Monday, March 23, 2015

Review: 99 Days by Katie Cotugno (ARC)

99 Days by Katie Cotugno
Balzer + Bray (an imprint of Harper), 384 Pages
Expected US Release Date: April 21, 2015
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!

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. 
----------------------Goodreads Summary
Notable Quote
It occurs to me, not for the first time, that you can never really know what anybody's got hidden in the back of her secret heart.
I really adore Katie Cotugno’s writing. I mean, I know that only means 2 of her books, but if you’ve read them…you get it. (And if you haven’t read them, you need to. NEED TO.)

99 Days probably tops How To Love with me, but that’s really only because I could relate better to this novel. I’m not a teen mother, I don’t care for a child…there were things that I could sympathise with…but 99 Days is a book I can empathise with. Not that I’ve cheated on someone with his brother (!), but the idea of being torn, of temptation and avoidance and being stuck in an uncomfortable place while you wait for life to continue one.

For my fellow Friends fans: WE WERE ON A BREAK!! That is seriously what I wanted to yell so many times I was reading haha.

So, I’m not sure where you stand in terms of a love triangle and cheating and all that nonsense (not that I think anyone should be on the positive side of that…), but there are some people who really can’t stomach reading it. If that’s you, well…go into this book forewarned, ok? I’m of the tribe that’s delightfully sickened by situations like that. Not that I think a girl should hook up with brothers, or cheat, or what have you, but it’s one of those things that I’m horrified and riveted all at once. This is definitely an extreme triangle, but the amazing (and slightly disturbing) thing about it is that a reader can completely understand Molly’s indecision between Patrick and Gabe. I was always leaning towards one, but then things would happen, and serious doubt would creep in. It freaked me out a little, but really speaks to how skilled and amazing Katie Cotugno’s writing and storytelling is.

The slut shaming. Yes, it’s there. Yes, it’s horrible. Yes, it’s terrible to read about and think about and I kind of wanted to break a lot of the girls’ knees in this book. But the way Katie Cotugno wrote the slut shaming into the story was so brilliant. It was almost like a device, like it was a form of the literature to make you feel a certain way towards the characters. And it’s not that I accepted the slut-shaming, but…I was into it, in terms of the story.

I think my only issue was somewhere around the middle or beginning of the end – it felt like it was getting a little slow. I’m not sure if that was just my impatience at wanting to know what was going to happen, but I felt like Molly had flip flopped and exhausted her guilt and jezebel feelings at some points.

But honestly, that was a small issue in the grand scheme of things. The pacing and development of this story was top notch, and I found myself flipping pages almost faster than I could read I was so into knowing what would or could happen.  I found qualities in almost every single character that I could either relate to, happily hate, or want to be—and sometimes a mix of all!

99 Days is a wonderfully stomach clenching story of a girl and her choices. What led to them, what justifies them, why they may or may not have been for the best in the end. It’s about a summer that can change you and everyone around you, but still remind you of what was originally there.

4.5 stars

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Review: The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord (ARC)

The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord
Bloomsbury, 384 pages
Expected US Release Date: March 31, 2015
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!

It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for a year, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school . . . and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live?

Brimming with heartfelt relationships and authentic high-school dynamics The Start of Me and You proves that it’s never too late for second chances.
-----------------------Goodreads Summary
Notable Quote
If you're lucky, relationships--with family or friends or boyfriends--are limitless. There's no maximum on how much you can love each other. The problem is, there's also no limit to how much you can hurt each other.
The Start of Me and You is by far my favourite read of 2014. Because the entire story itself is fun and inventive and interesting. Because everyone in it is entirely relatable and lovable and just a smidge infuriating, in manageable and almost endearing increments. Because I swear it felt like I was reading something with my feelings all over the page. Because Max Watson is my book boyfriend. And that’s all just the beginning!

Emery Lord has got to have the most approachable writing in YA right now. There’s something so open and friendly about her writing (I hope others who have read her books know what I mean, otherwise I sound like a crazy person), it just draws you in and gets you coffee and lets you prop your feet up. I always sink so comfortably and so fast into Emery Lord’s stories, and it completely consumes me.

