ARC Review: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Everything, Everything by Nicola YoonAuthor:  Nicola Yoon

Genre: young adult, contemporary

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: September 1, 2015

320 pages, hardcover (307 ARC)

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

I’m going to start this review with what I updated my Goodreads status to as soon as I finished this book:

Oh, man. I don’t care how cheesy it is: I loved everything, everything about this book.

And I did. EVERYTHING. I read the whole thing in one afternoon. I cannot believe this is Nicola Yoon’s debut. We’ve had so many amazing debuts this year! If this is her first book, I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. Nicola’s writing is absolutely beautiful. I LOVED the inclusion of emails, journal entries, diagrams, medical records, and more. You know me: I think including multiples mediums in a book adds so much to the story, and Nicola wove all of these elements together so well.

I just adore Maddy. She’s strong and fierce and doesn’t let her condition get her down. All of the relationships she had with the other characters in the book felt so honest and genuine. Also, I personally fell in love with Olly right away, but I really appreciated that it wasn’t instalove between Maddy and Olly – you guys know how much I hate that. The way the two of them got to know each other way too cute, and I loved every second.

There are so many emotions in this one, you guys. SO MANY EMOTIONS. My heart was breaking and swelling all at the same time. Everything, Everything is exactly what a contemporary book should be and so much more.

The bottom line: I’m just going to say it again: I loved everything, everything about this book. Nicola – please keep writing!

Rating: 9 – practically perfect

P.S. Shout out to the lovely April from Between the Pages for getting me an ARC of this at BEA!

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DNF ARC Review: Bright Lights, Dark Nights by Stephen Emond

Bright Lights, Dark Nights by Stephen EmondAuthor:  Stephen Emond
Genre: Young adult, contemporary
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publication Date: August 11, 2015
384 pages, hardcover

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

NOTE: I was provided with an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Roaring Brook Press for letting me read this!

I wanted to like this one. I really, really did. A diverse love story with super cool black and white illustrations throughout? Doesn’t that sound like a perfect book for me? I thought so too.

Walter’s never been in love, until he meets the little sister of one of his best friends and the two hit it off instantly. When Walter’s dad is caught in a race scandal at work, the two of them start getting called out at school for their relationship. Will love prevail?

I loved Walter and Naomi’s banter; they were absolutely adorable. But I found myself getting a little bored of the story. I told myself to keep going, it’d get better. When it didn’t, I put Bright Lights, Dark Nights on hold for a couple of days to read something else. When I finished that, I thought about going back to BLDN, and I honestly just didn’t care enough about the characters to want to. I’m not really sure what it is that I didn’t like. I liked the two main characters and the illustrations, but I just didn’t care about the story. I think it might’ve been because it was set from Walter’s perspective only. This is one of those cases where I think the story could’ve done with more than one perspective – maybe from Naomi’s?

I DO think people will like this one. The theme in BLDN is really relevant right now. The two main characters are interesting, funny, and super adorable. This is one of those books that I can definitely see myself trying again in the future. I’d be interested to see how the story played out.

The bottom line: Interesting concept, maybe not so great execution. I was a little bored and not invested enough to want to continue. But you should give it a shot if you like diverse contemporaries that are relevant to the current issues in our society.

Rating: No rating for a DNF.

ARC Review: The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina GeorgeAuthor: Nina George
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Crown
Publication Date: June 23, 2015
400 pages, hardcover

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

NOTE: I was provided with an e-ARC  of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Crown for letting me read this!

I am so sad about this one. From the synopsis, I thought this book was going to be absolutely perfect for me, but The Little Paris Bookshop is not at all what I was expecting. Perdu owns a literary apothecary, from which he “prescribes” books to people based on what they need from the book. He uses his ability to find the exact book a reader needs, even if it means forcing them not to buy something else. But he’s still haunted by an ex-lover from twenty years ago, and when he finally reads the letter she left him so long ago, he decides to take off and visit the South of France. Doesn’t that sound perfect for a book and travel lover??

The Little Paris Bookshop had an absolutely wonderful start. Perdu’s Literary Apothecary and the neighborhood where he lives in Paris are enchanting and I honestly wish I could visit his book barge – how cool would that be?! I loved the descriptions of his ability to prescribe the perfect book and the eclectic cast of characters that live in his building. Even twenty years later, Perdu is still heartbroken over his lost love, and the emotions he feels are quite beautifully and sadly described.

