Tag «Young Adult»

Single Sundays: None of the Above by I W Gregorio

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 None of the Above (from Goodreads):

A groundbreaking story about a teenage girl who discovers she was born intersex… and what happens when her secret is revealed to the entire school. Incredibly compelling and sensitively told, None of the Above is a thought-provoking novel that explores what it means to be a boy, a girl, or something in between.

What if everything you knew about yourself changed in an instant?

When Kristin Lattimer is voted homecoming queen, it seems like another piece of her ideal life has fallen into place. She’s a champion hurdler with a full scholarship to college and she’s madly in love with her boyfriend. In fact, she’s decided that she’s ready to take things to the next level with him.

But Kristin’s first time isn’t the perfect moment she’s planned—something is very wrong. A visit to the doctor reveals the truth: Kristin is intersex, which means that though she outwardly looks like a girl, she has male chromosomes, not to mention boy “parts.”

Dealing with her body is difficult enough, but when her diagnosis is leaked to the whole school, Kristin’s entire identity is thrown into question. As her world unravels, can she come to terms with her new self?

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Author: I W Gregorio
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Heat Rating: warm *suggestive content*
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: April 7, 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

It seemed to me that 2015 was the year of “must-read” YA contemporaries. I marked off quite a few as TBR that year thanks to rave reviews from fellow bloggers. Not my usually genre but buzz can do that.

I was drawn to None of the Above for the intersex aspect. As someone who studied science–particularly health sciences–I know what it means to be intersex medically speaking but what does it mean as an everyday person? I was eager to explore that with this book.

The Plot:

As you might have expected, you follow Kristin’s journey from “normal” teenager to learning she is intersex and what that means for her going forward. It’s a heartbreaking journey at times because this girl really does go through a lot. (Truthfully, I lost a little hope in humanity with some of the things people say and do to her).

But there really isn’t much else to the plot. Which is fine because I like the focus on Kristin coming to terms with her diagnosis and becoming comfortable–I mean that’s why I picked up the book.

I do have one peeve with the plot that I have to get off my chest and it’s a spoiler so proceed with caution before opening it.

Spoiler

When Josh assaults Kristin at the club after he realizes she is intersex, I didn’t like that she doesn’t report the assault. I understand that she just got comfortable with other people knowing about her condition but her reasoning that “it being on file will stop him from doing it again” is such bullshit. He will do it again because he thinks he can get away with it. I really wish she would have reported it because it sets a precedence that it’s ok to defend yourself by filing charges but not following through. You aren’t being a hero by letting it slide.

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The Characters:

Truthfully, I wasn’t a big Kristin fan. I can appreciate her journey and how she does grow up from the situation but she was a little too…stereotypical? (Not sure if that is the right word. Maybe cliche?). She’s your classic teenage girl who focuses on popularity, keeping her hot boyfriend and college. And those aren’t bad things necessarily–I just feel like she didn’t evolve from that.

While Kristin learns to accept her condition, her character growth remains pretty stifled. I really wanted her to have this big epiphany that there is more to life than high school and a good-looking boyfriend and she doesn’t really have that.

The Romance:

I’m a little torn on this. On one hand, I like that it wasn’t a huge focus. On the other hand, I don’t like how it is used as a validation that Kristin is a girl because a boy likes her. (Maybe I’m reading too much into it?)

I get that Kristin worries she won’t have that relationship because she isn’t a “true” girl. The difference between gender and sexual orientation is something that is unfortunately linked together. It’s something she struggles with and it does add to her story in a positive way. I just feel like she didn’t think she was complete until she got that “love” from a boy despite the great support from Gwen and her dad.

The Audiobook Version:

This was really well done. One of the nice things about listening to contemporary audiobooks is the emotions they convey. It’s like listening to someone tell you their life story and it’s so easy to listen to.

My Rating: 4/5

overall

While the subject matter of None of the Above is superb, it does sometimes slip into the typical flow of YA contemporaries instead of keeping its focus elsewhere. However, it is an eyeopening read that I recommend to everyone.

Read if You Like: character driven stories, realistic fiction
Avoid if You: (honestly, this is a book everyone should read)
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Series Review: Every Day by David Levithan

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 Every Day (from Goodreads):

Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.
There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.

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Series: Every Day Trilogy
Author: David Levithan
# of Books: 3 (Every Day, Another Day, Someday)

There is a prequel novella: #0.5 Six Days Before

Book Order: Companion (Another Day), Chronological Sequel (Someday)
Complete?: No, Someday, will be published in 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Magical Realism
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: August 2012 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

David Levithan writes one of my all time favourite novels, Will Grayson, Will Grayson. But despite that, I’ve never read any other title by him.