The Start of Me and You had such an interesting concept of having Paige the “widow” of a high school relationship. So unique, and something that has so many possibilities in terms of follow up. And I mean…I’m a sucker for lists, so her plan of moving on was so perfect and right up my alley.

And maybe this is a weird thing to attach to, but one of my favourite things about The Start of Me and You is how utterly normal it all is. I mean, Paige’s situation is unique…but her friends, her thought process, befriending Ryan and Max, moving through her school year? It’s all perfectly realistic and paced just as any real relationship and friendship would develop, and that definitely made everything seem so much closer to my heart.

Let’s talk Max, because YES PLEASE. I may even love him more than Matt Finch from Open Road Summer! Who know THAT was possible?! Max is seriously the best nerdy awesome guy in the world.  I loved his backstory, his friendship with his cousin, his playfulness and how he exhibited his intelligence without any sort of bragging or condescension. As I get older, I tend to attract to guys who are unabashedly, unashamedly themselves—and Max fits that bill perfectly.

And as much as I did love Max, I have to admit the friendships in this book are amazing and wonderful, too. Which I think Emery just specializes in, because Lilah and Dee’s friendship in Open Road Summer was one of my favourites, too. (I think this means I should be friends with Emery. Is that creepy?) Paige’s girlfriends were the best and reminded me so, so much of my own little crew I keep. Sure, there are pairings within the 4, but it makes sense and they’re still 100% there for the other. It’s a real friendship, with ups and downs and arguments and hugs and support, and I absolutely wish I could be folded in with them.

Paige and Max’s friendship is also something I enjoyed immensely, because it’s so obvious there’s an attraction but there’s also an understanding there, too. They’re thoughtful in regards to each other, and seeing it on the page absolutely squeezed my heart with warmth.

And the thing I particularly attached to was the ending realization of having to come to terms with yourself and be who you are before you can really be with anyone else. I like that Paige is sort of broken, without being absolutely shattered, and that every win for her no matter how small it is really makes a difference in her rebuilding of strength. It’s very much a lesson I’ve been learning, and thought it was displayed so well.

The Start of Me and You is a fantastically written story of a girl struggling to find her way after suffering a loss. It’s got romance and friendship and Quiz Bowl and airplanes and I cannot wait until I can read it over and over again because I will never tire of the relationships found within. Everyone needs to read this book.

5 stars
and airplanes above me sprinkling so many more stars!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Review: Boys Don't Knit (In Public) by T.S. Easton (ARC)

Boys Don’t Knit (In Public) by TS Easton
Feiwel & Friends (an imprint of Macmillan), 272 pages
Expected US Release Date: March 24, 2015
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!

Knitting is a man’s game.

After an incident regarding a crossing guard and a bottle of Martini & Rossi (and his bonehead friends), 17-year-old worrier Ben Fletcher must develop his sense of social alignment, take up a hobby, and do some community service to avoid any further probation.

He takes a knitting class (it was that or his father’s mechanic class) under the impression that it's taught by the hot teacher all the boys like. Turns out, it’s not. Perfect. 

Regardless, he sticks with it and comes to find that he’s a natural knitter, maybe even great. It even helps ease his anxiety and worrying. The only challenge now is to keep it hidden from his friends, his crush, and his soccer-obsessed father. What a tangled web Ben has weaved . . . or knitted. 
------------------------Goodreads Summary
Notable Quote
Maybe just having someone listen is all you need.
Talk about a fun book! I absolutely loved Boys Don’t Knit—it was filled with such humor and cute moments. I was laughing out loud and giggling to myself, even when I was reading it in public—and I wasn’t even ashamed about it.

I loved the backstory as to how Ben Fletcher got into knitting, how it was a bit of a fluke but so brilliant, too.  I adore that the book is written as a diary/journal style, because it’s such a fun way to get Ben’s thoughts on all the zany situations he finds himself in.