But then Perdu reads the letter from his lost love, Manon, and everything changes – for him and for the reader. He decides to set sail for the town where Manon was from, along with a bestselling author with writer’s block and eventually a lovesick chef. The story turns into this long, rather boring trip along the Seine with stops at cute little towns along the way. I really enjoyed seeing all these towns, with their underground tango clubs and interesting people. But after a while the story bored me. I was not longer enchanted by Perdu, especially because the whole literary apothecary thing is only really mentioned at the beginning. From about 50% to 75% of the way through, I was flipping pages as quickly as I can because I was bored. I wasn’t expecting this to be a romance in the most literal sense, and I’m not much of a romance girl. But there are a lot of people who are. I can see the merit in this one and I know a lot of people will fall in love with it. I can even see myself liking it a lot more in the future. Possibly. If you’re a romance fan, and would like to travel to France for a little while, check this one out.

At the end of the novel, we get “Jean Perdu’s Emergency Literary Pharmacy: From Adams to Von Arnim”. This was hands down my favorite part of the book. Books prescribed for certain “ailments” such as The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for “a sense of humor failure” or 1984 because it “reduces gullibility and apathy.” I wanted more!

The bottom line: Not what I was expecting or really in the mood for. It had a beautiful literary beginning but then fell a little flat for me from there. Much of the middle was dull and rather tiresome to read, in all honesty. I am so sad too because I really wanted to like this book about books.

Rating: 4 – Eh. This is bad.

Book Review: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen (ARC)

Saint Anything by Sarah DessenAuthor:  Sarah Dessen

Genre: Young adult, contemporary

Publisher: Viking Juvenile

Publication Date: May 5, 2015

432 pages, hardcover

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

Shout out to Kelly from Live, Love, Read for letting me borrow this ARC!

I’ve been a fan of Sarah Dessen since I was in high school and after having read Saint Anything, I’ve now read all of her books. Because this was written by Sarah Dessen, it is, of course, very enjoyable, but it’s not my favorite Dessen book by far.

I think the main reason I didn’t enjoy it as much is because it’s…loud? It’s loud about what it’s trying to say, and the reason I’ve enjoyed so many of her other books (especially Just Listen and The Truth about Forever– my favorite Dessens) is because they are quiet and earnest in the message that’s coming across, whether it’s about friendship, family, love, or growing up. Personally, I saw a lot of the story coming, especially the part revolving around the creepy older family-friend. It’s obvious, and I think that’s what I didn’t like about it. I definitely think this is one of those it’s-not-you-it’s-ME things because I know several people who’ve loved Saint Anything.

HOWEVER, it’s still Sarah Dessen and its pages are still full of her wonderful, easy-going writing. Dessen has this amazing knack of writing absolutely perfect conversations between friends about every day nonsense. Like I always do, I LOVED the friendship storyline in the book, especially the one between Sydney, our main character, and Layla, the French-fry-obsessed girl she meets at her new school. Plus, Sarah Dessen is always able to make me fall for the boy even when he is practically ordinary (in the best way). I also thought it was interesting to see the dichotomy between Sydney’s rather uptight family and Layla’s (the Chathams) somewhat crazy, loud, and wonderfully fun family. (Quick note to say I think the storyline with Sydney’s super-controlling, over the top mom went on WAY too long)

The bottom line: So – did I like this one or not? I did. Of course I did. I always enjoy Sarah Dessen’s writing and characters. I was just a little disappointed in how obvious it was. Despite my personal opinions about Saint Anything’s shortcomings, I still think A LOT of people will fall head over heels for this one. Some people prefer books that are straight-forward and apparent with their message. That’s this one. No matter what, I will read EVERYTHING Sarah Dessen writes. Forever.

Rating: 6 – good, but not great

Thursday Thoughts: What I’ve Been Reading aka GIVE ME ALL THE DIVERSE CONTEMPORARY

I’ve been in a weird place recently. You might’ve read my post about changing jobs which kind of explains it. Transition is always weird, but because of the feelings surrounding this change and all of the other things I’ve been feeling recently, my head’s been in a strange place. I don’t know if it’s because of that or something else entirely, but for the past month or more I’ve been mostly craving a certain type of book and not much else.

