD! It takes two people to do what she did and I wish everyone else would remember that!

So is Molly my favourite heroine ever? Definitely not. Was she selfish? To a certain extent regarding certain things, yes. Did I find her frustrating to read about? Sometimes. But I tried my best to reserve judgement as I watched her try to work on her issues. She’s in a tough spot and doing the best she can, even if I don’t agree with how she handles things.

The rest of the characters were your typical contemporary fodder. I wouldn’t say that I loved any characters in particular but they suited the story.

The Romance:

If I put the cheating aside, I really didn’t mind how the romance was done in this book. If I put the cheating back in, I feel a little icky but I’ll live.

One of the reasons I find love triangles to be so frustrating is that sometimes my “team” (aka the guy I am rooting for) doesn’t have a shot in hell at being with the girl in the end when I really want him to be. But with this one, I flopped between who I wanted to see with Molly at the end.

So I guess that I can’t entirely blame Molly for being stuck between the two brothers because they sure don’t make it easy! They both know how to manipulate her by saying and doing the right thing at the right time. However, I really didn’t fall for any of their charms and by the end, I was just hoping she would kick both of them to the curb–girl power!

But like I said earlier in my review, I thought the romance balanced nicely with Molly coming to grips about who she is as a person and how much she needs to grow up.

My Rating: 3.5/5

overall

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. It had a great reading flow to it and I found myself hooked into the simple story. However, if you don’t think you can read this book with an open mind (especially with cheating) or really can’t stand indecisive heroines, stay away!

Read if You Like: love triangles, coming of age romances, teenaged drama
Avoid if You: don’t like cheating characters, love triangles

similarreads

  • The Vincent Boys by Abbi Glines (The Vincent Boys Series #1)
  • She’s So Dead to Us by Kieran Scott (She’s So/He’s So Trilogy #1)
  • Days Like This by Danielle Ellison (Landslide Series #1)

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Fresh Fridays: Days Like This (Landslide Series) by Danielle Ellison

Fresh Fridays: On Friday, I review a brand new series (ie. only has one book released so far) to see if the series is worth keeping up with. Here is this week’s offering:

Landslide Series

Other books in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Days Like This (from Goodreads):
Sometimes the only thing standing between fear and hope is you.

Almost a year ago, nineteen-year-old Cassie Harlen had a lot to deal with. A stack of college acceptance letters waiting for answers, a proposal from the boy next door, and a mother whose most recent bipolar episode left Cassie hurt and confused. Tired of cleaning up the messes caused by her mother’s disorder, of resenting her mother for not being there, and scared of being trapped by an inevitable future—which included marrying Graham Tucker—Cassie did the only thing she could think of to keep from ending up like her mother: she left.

Graham never knew why Cassie walked away. He woke up one morning and she was gone—along with the life that he’d created around her. After eleven months, Graham has a new plan for his future. One that doesn’t involve Cassie Harlen.

When Cassie’s mom nearly burns down her house, Cassie’s forced to return home. Back to a mother she’s tried to ignore and the guy she’s been unable to forget. Graham doesn’t know how he’s going to spend the whole summer living next door to the person who broke his heart without letting those old feelings push through to the surface.

Neither does Cassie.

breakdown

Series: Landslide Series
Author: Danielle Ellison
# of Books: 1+ (Days Like This, book 2)
Book Order: Unsure
Complete?: No, this is a part of a new series
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Second Chance, Mental Health, Coming of Age
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: June 2, 2015 – ongoing
Source & Format: Netgalley–eBook  Thank you Bookish World Press for the opportunity!

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thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Normally, I don’t read second chance romances. They’re predictable and often full of cliches and I miss watching the couple fall in love. But lately, I’ve found them to be fairly interesting–especially in the New Adult genre. While the reasons why the one lead leaves is often the same between books, I love the drama, sexual tension and secrets of the past (even if I can figure them out pretty quickly). I guess you could say they are my guilty pleasure NA reads.

But what captured my attention with this book was the fact that Cassie’s mom is bipolar. As a health care student, I really love anything that promotes mental health awareness because it is a serious health concern. When it isn’t plagued with stigma, it’s completely neglected or ignored and that just isn’t cool with me. SO, I was really interested to see how this would add to the story and how the characters deal with a situation that is becoming more prevalent in society.

The Plot:

The plot isn’t a fast-paced, drama riddled one. Instead, it’s a slow burn with Cassie and Graham trying to navigate the messy world of best friends-turned lovers-turned scorned exes. This isn’t as bad (ie as flip-floppy) as it sounds. I actually really appreciated the way they handled things; even if I found them to be naive about their feelings. Nothing is more frustrating than watching people not talk to each other when it would solve everything. But hey, you wouldn’t have a story otherwise so I took it with a grain of salt. As I said, it really wasn’t overly annoying because I understood why they both were afraid to open up to each other given all that has happened to them.

You also have Cassie’s coming of age story, trying to find out who she is independently of Graham, her mom and her friends. Sure, it wasn’t the happiest story ever but it was great watching her learn from her faults and truly work on becoming a stronger person. This story was just as much about character development as it was about the second chance romance and that was just fabulous.

As for its dealings with mental health, I thought it was really well done. I feel like they captured all sides of it: the direct impact it has on the person, the impact it has on their immediate family and the indirect impact it has on friends of those directly involved.

The Characters:

As I said before, this story held a great balance between character development and romance.

Sure, it was frustrating to watch Graham and Cassie dance around their relationship issues but I felt like you learned enough about their past relationship to understand why they were acting like they were. Plus, you kinda sign-up for it when you decide to read a second chance romance.