Every Day is a book I’ve seen floating around over the years so it caught my eye when I was browsing new audiobook series to read. I immediately loved the concept and was excited to see what would happen in this story.

The Concept:

This is such a cool idea for a story and I’ve never read anything like this before. I like the feeling that there is something bigger happening in this world and there is a bit of a mystery to it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get elaborated on too much (this is more of a romance with extenuating circumstances than the other way around).

What’s cool is that this story had me thinking about ethics and morality and what it means to live your life. It had me thinking about how we treat and view others, especially when we focus on outward appearance.

The Plot of Every Day:

As I said above, this is a romance that has some extreme circumstances. Finding out why A moves from body to body, or how, takes a back seat to A’s obsession with Rhiannon and being with her. Which is fine, but as you’ll read below, I kinda wanted more.

The Characters in Every Day:

I really didn’t empathize or sympathize with A by the end of Every Day. A does some pretty silly things without truly thinking about the consequences and that annoyed me. By the end, it seemed like A didn’t matter what he did to those other lives so long as he got to be with Rhiannon and I just didn’t agree with that.

Rhiannon is also a bit of a dud if you ask me. I never grew to like her character but I think part of the reason is that she is never elaborated on other than as the object of A’s affections. She also does some pretty questionable things (in my opinion) but I did appreciate her candor near the end of the story.

The Romance in Every Day:

I was not sold on this; which really sucked because this is definitely the whole premise of this story. I just didn’t see the connection between these two. They share one day and they start this all-consuming romance that just irked me.

It also seemed to me that Rhiannon was trading one unhealthy relationship for another–never a good thing.

Why I Won’t Be Reading Another Day:

Another Day is Rhiannon’s companion novel and seeing as I didn’t love her, I’m not going to listen to 9 hours of her drab inner monologue. It also doesn’t look like it is going to answer some of my burning questions in terms of A’s life so I’ll just wait for the third novel.

My Expectations For the Rest of the Series:

I still have a lot of questions about why A changes from body to body so I hope we get those!

Series Rating: 3/5

Every Day 3/5 | Another Day N/A | Someday TBR

overall

A very cool concept that unfortunately gets overshadowed by an angsty teenaged love.

Read if You Like:  YA contemporary, teen romances, magical realism
Avoid if You: want more of a fantasy/mystery plot

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Series Review: The Lone City by Amy Ewing

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 The Jewel (from Goodreads):

The Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty. But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty—because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring.

Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life.

Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence… and try to stay alive. But then a forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a companion to the Duchess’s petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will cost them both more than they bargained for.

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Series: The Lone City Trilogy
Author: Amy Ewing
# of Books: 3 (The Jewel, The White Rose, The Black City)

There are some short stories. Full reading order here.

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: September 2014 – October 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This is one of those series that would pop up on occasion for me. Mostly anytime when I reviewed any of the books from The Selection Series or browsed my library’s eBook collection. I’ll admit, I didn’t really know what the series was about until I decided to pick it up as an audiobook series and read the synopsis.

I also wasn’t sure what to expect but I have a few standards that I like all my dystopian novels to have: an intriguing world, a heroine I can tolerate and an actual plotline.

The Concept / The World:

Although the concept is very similar to other dystopian novels (especially The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood) I’ve encountered in the past, I definitely got sucked into the world. I just love high society books and all the scandals of the haves vs the have-nots. Ewing does a great job of establishing the society here and why everything is as it is. There are a ton of secrets so you don’t know who you can and can’t trust and it just makes the entire story addicting.

The Plot:

You aren’t going to find the action-packed plotlines of The Hunger Games here but you are going to get more of a dramatic plot than The Selection Series ever provides. Meaning there is more than just a forbidden romance at play here.

It helps that this world is so intricate in its structure. Like most caste system stories, it’s the haves vs the have nots and that creates a tense atmosphere of danger and intrigue. The risks are high and you never doubt that for a moment thanks to the antics of the upper classes.

However, I did find the pacing to be off at times. For example, The Jewel starts off with a bang because you are thrown into this super interesting world. Getting acquainted with it and watching Violet navigate this was exciting to read until it reached a lull. The introduction of the romance (just past the 50% mark) really slowed down the plot since the romance becomes the larger focus and the rest of the intrigue takes a backseat. Thankfully it picks up again at the end.

The same can be said about The White Rose which suffers from the typical Book 2 of a Trilogy Slump. It was terribly slow even though important developments do happen–especially near the end.