I’ve been craving contemporary, especially diverse contemporary. And that’s it. Yes, I’ve read a few fantasies here and there, but I’ve wanted to read books set it our world, with realistic characters. I’ve just wanted to be in this world but with different people. I haven’t wanted to read about other worlds for some reason. Fantasy is my favorite genre, so this has been a little bizarre for me. But since it’s been going on for at least a month, I want to try to talk (type?) through it and figure out why:

I honestly think it’s because so much has been happening with me that, while I do want to escape (that’s always been what reading has done for me), I don’t want to escape to a completely different world. I want to read about people who could be real, who could be me. I want to read about something real but not what I’m going through. I know I’m a mood reader, so I know I get in these very specific moods because of what’s going on with me. It’s not new, but this is the first time in a long time, maybe ever, that I’ve exclusively wanted to read contemporary. Up until last year I wasn’t even a big fan of contemporary (other than a random Sarah Dessen here and there), but my love and appreciation of it has grown so much in the last year because of blogging – how can you be a book blogger and not see all the love for Stephanie Perkins, Morgan Matson, Jennifer E. Smith? You can’t, and it’s infected me too.

But this is more than that. I’m actively seeking out new contemporary, especially if its diverse – mental illnesses, physical disabilities, LGBTQIA, POC leads, anything. I’ve always been interested in and appreciated people who were different than me. I have never understood racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. It makes no sense to me, but it happens and people go through and experience life differently when they don’t look (on the outside or inside) the same as you or even when they do. I have always enjoyed learning about people who aren’t what I am or what I’m used to, and the books I’ve been reading are exactly that.

I still don’t know if I’ve fully explained this mood I’m in, but I’ve been enjoying it and I don’t think it’s one of those stints where I’m going to burn myself out on contemporary. At least not for now. Summer is PERFECT for contemporary, so bring it on.

A few wonderful contemporaries I’ve read recently:

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (who’s shocked by this one?) | My review
Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer
Made You Up by Francesca Zappia (review soon, but this one is SO good)
None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio (READ IT) | My review
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (My current audiobook. I’m not even done with it and I already know I want to reread it in the future)

GIVE ME ALL THE RECOMMENDATIONS!

Waiting on Wednesday: Between Us and the Moon by Rebecca Maizel

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine in which we share a book that we are eagerly anticipating!

Between Us and the Moon by Rebecca MaizelPublisher: Harper Teen

Author: Rebecca Maizel

Release date: June 30, 2015

Synopsis from Goodreads:

A luminous young adult novel that evokes Judy Blume’s Forever for a new generation.

Ever since Sarah was born, she’s lived in the shadow of her beautiful older sister, Scarlett. But this summer on Cape Cod, she’s determined to finally grow up. Then she meets gorgeous college boy Andrew. He sees her as the girl she wants to be. A girl who’s older than she is. A girl like Scarlett.

Before she knows what’s happened, one little lie has transformed into something real. And by the end of August, she might have to choose between falling in love, and finding herself.

Fans of Jenny Han and Stephanie Perkins are destined to fall for this story about how life and love are impossible to predict.

Why I’m excited: I just want to swoon, okay? Summer, for me, is all about contemporaries, and this one looks just perfect. Summer loves don’t always last, so I’m looking for something realistic, enjoyable, emotional, and swoony. Looks like Between Us and the Moon will fit the bill. I’m looking forward to curling up in the hammock with this one.

Play On by Michelle Smith | Blog Tour & Giveaway

Play On by Michelle SmithTitle: Play On

Author: Michelle Smith

Release Date: April 21, 2015

Publisher: Spencer Hill Contemporary

Synopsis: In the small town of Lewis Creek, baseball is everything. Especially for all-star pitcher Austin Braxton, who has a one-way ticket out of town with his scholarship to a top university. All that stands between him and a new start is one final season. But when Austin starts flunking Chemistry, his picture-perfect future is in jeopardy. A failing grade means zero playing time, and zero playing time means no scholarship.

Enter Marisa Marlowe, the new girl in town who gets a job at his momma’s flower shop. Not only is Marisa some home-schooled super-genius, she’s also a baseball fanatic and more than willing to help Austin study. As the two grow closer, there’s something about Marisa that makes Austin want more than just baseball and out of Lewis Creek–he wants a future with her. But Marisa has a past that still haunts her, one that she ran all the way to South Carolina to escape.

As Austin starts to peel back the layers of Marisa s pain, it forces him to look beyond the facade of himself and everyone he thought he knew in his town. What he sees instead is that in a small town like Lewis Creek, maybe baseball isn t everything–maybe it is just the thing that ties them all together.”

Pre-order the book: Amazon | B&N | The Book Depository | IndieBound

Add it on Goodreads.