Graham was a total sweetheart and you could tell he was genuinely a nice guy who cared about the impact of his actions. So that made it hard to like Cassie because she really screwed him over when she left without telling him why. (WHY do people think this it is always a good idea to leave without a word! Humans need closure by nature–why are we so afraid of honesty!*endsrant*). However, I really appreciated the journey of self-growth she took in this book. It takes a lot to admit what your own faults are and even more strength to try and fix them so I really grew to respect her character.

The Romance:

This was definitely more of a slow burn romance. You can tell the attraction and feelings are there so I never struggled with understanding why they cared for each other. Like with all second chance romances, I missed reading about them falling in love for the first time but I enjoyed watching them reconnect and work on building up the trust in their relationship.

It’s your typical childhood sweetheart story but the hurdles they have had to overcome really adds a genuine depth to their characters. I could definitely see this happening in real-life and I liked that realistic element it had to it.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’m not sure who the next book is about. I have some ideas but I’m curious! I will definitely be checking it out regardless!

My Rating: 4/5

overall

I really enjoyed this book! Once I was into it, I had a hard time putting it down because I really loved watching the journey these two characters took. It was refreshing to read a New Adult novel that focused more on self-growth than it did on sex. I also loved the mental health aspect–it was really well done and eye opening.

Read if You Like: second chance romances, stories dealing with mental health, childhood sweetheart romances
Avoid if You: want more passion (ie sex scenes), don’t like coming of age stories/vibes

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Fresh Fridays: Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt (Once Upon a Crime Family #1)

Fresh Fridays: On Friday, I review a brand new series (ie. only has one book released so far) to see if the series is worth keeping up with. Here is this week’s offering:

Once Upon a Crime Family

Other books in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Hold Me Like a Breath (from Goodreads):
Penelope Landlow has grown up with the knowledge that almost anything can be bought or sold—including body parts. She’s the daughter of one of the three crime families that control the black market for organ transplants.

Penelope’s surrounded by all the suffocating privilege and protection her family can provide, but they can’t protect her from the autoimmune disorder that causes her to bruise so easily.

And in her family’s line of work no one can be safe forever.

All Penelope has ever wanted is freedom and independence. But when she’s caught in the crossfire as rival families scramble for prominence, she learns that her wishes come with casualties, that betrayal hurts worse than bruises, that love is a risk worth taking . . . and maybe she’s not as fragile as everyone thinks.

breakdown

Series: Once Upon a Crime Family
Author: Tiffany Schmidt
# of Books: 2 (Hold Me Like a Breath, Break Me Like a Promise)
Book Order: Connected? (Not sure)
Complete?: No, Break Me Like a Promise, will be published May 2016
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Coming of Age, Fairy Tale Retelling, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: May 2015 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

First off, I love the cover! That’s mostly why I even considered reading this book. Tiffany Schmidt has a few books on my  TBR list but the promise of a mafia/crime family book stole my attention. Add to that the fairy tale retelling, I’m sold!

I was hoping this book would be faster paced and grittier than Nicole William’s Crossing Stars (which was a retelling of Romeo and Juliet with modern day crime families). So I was really excited to read it but some “meh” reviews made me lower my initially high expectations.

The Concept / The World:

I’ll be honest, I didn’t know what the fairy tale element of Hold Me Like a Breath was until I read the author’s note at the end. That’s when everything clicked into place. So don’t go into this thinking it is a straight fairy tale retelling: it’s simply influenced by one particular fairy tale and that’s about it.

On the other hand, I loved the organ black-market aspect. It was nice to read a a story about a crime family that doesn’t deal in drugs or loans. It also added an interesting ethical/moral debate to the book (though it isn’t a highly philosophical book by any means).

The Plot:

I found this book took a long time to build up to the main plot. It definitely has a slower vibe to it but it always held my attention. I won’t lie: I definitely wanted more physical action when it comes to crime family conflicts but that really didn’t happen. It’s there in little spurts but nothing crazy.

While this book did have the gritty parts to it that I wanted, the majority of this plot is about Penelope growing up and becoming independent. Which is great but not entirely what I was expecting.

This book kept me on my toes. While I had predicted some plot elements (they were super obvious) there were other aspects that stopped me from knowing the ending right away. I really had no idea how everything was going to wrap up and I liked that a lot.

The Characters:

Penelope is exactly what you would imagine from a girl in an overprotective family; she’s struggling for independence and wanting to rebel. This can get really annoying in a character but I really warmed up to Penelope and loved watching her grow.

The rest of the cast is pretty typical and perhaps borders on the cliche; however, they really worked for this story and truly supported Penelope in a way that didn’t take away from her development or overshadow her.

The Romance:

While the romance is really important in terms of the plot, it isn’t some grand romance novel. For me, it left a little something to be desired (I LOVE romances) and I wasn’t sold on it. I think it is was how it was executed (which is one of the twists I talked about earlier) and how I had my heart set on one outcome but it didn’t play out like I expected.

So while I don’t love how everything unfolded (that’s just the romantic in me), I think it worked for this story and liked that it took a backseat when it needed to.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I have NO clue what is in store for the rest of the series. I assume it’s going to follow a different set of characters but I have no idea. It isn’t high on my priority list to read but I’m curious to see what the sequel’s spin will be.

My Rating: 3.5/5

overall

I enjoyed reading Hold Me Like a Breath even if it wasn’t what I was expecting. It’s not a high action, fast paced adventure rather, it is a coming of age story with a small fairy tale basis. Unfortunately, it just didn’t WOW me. I’m interested in the sequel but I’m really have no idea what to expect so I’m not counting down the days; hence, time will tell!

Read if You Like: slower stories, coming of age stories, crime families
Avoid if You: want a integrated fairy tale retelling, don’t like coming of age stories, want more action

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