The Black City, book 3, keeps the pacing strong at the start but wanes a little again in the middle. I was a little disappointed by some of the big “twists” but it was a solid ending to the series as a whole.

The Characters:

I went through a bit of a rocky relationship with Violet. In The Jewel, I liked her as a heroine more so than others I’ve encountered in this type of dystopian story. She didn’t drive me insane though I did roll my eyes many a times at some of her comments. (Often during the romantic scenes because I really wasn’t feeling that aspects). I think I was able to forgive some of her naivety because she really is kept in the dark due to her position/role in society. Of course she is going to react impulsively and not really think things through all the time.

And that’s the case as the series progresses. She doesn’t make the wisest decisions–she fails to see the bigger picture at times and that drove me a little nuts.

But I did like a lot of the side characters and I liked that it was easy to hate the villains.

The Romance:

This was a huge disappointment truthfully. I’m all for forbidden romances but this one just bored me. Their connection just seemed very superficial to me and it definitely borders on insta-love. I just wanted a little more substance here. I can’t help but feel that Garnet (the son of the Duchess who bought Violet) would have been a more intriguing love interest for her rather than Ash (who is a little dull despite all the efforts to make him compelling).

The Novellas:

I read both Garnet’s Story (#1.2) and The House of Stone (1.5) right after I read The Jewel. Garnet’s Story in particular does a good job bridging The Jewel and The White Rose and since I loved him as a character, it was great to get that insight. Raven is also a strong character so it was nice to fill in some of the gaps about her story. I opted not to pick up the other short stories.

My Audiobook Experience:

This was the first series I had read exclusively through an audiobook and I think it was a great choice. As I’ve often said in my other audiobook reviews, audiobooks do a great job of conveying emotions I wouldn’t have necessarily felt while reading. I also think it helped me understand Violet a little more. It’s so easy when you read words to interpret them one way instead of another. And I think by having someone speak Violet’s words and convey the emotions she is feeling, it helped me get what Violet’s motivations were–cooling my irritation with her.

Series Rating: 3/5

The Jewel 3.5/5 | The White Rose 3/5 | The Black City 3/5

overall

I’m a particularly hard critic on my dystopian novels but this one was solid from start to end even if it didn’t feel like that at times. While some things were predictable, others wowed me and had me wanting to know more. It’s addicting albeit slow at times but I think readers who enjoy high society dystopian novels will enjoy this.

Read if You Like: high society, dystopian
Avoid if You: want physical action

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DNF Series Review: Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen

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 Bright Young Things (from Goodreads):

The year is 1929. New York is ruled by the Bright Young Things: Flappers and socialites seeking thrills and chasing dreams in the anything-goes era of the Roaring Twenties.

Letty Larkspur and Cordelia Grey escaped their small Midwestern town for New York’s glittering metropolis. All Letty wants is to see her name in lights, but she quickly discovers Manhattan is filled with pretty girls who will do anything to be a star….

Cordelia is searching for the father she’s never known, a man as infamous for his wild parties as he is for his shadowy schemes. Overnight, she enters a world more thrilling and glamorous than she ever could have imagined — and more dangerous. It’s a life anyone would kill for…and someone will.

The only person Cordelia can trust is ­Astrid Donal, a flapper who seems to have it all: money, looks, and the love of Cordelia’s brother, Charlie. But Astrid’s perfect veneer hides a score of family secrets.

Across the vast lawns of Long Island, in the ­illicit speakeasies of Manhattan, and on the blindingly lit stages of Broadway, the three girls’ fortunes will rise and fall — together and apart. From the New York Times bestselling author of THE LUXE comes an epic new series set in the dizzying last summer of the Jazz Age.

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Series: Bright Young Things
Author: Anna Godbersen
# of Books: 3 (Bright Young Things, Beautiful Days, The Lucky Ones)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Historical Fiction
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: October 2010 – November 2012
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

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Disclaimer: I stopped reading Bright Young Things at 72%. Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When I read The Flappers Trilogy years ago, I devoured them! Like most people, I’m fascinated by the 1920s culture. It seems like it was a decade unlike any other and I love exploring that further. After I finished that series, I put Bright Young Things on my TBR because it looked to be a very similar series: multiple leads, girls trying to navigate society and a dash of romance.

Like most things on my TBR, it took me years to get back to this series. Godbersen’s The Luxe Series has also been on my TBR forever and I had every intention of reading it first since it’s billed as a “historical Gossip Girl”. But when I was looking for a new audiobook series to start, this one popped first and I decided to try it first.