In this scene, Marisa’s reporting for her first training session at the Braxton family’s flower shop, and Austin is in charge of the grand tour.

~

I clap my hands together and start for the first display cooler. Marisa’s shoes squeak against the floor as she follows me. “All right, then,” I say on an exhale, turning to her. She stares up at me, all bouncy ponytail and bright eyes. “We’re supposed to be training. So, first things first. Flowers: how much do you know about them?”

She giggles, and dang it, she needs to stop. Please make it stop. All these little things she does that make my stomach do weird flip-flops are going to turn into big things, and big things are a lot harder to ignore.

“It’s safe to say I know a bit about flowers,” Marisa says. “Your mom gave me one heck of a quiz during my interview to make sure I knew my stuff. She even asked what my favorite flower was and how often I’m supposed to change vase water. I mean, really?”

I twirl my finger, signaling for her to continue. “And your answers were…?”

She tilts her head to the side. “Purple roses. Every two-to-three days. Do you think I’m an amateur?”

Even if I did, it wouldn’t matter. I’d train her all day, every day as long as she kept smiling at me like she is now. But that smile falters as her gaze falls to the floor. She clears her throat and says, “Before we moved here, my mom was obsessed with gardening. She taught me everything I know.”

Her voice dips. Before I can ask if she’s all right, she shakes her head and looks back to me, her eyes not nearly as bright, but still as piercing as they were before.

I shrug and force a smile of my own. “Looks like we have something in common. My momma’s a gardening freak, too.” As if owning a flower shop didn’t already give that away. Strike two, Braxton.

She steps to my side, her arm brushing against mine as she gestures to the cooler. “Anyway, continue, Floral Prince. Teach me your ways. I’m sure you know much more than I do.”

I narrow my eyes. “You’re makin’ fun of me, aren’t you? Is it the apron? Because I’ll have you know, I’m rockin’ this apron.”

She grins. “I would never make fun of a prince,” she says seriously and curtsies. The girl freakin’ curtsies.

I cross my arms. “All right, feisty pants. I see what you did there.”

Her jaw drops. “You did not just call me feisty pants. What are you, sixty? Who even says that?”

“I do, obviously. And what I was going to say is, you can’t put whatever flowers you want in the cooler. This is where we keep the special order arrangements and loose flowers. Single roses and stuff like that.”

Instead of replying, her lips curve up again. My heart hammers against my chest. No matter how tough he acts, every guy dreams of someone looking at him this way. Like every word out of his mouth is coated in gold, even if it’s the cheesiest thing that person’s ever heard.

No one’s ever looked at me this way before, not even Jamie. It’s killer. And it’s kind of freaking me the hell out because I’d never even seen this girl until a week ago, and she’s got me acting like an idiot.

“What—” I cough to cover the crack in my voice. “What’s that look for?”

She shrugs and moves past me toward the cooler. In its reflection, I see her staring at the arrangements, her fingertips pressed lightly against the glass. “I like your voice,” she says. “It’s laid-back. Easy-going. Like you have all the time in the world.” She faces me again. “And your accent’s kind of to die for. But you can pretend I didn’t say that.”

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Michelle Smith Author PhotoMichelle Smith was born and raised in North Carolina, where she developed a healthy appreciation for college football, sweet tea, front porches, and a well-placed “y’all.” She’s a lover of all things happy, laughs way too much, and fully believes that a little bit of kindness goes a long way.

Michelle lives near the Carolina coast with her family.

Find Michelle online: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr

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Book Review: Girl Online by Zoe Sugg aka Zoella

Girl OnlineAuthor:  Zoe Sugg aka Zoella

Genre: Young adult, contemporary

Publisher: Atria / Keywords Press

Publication Date: November 25, 2014

352 pages, hardcover

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

Penny is a blogger, writing online anonymously as GirlOnline. She blogs about her friends, drama, boys, her family, and her horrible anxiety. After a horribly embarrassing fall, her family is lucky enough to go to New York for the holidays, where she meets Noah, who has some secrets of his own.

Alright, so everyone is kind of freaking out because Girl Online MIGHT have been ghostwritten. I honestly don’t really care either way, but I’m going to mention it here for a sec. First, who reads a book written by a celebrity who has little to no writing experience and expects it to be AMAZING? Hopefully, no one. Second, do you guys know how many books by celebrities are at least partly ghostwritten? A lot of them are. So, basically, calm your tits are read the book if it sounds like something you’d like and don’t if it doesn’t. Geez.