The characters are definitely the best part about this whole book. Ben and all his goofy, not-quite-amazing friends. His teachers and instructors. His parents, even, who are so hilariously different from all typical YA parents. My least favourite was probably Megan, and I’m not saying I didn’t like her—she just didn’t shine as much as the rest of them. Ben’s friends definitely almost stole the show. Their ideas were so off-the-wall and crazy, but still filled with a bit of good heart and humor the entire time. And I loved how in the end, they’re still Ben’s friend, no matter what.

There’s so much hidden heart to this book, too. Sure, I can sing from the rooftops how funny and hilarious it is (it’s a dude who’s the best knitter in the UK! Come on!), but there’s a lot of real warmth and love to a lot of it, too. The romances are fun, the relationships are real, and Ben’s self-discovery and narration is absolutely brilliant. There’s real concern for his family, for his friends, for everyone around him. I love how he finds a group that really understands him, no matter their age or status in life.

I think one of the more subtle but better parts of this story is the knitting, too, and how much it reveals about Ben. How it gives you insight into who he is that he likes the repetitive and uniform nature of knitting. How it gives you a little peek into his head when he lets it go clear while he’s knitting. I love the people it connects him to, and I love how it causes a lot of his problems. It’s definitely an interesting variable to his life, and I loved exploring it.

Boys Don’t Knit is a book that will make you laugh out loud and fill your heart with humor and love. You’ll love Ben, and root for him no matter if it’s his life, his sanity, or him knitting at the UK champs.

4 stars

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Review: A Cold Legacy by Megan Shepherd (ARC)

A Cold Legacy (The Madman's Daughter #3) by Megan Shepherd
Balzar + Bray (an imprint of Harper), 400 Pages
US Release Date: January 27, 2015
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!

After killing the men who tried to steal her father’s research, Juliet—along with Montgomery, Lucy, Balthazar, and a deathly ill Edward—has escaped to a remote estate on the Scottish moors. Owned by the enigmatic Elizabeth von Stein, the mansion is full of mysteries and unexplained oddities: dead bodies in the basement, secret passages, and fortune-tellers who seem to know Juliet’s secrets. Though it appears to be a safe haven, Juliet fears new dangers may be present within the manor’s own walls.

Then Juliet uncovers the truth about the manor’s long history of scientific experimentation—and her own intended role in it—forcing her to determine where the line falls between right and wrong, life and death, magic and science, and promises and secrets. And she must decide if she’ll follow her father’s dark footsteps or her mother’s tragic ones, or whether she’ll make her own.

With inspiration from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, this breathless conclusion to the Madman’s Daughter trilogy is about the things we’ll sacrifice to save those we love—even our own humanity.
-------------------Goodreads Summary
Notable Quote
“I want to know that this life is the only one that matters. When you can never die, do you ever really live?”
I’m feeling a little empty, knowing that Montgomery is no longer in my life now that this trilogy has ended. My love for him ran deep, and it was true, and I’m absolutely distraught there’s no more.


I really do love him though.

Moving on. Guys, I can’t even with this series. I. Can’t. Even. It’s rare for me to find a series that I love all of it, but…this is it. I mean, sure—I had my problems with Book 2 having a bit of the Book Two Syndrome. And A Cold Legacy wasn’t perfect. But together, looking at the series as a whole, as a story arc with the twists and turns…it’s so fantastic and original. A Cold Legacy was decidedly less dark than the first two—which I was a bit sad about since you expect that from a book that takes after Frankenstein. But it actually kind of…fits. The tone of it, the overall feel flows so well with the action and story, and I enjoyed it quite a bit by the end.

One of the best parts was how much happened in this book. I’m not saying all of it was exciting and gripping and had me furiously flipping pages (some of it did!), but I felt like there was so much evolution, so much that happened overall. There were more questions, answers given, more questions raised, some bloodshed, lots of secret passages and tension…it was pretty fantastic.

I do have to admit that one of my disappointments was the traveling troupe and that character that…”reappeared” in the middle. I wanted so much more, I felt like there was so much more potential with him and his friends. The same with Edward and what happens to him…it felt very safe, very small what happens, and I kind of wish it had been at touch more dramatic and chaotic.