What I Liked:

–The Setting–

Obviously I like the decade and this story hits all the necessary requirements. You’ve got independent girls, aspiring actresses/singers, mobsters and prohibition. Oh, and don’t forget the forbidden romance.

But that was all I did enjoy in this book.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Leads–

I could probably rant for DAYS on why these girls are just plain awful but I’ll try to keep it short and logical.

I’m not going to sugar-coat it either: these girls seemed like complete idiots to me. And I get it, Cordelia and Letty are supposed to be the naive young girls from the country trying to make it in the big city on their own. That’s the premise of the story and I can forgive that. But they literally lack any intelligence. Sames goes for the “big city girl” Astrid. The elevator just doesn’t reach the top floor for any of these girls.

It doesn’t help that they are all very selfish girls either. They all think the universe should revolve around them (and I truthfully think Letty does believe it revolves around her) and so they act like it does. They don’t give any thought about the impact their actions with have on anyone and that drove me bananas!

*Spoiler* Case and Point

When Letty learns that Cordelia ran away from Ohio to find her lost father, Letty is completely flabbergasted that Cordelia’s motives to go to NYC weren’t to start Letty’s singing career. I mean, obviously Cordelia would spend all her savings on Letty’s music career and not on escaping her forcefully arranged marriage. That would be the same conclusion I would draw too if my best friend told me minutes before the wedding I knew she didn’t want that we were running away to NYC…dumbass Letty

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I know that I am a hard person to please and the lack of logic and/or impulsive/thoughtless character actions in novels is one of the reasons I am particularly choosey when it comes to my YA reads because teenagers don’t always make the best decisions. But if that character evolves from that, I’m all for it and often enjoy the novel.

One of the reasons I enjoy novels with multiple character POVs is that if I don’t enjoy one character’s POV, I can usually latch on to (at least) another to keep me reading. And because I couldn’t stand any of these girls, I didn’t find that with this novel.

–The Lack of a Plot–

And when you detest the leads, you count on the plot to keep you interested but there really isn’t much of one here. Unfortunately, this is a very character driven story. You really are just following these girls through their mundane lives of bad decisions and selfish actions. It’s very boring to read/listen to.

Why Wait so Long to DNF it then Lauren? You were 72% done!

Truthfully, I should have put this book down when Cordelia reveals her plan to Letty about going to NYC in Chapter 1. See, she tells Letty maybe 8 hours before the train leaves (moments before Cordelia’s wedding–which she goes also goes through with too!) that they are going to run away that night. Letty agrees, not even thinking about logistics (ie money, living, etc) because she thinks Cordelia is doing this all for her. (Again, read my previous section above for the vanity of this girls and the spoiler for Letty’s thought process).

But see, I forgave them that because you wouldn’t have a story otherwise and you need some catalyst to get the story going.

The straw that broke it for me–at 72% into the novel–were these two particular scenes. One featured Letty and the other was Astrid and I finally realized this wasn’t going to get any better. That’s when I decided that I wasn’t going to torture myself for another 2 hours of audiobook, let alone 2 more books (though truthfully, I had already decided I wasn’t going to finish the series before this point), watching these girls act like complete morons. They weren’t going to get any better as characters and I knew that if I ended it now before that cliffhanger every other review mentioned that happens in the end, I wouldn’t be compelled to pick up the sequels.

Spoilers: In case you want to know what the scenes were

Letty earlier in the novel goes on this date with a guy (Grayson? Gary? I think it started with a G) and for some reason they end up witnessing this old many killing his racing greyhounds. The boy (I’m going to call him G) she is with ends up saving the 2nd dog–at Letty’s insistence!–and they continue on. Later on, Letty waiting for some big-shot music guy to show up for this date and G shows up at the same time wanting to (for some unfathomable reason to me) ask her out again. But Letty doesn’t bother giving him the time of day because she wants to launch her music career. Ugh. But the scene that really did me in was the scene where Astrid uses her mom’s much younger boy toy against her mom to make her jealous because she is petty like that. Who in their right mind tries to make their mom jealous over a boy? I like drama but that is just too much.

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Will I Finish It?

Hell no! I read through some spoilers and am super glad with my choice to let this one go.

Audiobook Experience:

I will say that I did enjoy the audiobook production. Emily Bauer had the perfect voice and tone for narrating this book. She made it really easy to listen to even when the characters were being total fools.

Though I will say, I did struggle at the start with the Third Person POV. Because you don’t get page breaks in the audiobook, I had a hard time keeping track of who was the focus at the time. The shifts between characters wasn’t always apparent to me. And truthfully, I couldn’t keep straight who was Letty and who was Cordelia at the start either because we shift view points so much. But once I got into it a little more and the characters are expanded upon a bit, it gets better.

