Tag «Coming of Age»

Single Sundays: The First Kiss Hypothesis by Christina Mandelski

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 First Kiss Hypothesis (from Goodreads):

Nora Reid believes scientific laws control everything, even love. With her grandparents’ epic first kiss story cemented in her brain, Nora develops a hypothesis she’s determined to prove:for each person in the world, there is exactly one other person, and at first kiss, they’ll experience an immediate and intense reaction.

But after four years of zero-reaction kisses, she comes up with a new theory: maybe that pesky crush on her stunningly hot best friend Eli Costas is skewing her results.

She needs to get rid of him, and fast.

Eli Costas is an injury-prone lacrosse star with a problem—the one chance he had at winning over the girl next door resulted in the most epically sucktastic first kiss ever. And now she’s…trying to get rid of him? Hell no. It’s time to disprove her theory and show her exactly what she’s missing.
Game. On.

Disclaimer: This book contains a stunningly hot lacrosse player who isn’t above playing dirty to win over the stubborn girl-next-door of his dreams.

breakdown

Author: Christina Mandelski
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Coming of Age, Romance, High School
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: November 6, 2017
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC | Thank you Entangled Publishing!

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I think the H.BSc that I can attach to my name and the hopeless romantic in me requires that I read any novel that uses a scientific term in its title. I’m a fan of the best friends to more trope, especially in YA, and the promise of a scientific theory to back up why that might not be the case for these two? I was excited to see how this experiment would play out.

The Plot:

This story definitely felt like it was more of a coming of age novel than straight romance–and I really liked that. Eli and Nora have a lot going on in their lives now that they are seniors in high school. They’re beginning to feel the pressures from family and friends when it comes to deciding what’s next. Throw in their long buried crushes on each other and the mutual agreed upon love of pies and you’ve got a bit of a sticky situation.

This book had me at the start. I loved Eli’s goal to make Nora see him as more than a friend and I liked how Nora was unknowingly trying to counteract that. It made from some sweet moments between them. However, it started to lose me in the middle when everything just seemed to repeat itself with nothing completely new to add to the story. It rounds itself out in the end with some solid character growth but my interest did start to wane.

The Characters:

I’m really glad that we got both Nora and Eli’s POV in this story because it does shed some light on why they act like they do. They have their moments of immaturity but I did find that they grew up as the story progressed. I wasn’t blown away by either of them but they worked well for this story.

I do have to give a shout-out to Eli’s autistic brother Ari. He was fabulous and a breath of fresh air in this story. He really grounds the story in a way that benefits everyone.

The Romance:

These two are super cute together, no denying that. I liked that they always had these feelings bubbling up at the surface–I love the type of tension that brings to a story. It’s a touch cliché but these two have enough quirks to keep it interesting.

My Rating: 3.5/5

overall

If you enjoy cute coming of age stories where best friends fall in love, this perfect for you!

Read if You Like: YA contemporary, best friends to more, coming of age
Avoid if You: high school romances

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Single Sundays: Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

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 Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (from Goodreads):

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fave YA Standalone 2017
Author: Becky Albertalli
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Coming of Age, GLBT, Humour
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: April 7, 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This book was EVERYWHERE in 2015. Honestly, you couldn’t escape it. But I was really excited to read it because it sounded a lot like The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Will Grayson, Will Grayson–two of my all time favourite novels. And I don’t been just because all three share GLBT themes. This book promised to be filled with wit, hilarity and a touching story about being comfortable with who you are.

I was so close to adding this to my 5 Year 5 Book Challenge but opted to choose another series for the 2015 picks. But when I was browsing audiobooks to listen to, this one popped up and I knew it was the perfect choice.

The Narration/Audiobook Experience:

I have no doubt in my mind that I enjoyed this book 20x more as an audiobook than if I had read the paper copy. Oh, I would have enjoyed the written novel for sure but the range of emotions I felt reading this were all thanks to the audiobook.

It’s a totally different experience when you hear Simon’s narration aloud. The narrator does a fabulous job conveying the emotions Simon is feeling with his tone and delivery. It’s fabulous! I felt like it was my BFF telling me his experience and not just reading a book aloud. I could spend a whole post gushing about the wonderful experience I had listening to the audiobook.

The Plot:

For a contemporary novel, this had great pacing. I sometimes find contemporary novels get caught up in the mundane moments of everyday life but that is never the case here.

You get those moments with Blue and Simon that have you swooning and sighing thanks to the emails. (More on that in the Romance Section.) The mystery of who Blue was had me spewing all sorts of theories as I read and I couldn’t wait for the big reveal.

But you also have those moments with Simon’s character growth. Whether that’s through interactions with his family, friends or events at school–this story never had a dull moment. And I think part of that reason is Simon’s narration.

The Characters:

Wow, I haven’t loved a character as much as I have loved Simon in a long time! Not only is he hilarious and extremely witty–seriously, he had me in stitches!–he is also extremely endearing as a hero.

He just came across as so real to me. Sometimes it’s hard to connect to the humanity of a character in contemporaries–or at least for me–but I never had that problem here. He shares his fears and flaws but also learns from them. Watching his confidence blossom was so rewarding for me as a reader.

And the rest of the cast is also fabulous. Special shout-out to Simon’s parents who reminded me of the role parents should have in a YA contemporary series.

The Romance:

Swoon! I loved this! Simon gushing about his crush melted my heart. It just felt so real to me! Watching two people share their vulnerabilities and falling in love with them was so great.

My Rating: 5/5

overall

I found a new favourite! This is definitely worthy of sitting beside my all time faves, The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Will Grayson, Will Grayson. Absolute perfection.

Read if You Like: humour, coming of age, GLBT
Avoid if You: dislike YA contemporaries
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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

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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?

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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?

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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.

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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
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  • 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.

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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

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  • 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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