But the character I still love? Lucy. She’s flighty and hilarious and such a great friend. She’s also a little crazy, and actually pissed me off quite a bit at some points…but I still think she’s one of the best best friend characters in a book so far. She’s still so much more essential than Book 2 made her seem, and it was brilliant.

And of course Balthazar. Tried, true, so tender and amazing. I have no bad things to say about him, and only wish I had him in my life.

A Cold Legacy is one of the best endings to a series I’ve ever come across. It stands on it’s own as fantastic, with a plotline that moves in ways I’d never expect and still retains all the characters, confusions, and challenges I’ve loved forever. And together, all 3 of the Madman’s Daughter books create this terrifying, amazing, brilliant story about your nature versus your nurture, about discovering who you are and shaping who you want to become. It’s about your choices, what is inevitable, and what is created in between.

And it is bloody fantastic.

4.5 stars
Read my review of Book 1: The Madman's Daughter and Book 2: Her Dark Curiosity.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Review: The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider (ARC)

Severed Heads, Broken Hearts by Robyn Schneider
Now titled: The Beginning of Everything
Katherine Tegan (an imprint of HarperTeen), 335 pages
US Release Date: August 27, 2013

Golden boy Ezra Faulkner believes everyone has a tragedy waiting for them—a single encounter after which everything that really matters will happen. His particular tragedy waited until he was primed to lose it all: in one spectacular night, a reckless driver shatters Ezra’s knee, his athletic career, and his social life.

No longer a front-runner for Homecoming King, Ezra finds himself at the table of misfits, where he encounters new girl Cassidy Thorpe. Cassidy is unlike anyone Ezra’s ever met, achingly effortless, fiercely intelligent, and determined to bring Ezra along on her endless adventures.

But as Ezra dives into his new studies, new friendships, and new love, he learns that some people, like books, are easy to misread. And now he must consider: if one’s singular tragedy has already hit and everything after it has mattered quite a bit, what happens when more misfortune strikes? 

Robyn Schneider’s The Beginning of Everything is a lyrical, witty, and heart-wrenching novel about how difficult it is to play the part that people expect, and how new beginnings can stem from abrupt and tragic endings.
-------------------------Goodreads Summary
Notable Quote
Imaginary prisoners are still prisoners.
I feel like this book is my kindred spirit. I feel like it’s the missing piece of me I’ve always been yearning for, that extension of myself that I hadn’t realized was lost until I found it. Severed Heads, Broken Hearts feels suspiciously like home.

Probably the best word I can think to describe this book is “unexpected.” Not surprising , and nothing was horribly improbable, but there were some very unexpected twists and revelations. They were all done perfectly and with the best treatment, but still: unexpected.

When I say this book is my kindred spirit, it’s because I feel like every single character has elements of me in him or her. Toby, Cassidy, Ezra, absolutely everyone was a little bit of the confidence I have and a lot of the questions and indecision and existential crises I go through daily. I remember all these feelings so well in high school, and even now. There’s so much complexity and depth to each one, and seeing how they all intertwine and affect the other just makes it all the better. The characters are so complementary to each other, I absolutely adore it.

More passages were marked in this book than I have in any other this year. It feels like there’s so much wisdom and guidance in these pages, I feel like there’s so much to learn between the lines. About love. About friendship. About family, and relationships and happiness and accepting a direction you feel forced to go in. Probably the best part about this story as a whole is that it’s about the changes that happen in someone’s life, whether we make them by choice or consciously or without reason. That it’s a story that focuses on living through the changes and tragedies, rather than fighting or resenting.

I also love how cool-nerdy this book is. All the references, the “smart” situations and words, how it’s about the debate team – and yet, all the characters are completely normal as well. They have friends, there’s drama, there’s schoolwork and projects and some family problems and secrets. Sure, it feels a little exaggerated sometimes between the “cliques” and the divide in high school, but it has to be so in a book (and maybe it’s not, I just didn’t experience a high school like this!).

Perhaps my only disappointment? The title change! I guess I get why the title is now The Beginning of Everything, but I absolutely ADORED Severed Heads, Broken Hearts. And it’s just so much more fitting!