Series Rating: DNF

Bright Young Things 2/5 | Beautiful Days DNF | The Lucky Ones DNF

overall

AVOID AVOID AVOID!

I’m going to make a Downton Abbey reference here so bare with me.  Astrid and Cordelia reminded me a lot of Lady Mary Crawley: they want their independence and will damn well do it however they pleases no matter the consequences or impact on others. And Letty reminded me of the whiny Lady Edith from the first two seasons who never seems to get what she wants and makes terrible choices as a result. Only Letty never grows up like Edith does. But the worst part is that there is no Lady Sybil to root for.

Read if You Like: flappers, don’t mind naive & silly leads
Avoid if You: can’t stand selfish characters
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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.

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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

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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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Fresh Fridays: To Betray My King (Betrayal Legacy #1) by Kayla Lavan

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 Betrayal Legacy

Other books in the series:
book3

booksynopsis

Synopsis for To Betray My King (from Goodreads):

Would you choose to save your kingdom or follow your heart?

Brave and kindhearted, Arianna is a princess of a kingdom that nobody wants. The magicless. Marrying the charming, flirtatious, and egotistical Prince Roland was the last thing either of them wanted, but for the sake of their people they agreed. War breaks out with the neighboring kingdom, forcing the prince’s hand to join in the fight. He leaves his new wife with the only man he trusts, his childhood friend, a dutiful, strong, and handsome knight.

A sweet romantic tale of forbidden love in a dark fanatical world.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Worst Reads of 2017
Series: The Betrayal Legacy
Author: Kayla Lavan
# of Books: 3 (To Betray My King, To Betray My Kingdom, To Betray Myself)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, there are sequels planned
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Heat Rating: warm **suggestive content**
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: May 1, 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: YA Bound Blog Tours–eARC

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Despite the suggestion of a love triangle in the synopsis, the fact that there was forbidden romance (I’m a sucker, what can I say?) and the hopes of political intrigue had me eager to see what was in store.

What I Liked:

–Roland–

I didn’t expect to like him but I really liked the prince. He’s that charming, smug prince that I’m a sucker for. I thought he had the best character development of anyone in the novel.

Which is why is is a shame that he is gone for more than half the novel.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Romance–

Turns out, I had nothing to worry about when it came to the love triangle. It was pretty non-existent. And that’s thanks to the fact that Arianna and Conrad had absolutely no chemistry together. Truthfully, I wouldn’t have known they were supposed to “fall in love” if the synopsis didn’t tell me that was the case.

I think that Arianna and Roland had a much stronger connection and one that could have believably turned into a romance.

–Lack of a Plot–

This book treaded water for a majority of the book. Honestly, nothing much happened to the character’s POVs we get. Everything seems to happen around them and they just carry on.

And it’s a shame because the ending does have some great twists and revelations. They just come too late to salvage the story.

–The Missing Chapter–

This book ends abruptly. I mean you literally reach the climax of the fight and then you get the epilogue. No wrap up for the big fight, no telling you what the hell happened to all the characters. Instead, you get a vague epilogue that lists no names and leaves you wondering, WTF just happened?

Then you turn the page and realize that if you want chapter 21.5, sign up for the newsletter. I’m going to bite my tongue on my thoughts about that. Regardless, I wanted that chapter and when I read it, it immediately tied up some of those loose ends. It’s a crucial chapter, one that shouldn’t be left out of the initial novel because it changes EVERYTHING! It changes what you think happens to the characters, changes the meaning of the epilogue and changes the projection for subsequent sequels.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I really don’t know. I’m so mixed up over this whole novel.

My Rating: 1/5

overall

Frankly, this book was all over the place. It had the right ideas but truly lacked the right execution. It’s the end of the road for me with this one.

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Fresh Fridays: Flame in the Mist (#1) by Renee Ahdieh

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:

Flame in the Mist Series

Other books in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Flame in the Mist (from Goodreads):

The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Cover Love, Must Read Author
Series: Flame in the Mist
Author: Renee Ahdieh
# of Books: 2 (Flame in the Mist, Book 2)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Book 2 is to be published
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical, Retelling
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: May 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

If you asked me what my top 3 Disney movies are, I would say without hesitation: Aladdin, Mulan and Hercules. I loved Mulan as a young girl because she is like every girl you will ever meet. She’s bound by family duty and love and pressured by society to be a certain way. What girl doesn’t feel that at some point or another? And her transformation to assert her independence is inspirational for any young girl who watches it.

