Book Review: No Parking at the End Times

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Title: No Parking at the End Times
Author: Bryan Bliss
Release Date: 2/24/15
Genre: YA Contemporary
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Cult books are one of my favorite types of books. I have no idea why, but there’s something about a family joining a cult or leaving a cult or crazy religious people that just does something for me. If you want to read a great book about kids whose family joins a cult you need to read This Side of Salvation by Jeri Smith-Ready. If you want to read a perfectly entertaining, but not particularly special book about a kids whose family joins a cult then read No Parking at the End Times.

Now maybe that sounds like an insult, I know, but I really don’t mean it that way. The story of Abigail and Aaron and their parents was certainly entertaining and interesting, but there was just nothing there to really draw me in or make me feel really involved in their story. A huge hump for my getting into the story was actually something really small. The main character’s name is Abigail, but at the beginning of the story we never really learn her name. Her brother calls her “Abs” and her dad calls her “Gabs” so at first I thought her name might be Gabrielle or something, but eventually one of her parents calls her Abigail and that answered my question, but it was still never really explained and that stopped me from feeling like I really knew her.

Anyway, after Abigail’s dad loses his job and the family finds themselves down on their luck her parents, who have always been religious, but in a middle of the road kind of way, start following a guy named Brother John who’s one of those preachers who puts up billboards and has a radio show saying the world is going to end on a specific day. The story starts right after that day when, surprise surprise, the world doesn’t end! Abigail is torn between wanting her old life back, her parents moved her and her twin brother Aaron out to San Francisco from North Carolina to be with Brother John and they live in their family’s van, and wanting to remain true to her parents who she loves. Her brother Aaron on the other hand just wants his old life back and thinks their parents have gone completely nuts and that him and Abigail need to get themselves out the situation.

There were good parts of this book, but ultimately it just didn’t go far enough. Her and her family live in their van and we learn some things about it, like where they eat or how they have to move it all the time because of parking restrictions, but we don’t know where they go to the bathroom or shower and they literally seem to spend their entire day just sitting in the van. And why does Abigail only have one pair of pants? As the story goes on Abigail goes exploring around San Francisco and given that the family is living in their van on the streets you would think San Francisco would be a bigger part of the story, but I didn’t have any feeling for the city overall and it was almost like the story could have taken place anywhere. We know know virtually nothing about Brother John’s cult: how many people were in it? Other than the world ending what did they believe?

Much of the story also felt stagnant, which is weird because we’re obviously weren’t being bogged down in the details. For maybe the first 60% it’s not really clear what’s going to happen and Abigail isn’t doing anything to change her situation. When it got closer to the end and the action picked up and there were more characters the story became much more interesting. At times it leaned towards the more dramatic side, but it was still much more of an exciting story that had me turning the pages than at the beginning of the book.

Bottom Line: Even though I have quite a bit of criticism about the pacing and the lack of details I still enjoyed No Parking at the End Times and I would certainly give another Bryan Bliss book a read. Minus the pacing issue the writing is there and the situation and characters he created were interesting.

I received an electronic review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss (thank you!). All opinions are my own.

One Year Ago: Maggie’s Epic Road Trip: Part Two
Two Years Ago
: Book Review: Shadowlands


Book Review: Infandous

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Title: Infandous
Author: Elana K. Arnold
Release Date: 3/1/15
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I have read all of Elana K. Arnold’s other books (including her first middle grade book, A Question of Miracles, which came out earlier this year and I still need to review) and I really have loved all of them. I think she’s a unique voice in YA, not only in her writing style, but also in the stories she creates. If you’re a YA reader who hasn’t read Burning yet I highly recommend it and if you’re a middle grade reader or know a child of middle grade age I would encourage you pick up A Question of Miracles.

Sadly I can’t quite say the same about Infandous. Pretty much from the moment I started reading the story I didn’t think it was bad, it’s certainly not, but it lacked the uniqueness of Arnold’s other stories. That other (many other) authors have done the troubled girl with a terrible secret isn’t Arnold’s fault, but still, it has been done and it certainly colored my impression of Infandous. The fairytales that Arnold included made the story slightly unique, but it still wasn’t enough to make this book stand out from the rest of the troubled girl with secrets YA stories out there.

But it’s also not a bad book and I’m not here to talk anyone out of reading it. In fact, if you’re not tired of the troubled girl with a secret trope I would certainly recommend picking this up. The story centers around Sephora, a recently finished high school junior, who lives in Venice Beach with her single mother. Seph’s mother is beautiful and Seph has very much lived in her shadow her entire life. Partly because of her mother’s beauty Seph tries to play down her own looks and adopts a very tough girl persona. Even though there is this huge secret that Seph is living with the story is much more of a character driven story that follows Seph around through Venice Beach with her friends, to summer school, to her art studio, to visit her mom’s sister in Georgia, and to her job at the surf shop.