As for the book, it’s probably what you’d expect from the synopsis. It’s fluffy and cheesy and predictable. It’s full of clichés in characters and plot. The events in the story are somewhat implausible and unlikely.

BUT it is actually pretty enjoyable. The story, while predictable and unlikely, is adorable and fun to read. Penny is a klutz, clumsy to the extreme, awkward, and a little weird. When she meets Noah (cliché gorgeous love interest), she is able to accept herself and begin to overcome her anxiety. There’s a fight with her best friend and a horrible bully/girl best friend. It has everything you want in a fluffy contemporary, and I don’t know about you, but I like that sometimes. Fair warning though: the “twist” was so predictable as to make it a little annoying.

Now for the deep part to the book: the anxiety and panic attacks. Zoe actually suffers from anxiety, so the parts of the book in which Penny is dealing with it or having a panic attack felt real. I, too, have anxiety – not quite to the level of Zoe or Penny but I have panic attacks as well – and I could relate to this pretty well. The way the panic attacks are described was just right, just how a panic attack feels. So even if a ghost writer wrote this, you can tell Zoe had a say. You can tell that she described it.

The bottom line: Okay, I did not go into Girl Online expecting to like it as much as I did. I thought it might be poorly written or cheesy, but I thought the synopsis sounded interesting. I’m glad I checked it out. I enjoyed it. It is definitely predictable and clichéd in parts, which was annoying [but you should keep in mind it was written for teens and young girls], but it was cute and fun and dealt with things like anxiety, family issues, cyber bullying, homosexuality, all things teens need books to be about.

Rating: 6.5 – between Good, but not great and Pretty good

Book Review: Firecracker by David Iserson

My friend Annette aka Booknerderie sent me Firecracker for Christmas because, and I quote, “It’s hilarious and dry and sarcastic and the mc is an asshole and you would love it.”Firecracker She was right.
Let me go ahead and warn people who don’t like bad words that there are several in this review. It’s a necessity for this one.

Author:  David Iserson

Genre: Yontemporary, humor

Publisher: Razorbill

Publication Date: June 12, 2014

331 pages, paperback

Check out the synopsis on Goodreads.

“Astrid Krieger is such a bitch.” I love it. This book is hilarious, you guys. Ridiculously amusing. As is Astrid. She’s such an asshole and I completely love her. She’s unapologetic in her dickishness. She doesn’t care what you think about her and she does what she wants. She’s completely in love with herself. Now, if you know me at all, you can probably guess that 99.9999% of the time, I hate people like this. But in this case, it didn’t even bother me because she was just so damn funny. I was worried the book was going to feel really long because she’s such a jerk the whole time, but it didn’t. in fact, it was too short, in my opinion.

I know I’m only talking about Astrid but, really, she’s the only thing that matters – she’d probably say the same thing as well. But let me mention a few other things: this book, not just Astrid, was ridiculously amusing. There were more laugh out loud moments than I could count. I mean, David Iserson has written for SNL and New Girl. Of course he’s funny, and he does dialogue so well. The ending was perfect and wasn’t perfect. What I mean is that it wasn’t cookie cutter. It fit Astrid and her character.

To further prove it, here’s a quote:

My legs decided that they were no longer interested in holding my body up, which is total bullshit because they have one job. – Page 55

Couldn’t stop laughing after reading that. Especially because I couldn’t stop picturing this.

DW legs

The bottom line: I don’t know if I could be more obvious in my love of Firecracker. Read it. Now.

Rating: 9 – practically perfect

Waiting on Wednesday: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine in which we share a book that we are eagerly anticipating!Saint Anything

Publisher: Viking Juvenile

Author: Sarah Dessen

Release date: May 5, 2015

Synopsis from Goodreads: Peyton, Sydney’s charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion’s share of their parents’ attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton’s increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?

Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.

The uber-popular Sarah Dessen explores her signature themes of family, self-discovery, and change in her twelfth novel, sure to delight her legions of fans.

Why I’m excited: Totally not ashamed to admit I am part of Sarah Dessen’s “legion” of fans. I love her books. They always make me inexplicably happy and warm. They’re sweet and fun and lovely. I am so freaking excited for a new one. Six months is a long time to wait but I had to talk about it. I love books that focus on family and the Chathams sound a lot like my “a warm, chaotic family”. Absolutely one of my most anticipated reads of 2015!