So I think it goes without saying, I was very, very excited to pick this book up. Even if this story wasn’t based on Mulan, I was eagerly awaiting Ahdieh’s next series after I completely fell in love with her The Wrath and the Dawn Duology last year.

Best Advice: Forget Disney’s Mulan & Keep to the Basics!

I know I just touted Disney’s Mulan (and I could write a very long post praising the movie) for its awesomeness, but I think it important to go into this remembering that that movie is based on the Chinese legend Hua Mulan–as is this book.

So expect plot differences and new characters; don’t expect songs and a talking dragon.

What do they share? A heroine who has always struggled with her place in society and her family. A girl who is smart in ways people don’t expect; who has a knack for crafting military devices that save her friends. A young woman who begins a journey to learn that she is more powerful and independent than she ever thought.

What I Liked:

–The Setting–

I love everything about Japan, particularly feudal Japan. I just find its history and culture to be fascinating. So having the novel set here immediately hooked me in. Ahdieh has a great power to weave worlds and it shows here. It’s rich and layered and even though it is influenced by another source, she makes it her own.

–The Politics–

I’m a sucker for political intrigue in my reads. It’s one of the reasons I adored The Wrath and The Dawn series so much. I love when you don’t know who you can trust; when there is more at play than you can ever imagine. This book has that thanks to the multiple POVs we get. You have this 360 degree view of the world and everything that is at play and I loved it.

–Mariko’s Character Development–

Mariko really blossoms before your eyes in terms of her growth. She’s shy and reserved at the start but slowly begins to break out of her shell. Her journey isn’t without fault, and she sure isn’t perfect but she continues to learn as she goes. Definitely a heroine you can root for.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Romance–

This was a huge disappointment for me. Maybe I was looking in the wrong place for it, but its appearance just seemed so sudden and abrupt that it took me a long time to realize what was happening. (It’s hard to elaborate without spoilers).

I genuinely grew to like the two of them together by the end but I just didn’t like how this was handled at the start. I guess I wanted a little more build-up.

–Slower Start–

I’m not sure what I was expecting at the start of the novel. I thought it was action but when I thought about it, I think I knew that there wasn’t going to be physical action immediately. Mariko’s character definitely isn’t at that point at the start and you know that thanks to the synopsis. So what was my problem?

Truthfully, I think it just takes the reader a few chapters to get acquainted with the world. Like I said above, this world is rich and layered and you don’t really get the full picture of what is happening until you are a few chapters in. It needs to build, and it definitely does as you go, just give it some time to get there.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

GAH! This start has so many great inklings to lead into the sequel. It’s building up to a fantastic climax that I can’t wait to see!

My Rating: 4/5

Flame in the Mist 4/5 | Book 2 TBP

overall

This story kept my attention from start to finish; from the rich setting to the intriguing characters, there’s a lot to like about this retelling!

Read if You Like: feudal Japan, world-building, Mulan
Avoid if You: want more romance, want more action

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Fresh Fridays: Zero Repeat Forever (The Nahx Invasions #1) by Gabrielle Prendergast

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 Nahx Invasions Series

Other books in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Zero Repeat Forever (from Goodreads):

He has no voice, or name, only a rank, Eighth. He doesn’t know the details of the mission, only the directives that hum in his mind.

Dart the humans. Leave them where they fall.

His job is to protect his Offside. Let her do the shooting.

Until a human kills her…

Sixteen year-old Raven is at summer camp when the terrifying armored Nahx invade, annihilating entire cities, taking control of the Earth. Isolated in the wilderness, Raven and her friends have only a fragment of instruction from the human resistance.

Shelter in place.

Which seems like good advice at first. Stay put. Await rescue. Raven doesn’t like feeling helpless but what choice does she have?

Then a Nahx kills her boyfriend.

Thrown together in a violent, unfamiliar world, Eighth and Raven should feel only hate and fear. But when Raven is injured, and Eighth deserts his unit, their survival comes to depend on trusting each other…

breakdown

Series: The Nahx Invasions
Author: Gabrielle Prendergast
# of Books: 1+ (Zero Repeat Forever)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Book 2, is to be published
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Aliens, Post-Apocalypse
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: August 29, 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC | Thank you Simon & Schuster Books Canada!

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I found out about this novel thanks to a Netgalley email and immediately requested it. I’ve only read a few novels about an alien invasion so it’s a genre I want to explore more.