And that was kind of it. If you’re into character driven stories then I would imagine you would really enjoy this one. Seph’s voice is stands out and she’s very entertaining. Her observations about the world and people around her are sharp and funny, even if they sometimes felt too mature for someone her age and in her situation. Most of the story takes place in Seph’s head and there isn’t a terrible amount of action. There are also four or five fairytales included in the story they tangentially have to do with the what’s the come in the story.

Then there’s the secret. Clearly I’m not going to ruin it for you, but I can hands down say that I did not expect that and that at this point I can’t think of a more disturbing secret I’ve come across in a YA (and maybe adult) book. (I should say that my rating isn’t influenced at all by my horror, I was going to give this book 3 stars from pretty much the moment I started reading it.) The way Arnold chose to reveal the secret was spot on. You know it has something to do with the guy Felix that Seph had hooked up with a few months before, but you slowly see how their interactions unfolded and you’re kind of left wondering what went wrong because it all seemed ok (despite their difference in age). And then you find out and it’s just mind blowing. Like total horror, heartbeat racing kind of disgust. Which was brilliant in its own way because that’s the way it happened for Sephora, too. My problem with the secret is that it just was revealed and that was it. It was such a huge thing I wish it could have been explored more. I guess that’s another experience that mirrors Sephora’s, but it was still a difficult thing for me.

Bottom Line: Even though Infandous didn’t live up to Elana K. Arnold’s other books for me, it’s still a solid story from her. The secret Seph is harboring is certainly unique, but the story of a troubled girl has been done, at least for me, enough in YA literature. Infandous is a solid entry in the category, but it wasn’t enough for me. Sephora’s voice was great, but the besides the secret the story didn’t stand out enough for me to call it special or one of my favorites.

I received an electronic review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss (thank you!). All opinions are my own.

One Year Ago: Maggie’s Epic Road Trip Part One
Two Years Ago
Waiting on Wednesday: This is What Happy Looks Like


Top 10 Tuesday: Books You Would Classify As ALL TIME FAVORITE BOOKS from the past 3 years

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Top 10 Tuesday is a meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. You can see all the topics here.

I love this topic because who doesn’t like to shout about all of the books they love, but I hate this topic because I feel like it’s the same books I mentioned all the time. Oh well! I did books I’ve read in the last three years. All but two have also been published in the last three years, but I just had to make an exception for two of them.

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1. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell: “I can’t put into works how much I liked this book…I cried for about fifteen minutes straight when I finished and I tear up when I think about how much I liked it.”

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2. Why Can’t I Be You by Allie Larkin: “I really, really, really loved this book…There were some amazing points in this book about identity and the choices we all make to become who we are.”

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3. After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid: “The highest compliment I can pay this book is saying I finished it and immediately needed to own it. Which is true. I can actually top that though by saying I needed to own it and I had friends that I knew needed to own it so I went out an bought three copies.”

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4. Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian: “Sex & Violence has a fantastic male narrator, a unique take on a difficult subject matter, and some seriously amazing writing.”

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5. Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson: “Overall this is a great book about two people finding themselves and each other and about America.”

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6. Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally: “Everything about it, from the way the death of Annie’s boyfriend is handled, to Annie training for the marathon, to what it’s like to go away to college, to sex, to love was absolutely pitch perfect.”

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7. Flat-Out Celeste by Jessica Park: “The heart, the humor, the awkwardness, and the intelligence of Celeste just shines through and makes this such an enjoyable read. And the romance, oh the romance, it has its ups and downs and oddities, because Celeste and Justin are odd (like all of us), but it’s so adorable.”

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8. Noggin by John Corey Whaley: “Noggin is nearly everything I could want in a book. It’s emotional, it’s funny, it’s creative, it’s well written, it’s creepy, and it’s just damn good.”

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9. A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier: “A Death-Struck Year is a fantastic historical fiction book, but even if you aren’t drawn to historical fiction it’s a great coming of age story, a wonderful story of friendship and family, and it even has a romance thrown in.”

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10. The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta: “Every single character in this book has their own story and is allowed to shine through and will wiggle their way into your brain and heart.”

One Year Ago: Top 10 Tuesday: Popular Authors I’ve Never Read
Two Years Ago
: Book Review: Hopeless


February 2015: In Review

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After flaking out doing a January month in review (it’s half written, I still want to retroactively post it!) I’m back for February. February was a good month. January was a tough month with the holidays being over and the crux of winter setting in, but then I found out I got into grad school and that was pretty great. February was kind of more of the same. Winter is getting me down and I’m anxiously waiting to hear from other grad schools, but still, it was a good month overall.