Also, this will only be understood by anyone who has already read it: COOPER <3
5 stars

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Review: The Break-Up Artist by Philip Siegal (ARC)

The Break-Up Artist by Philip Siegal
Harlequin Teen, 319 pages
US Release Date: April 29, 2014
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!

Some sixteen-year-olds babysit for extra cash.

Some work at the mall.

Becca Williamson breaks up couples.

Becca knows from experience the damage that love can do. After all, it was so-called love that turned Huxley from her childhood best friend into a social-world dictator, and love that left Becca's older sister devastated at the altar. Instead of sitting on the sidelines, Becca strikes back—for just one hundred dollars via PayPal, she will trick and manipulate any couple's relationship into smithereens. And with relationship zombies overrunning her school and treating single girls as if they're second-class citizens, business is unfortunately booming. Even Becca's best friend, Val, has resorted to outright lies to snag a boyfriend.

One night, Becca receives a mysterious offer to break up the most popular couple in school: Huxley and raw football team's star player, Steve. To succeed, she'll have to plan her most elaborate scheme to date—starting rumors, sabotaging cell phones, breaking into cars...not to mention sneaking back into Huxley's good graces. All while fending off the inappropriate feelings she may or may not be having for Val's new boyfriend.

No one said being the Break-Up Artist would be easy.
-----------Goodreads Summary
Notable Quote
Why do my classmates believe that saying those three words automatically protects a couple? They’re not relationship insurance.
I’m having a hard time writing this review because I’m so “meh” towards the book. There were parts I liked, some I really liked…and there were parts I didn’t like, and definitely parts I really DIDN’T like. Everything kind of cancels out, so I’m left with just a neutral feeling towards it.

I like the concept of The Break Up Artist. I feel like it’s been done a few times, but there are certain elements that still make it feel unique. I like that it’s one person as the Artist, that she’s working alone (mostly), that she hides it from everyone. I like that Becca has a reason to believe something, I like that she has to work through some things.

I did not like how extreme some of the situations were. I definitely called Becca’s sister and her and a few others “bitter old hags” in my head more than once. I may have even said it out loud at one point.  I felt like I had to suspend my reality, kind of forget a lot of the things I’ve learned about humans and humanity and think people really were as dense as they were coming across in the book.

I liked Val and the friendship she had with Becca. I thought the idea behind this book, that those in relationships treat singletons differently was a pretty good one, if not a bit exaggerated. I’ve been single all my life (only recently have I been realizing that perhaps some of it has been by choice) and I have my fair few memories when people treated me differently for it. People who thought I was sad or pathetic for not having someone, people who thought I must be lonely or excluded me because I wasn’t paired off. Some of that is real, and I appreciated it in this book. Especially when it came to Val and her boyfriend and how that friendship slowly changed.

Becca’s school is definitely the exaggeration. I appreciated the attempt to justify it with the boy-to-girl ratio, but I won’t buy it. I found Steve and Huxley’s relationship cute and sweet, but also a tad unrealistic. Most of the ones in here are slightly so.

I most certainly did not like Diane, nor did I like Val’s boyfriend. I liked that Diana gave a reason to Becca to do a lot of the shenanigans she partook (is that a word?) in, but Diane was just…ugh. I want her to grow up and get a grip. Yes, of course, have a mourning period, but don’t take it out on friends and just…UGH. Horrible. And I’m not talking about Val’s boyfriend—not just because it would spoil some things. He’s a cliché, he was easy to read as what he would turn into, and I was not impressed.

Ultimately, what saved this story for me were the friendships. I liked the nerd boys at Becca’s table, I liked Val and Becca when there wasn’t a guy standing around them, I liked Becca’s relationship and friendship with her sister. I even liked Huxley (probably best of all the characters). When she wasn’t spouting some crap about needing a boyfriend, she actually made a lot of sense and felt the most rounded of everyone.

The Break Up Artist was definitely hit-or-miss with me, and so much so that I just can’t seem to make up my mind what it is. For every part I hated, there was a part I liked.  If it sounds like something that intrigues you, give it a whirl.
3 stars