What I Liked:

–It’s Set in Canada!–

I don’t read enough books set in my home country so I was really excited that it explored someplace I’m familiar with. I mean, it sucked to see it being invaded and subsequently destroyed but I guess it was nice to have a setting that isn’t the norm for the genre.

–The Getting to Know You’re Enemy Aspect–

I always enjoy stories when enemies become something more. Whether it’s a relationship that becomes platonic or romantic, I like seeing characters evolve and learn from interactions with people they normally wouldn’t. It provides such a great opportunity for character development and this one definitely had those moments

–The Diversity of the Cast–

This story hits all the marks in terms of diversity. You’ve got characters of various ethnicities, races and sexual orientation and it feels natural. It doesn’t feel like Prendergast is checking off boxes simply to meet the mark. It adds to the story in a way very positive way.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Very Slow Plot–

One reason I haven’t read many alien invasion/post-apocalypse is that I find the plots to be terribly slow. These characters are just going through the motions, trying to survive and understand what is happening. The focus is almost too much on establishing the setting and not enough on the action.

This novel did have its moments of action–Raven and company have to evade the Nahx at various points but they seemed tiny in comparison to the grand scheme of things.

Also, Raven and Eighth don’t meet well into the 50% mark. I wanted that interaction earlier in the novel.

Some intrigue with regards to why the Nahx were invading or who they were–besides learning how to kill them–would have gone a long way to keep me interested.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

The last 20 pages or so were very interesting and set up nicely for a sequel. I’m on the fence about whether or not I will pick it up; it really just depends on what the synopsis for the next one is.

My Rating: 2/5

Zero Repeat Forever 2/5| Book 2 TBP

overall

The best way I can describe this novel is the like movie Arrival (2016). It has this slower, mundane pacing to it where the characters go through the motions but not a whole lot is happening at one time. Readers who like the gradual build and don’t mind the slower pace will enjoy this. Action seekers should look elsewhere

Read if You Like: slower stories, invasion stories
Avoid if You: dislike slow stories, want more romance
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readingchallengesArc August 2017

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Movie Mondays: Before I Fall

Movie Mondays: On the occasional Monday, I will review a book series or novel that has been made into a movie. I will then answer the question that everyone asks: which is better, the movie or the book? Here is this edition’s offering:

Book: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver (2010) | Movie: Before I Fall (2017)

Which did I read/see first? the BOOK

Book Cover | Movie Poster

Author: Lauren Oliver
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Point of View: First Person, Single
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover

thoughts

Before I Fall has been on my TBR list before I even knew what “TBR” meant. It graced every teen “must read list” in 2010 and I’ll admit, it grabbed my attention. But the holds list was super long and it slipped my mind. And then I read her Delirium Series–the inspiration for this blog–and really didn’t like it. So I was hesitant to pick up another Oliver title.

I went into this book with a fresh mind but it was hard.

Sam is everything I detest in a YA contemporary heroine. She’s self-absorbed, lost in her own world and just not that nice of a person. But that’s the whole point of this novel isn’t it? Sam is supposed to learn some life changing lesson and become a better person because of it.

And that happens to a certain extent. She definitely learns some valuable lessons but I’m not sure if I like the motivation for it. For me, Sam never escapes the persona of a selfish girl. Her desire to change comes across as someone who needs to fix things in order to redeem herself as a “nice person”. I guess it just didn’t come across as selfless to me.

As for the novel itself, it wasn’t as repetitive as I expected. Oliver does a good job of not rehashing every moment of every day. She also does a decent job of leading you on a bit of a mystery. Trying to figure out how everything links together kept me interest.

overall

I’ll be honest, I rushed through this book a lot because I had to return it so my experience wasn’t everything it could have been. In the end, I had a hard time liking Sam and that really did colour my impressions of this novel as a whole.

Rating: 3/5

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Were My Expectations Met?

Considering I wasn’t a huge fan of the novel, I wasn’t really sure how I would enjoy the movie. If I couldn’t stand Sam and her friends just by reading about them, how would I feel was I watched them be awful teenaged girls?

But the movie is really well done. Like the book, you aren’t rewatching scene after scene of the same day. I suppose that is the beauty of films and their ability to have montages 😉

And I will admit, watching Sam’s story here made me slightly more emotional (in a good way) as opposed to the novel where my feelings were more annoyed than empathetic.

How Close is it to the Book?

From what I remember of the book, this was pretty close. And what I think they left out (like the scene with Sam’s teacher, etc.) made the story stronger here. But the root of the story and its message are the same.

I will say, that Sam’s self-realization in the movie seemed a touch more natural to me. I don’t know if that is because you don’t have her internal monologue for the entire story and you only see what is on the surface/what is said. Or perhaps it is because you have a person you can visually see reacting to everything that helps you empathize. However, I still really struggle with the ending overall.

Did I Like the Cast?

The first role I saw Zoey Deutch (Sam) was the TV show The Ringer where she played a similar character to Sam. She’s a great actress who can play more than just a bitchy teenager (she was great as Rose in The Vampire Academy Movie) so I thought she was a great choice for Sam. Like I said above, I really didn’t like Sam in the book but Zoey brought a touch of humanity to Sam here.

The rest of the cast was great as well. I don’t know if I would change anything about the cast.

thewinneriswinmovie

I definitely enjoyed the movie a touch more than the novel. I think not getting Sam’s internal monologue for every scene really helped me focus on the story and the circumstances instead of her petty, selfish observations.

Do you agree? Leave a comment below!


Synopsis for Before I Fall (from Goodreads):

For popular high school senior Samantha Kingston, February 12—”Cupid Day”—should be one big party, a day of valentines and roses and the privileges that come with being at the top of the social pyramid. And it is…until she dies in a terrible accident that night.

However, she still wakes up the next morning. In fact, Sam lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she ever imagined.

Trailer:

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Spinoff Saturdays: Finishing School by Gail Carriger

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 Etiquette & Espionage (from Goodreads):

It’s one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It’s quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners–and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage–in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education.

breakdown

Series: Finishing School

This is a prequel spinoff of the Parasol Protectorate Series.

Author: Gail Carriger
# of Books: 4 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Steampunk, Paranormal
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: Third Person, Single
Publication Dates: February 2013 – November 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Disclaimer: I’ve opted not to pick up the second novel, Curtsies & Conspiracies. Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m a sucker for a Steampunk story and Gail Carriger is a staple author when it comes to the YA world of Steampunk. The espionage aspect also caught my attention. I’ve been searching for a Gallagher Girl-esque series ever since I finished it. Her Parasol Protectorate Series has caught my eye a few times but I ended up picking this one because my library had the audiobooks (and I wanted to try listening to an entire series via audiobook).

What I Liked:

–Steampunk & Espionage–

Obviously this would be a highlight for me. But I really liked the blend of paranormal and the classical steampunk features. The world is really rich and it keeps things exciting.

I also enjoyed the espionage plot as well. The idea that these girls are getting trained in everything from dance to swindling is just so much fun!

–Smart Writing–

I was truly impressed with the wit story. It’s so subtle that you almost miss the humour of everything. And I think listening to the audiobook helped me grasp that humour quicker than if I had read it thanks to its delivery.

What I Didn’t Like:

–I Felt Old Reading This!–

I’m a firm believer that just because a book is listed as “young adult” doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it as an adult. I’m in my mid-20s and I still read more YA novels than adult.

However, sometimes there are stories that you would enjoy more if you were the target demographic and I think this is one of them.

While there is an overarching plot in Etiquette and Espionage, it also suffers from what I call an aimless plotline. You know, when the “new to the school” lead explores the boarding school. The plot takes a back seat and teenaged shenanigans begins. Which is fine and all but I just didn’t care to listen to that at this point in my life. I need the book to stimulate my mind and this just wasn’t doing it for me. I found myself zoning out more often than not and when the main plot line resurfaced, I just didn’t get as involved as I would have liked.

Will I Finish It?

Unfortunately no. This is a classic case where if I had read these books years ago I would have loved every minute of them. It’s just that my interests aren’t here anymore for the type of plot this series uses.

Audiobook Experience:

I have to point out that my waning interest while listening to this audiobook had nothing to do with the audiobook narration. I have to say that this is one of the best audiobooks I’ve listened to when it comes to the narrator. Not only was the accent great but she did a fabulous job when delivering the dialogue of other people. Sometimes I struggle with female narrators doing male voices because they seem odd to me when they attempt to change their voice. But each character here had a distinct voice and that made listening to it super enjoyable.

Series Rating: DNF

Etiquette & Espionage 3/5 | Curtsies &
Conspiracies
  N/A  | Waistcoats & Weaponry  N/A | Manners & Mutiny  N/A

overall

This is perfect for fans of steampunk, espionage, girl power and fun historical stories. However, this book does feel like a younger YA read so be sure to keep that in mind before you pick this up.

Read if You Like: espionage, steampunk
Avoid if You: want a strong plot, want a more mature YA read

similarreads

  • I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter (Gallagher Girl Series#1)
  • Friday Society by Adrienne Kress
  • The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross (Steampunk Chronicles #1)

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