I didn’t do anything super interesting. I had a nice dinner out with friends from work and then a nice day in the Brooklyn with my old roommates. We had bagels, visited the Brooklyn Museum for the super interesting Killer Heels exhibit (and the very surprising Kehinde Wiley exhibit), and then went to my favorite bar for beer, burgers, and fries. And then it started snowing and I had a miserable time getting home.

February was a much better month for my reading and blogging habits and a much better month for balance over all. Now I just need to back back into reading blogs and my well roundedness will be complete.

Things From the Internet That Caught My Eye
Martin Luther Playmobil: The company’s fastest-selling toy since the Protestant Reformation.
– Massive Mad Men Exhibit Coming To Museum Of The Moving Image
– 9 Houseplants That Clean The Air And Are Basically Impossible To Kill
– Ford pranks dudes by setting them up on a blind date with a stunt driver
– How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life
– 10 Times Reporters Asked Female Celebrities The Wrong Damn Question
– Mysterious brush with death of Brittany Bryan, who fell from Oakland Coliseum
– How To Grow An Avocado Tree for Endless Organic Avocados


– ‘The Biggest Barrier’ To Preventing Suicide: Not Talking About It
– 20 Signs You’re Doing Better Than You Think You Are
– 6 Interview Questions You Should Ask

On the Blog:

Reviews:

5 stars:
I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

4 stars:
Better Than Perfect by Melissa Kantor
I Was Here by Gayle Forman
My Best Everything by Sarah Tomp
Soulprint by Megan Miranda

2 stars:
When Reason Breaks by Cindy L. Rodriguez

Top 10 Tuesday posts:
Things I Like/Dislike When It Comes to Romances in Books
Book Related Problems I Have
Favorite Heroines

Other:
Pub Date: Valentine’s Day

Reviews Posted to Goodreads:
Never Surrender to a Scoundrel by Lily Dalton (4 stars)
First Time in Forever by Sarah Morgan (3 stars)

Things to Look Forward to in March:

Life:
– Finding out if I got into any other grad schools (fingers crossed!)
– A fun spa night the studio where I work out is hosting
– A trip to Ann Arbor for the University of Michigan School of Public Health accepted students day
– NYCTAF!!
– Spring, omg, please let it be spring soon

Books:
Positively Beautiful by Wendy Mills
Dead to Me by Mary McCoy
Deep by Kylie Scott
Confess by Colleen Hoover
Everything That Makes You You by Moriah McStay
The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne
Chase Me by Tessa Bailey
Leaving Amarillo by Caisey Quinn
Under a Pained Sky by Stacey Lee
Finding Mr. Brightside by Jay Clark
Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes
We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach
The One That Got Away by Bethany Chase
Where Sea Meets Sky by Karina Halle

Previous 2015 Monthly Recaps

One Year Ago: February 2014: In Review (Also, this is really weird, but I wore the same sweater today I wore when writing last February’s post because I can see it in that selfie!)
Two Years Ago: DNF: Crash


Book Review: My Best Everything

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Title: My Best Everything
Author: Sarah Tomp
Release Date: 3/3/15
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Can I call this the year of YA books about poor, rural white people? We have I Was Here, I’ll Meet You There, and now My Best Everything. Unlike the first two which take place on the west coast My Best Everything takes place in rural, mountainous Virginia, an area of the country that’s apparently known for moonshine. I won’t lie, I thought this story sounded pretty good, but the main reason I wanted to read this book was to see what a YA story about moonshine would be like.

The story centers around Lulu, a recent high school grad who’s always been the good girl, but, who, after finding out her dad blew her college fund, turns into a bad girl the summer before college in order to make the money she needs to actually be able to go to college. I said it’s about poor, rural white people, and it is, but Lulu’s family actually isn’t that bad off. Her father works for a flower importing business and travels all over the country and world visiting flower farms. He lost her college funds on a bad farm investment, not on like meth or hookers.

Lulu is desperate to get out of her small town and go to college in California like she’s always dreamed (and like her parents have always encouraged her to do) so when a still arrives at the junkyard where she works and she happens to forget (really forget) to log it she and her friends, in a moment of drunken desperation decide to borrow the still and brew some moonshine to sell. In all honesty before reading this I had no idea brewing and/or selling moonshine was illegal, but apparently it is and the government hunts down moonshiners and there’s actually a lot of violence and competition between fellow moonshiners. To help make the moonshine Lulu recruits Mason, a guy who’s a few years older, who’s had his fair share of trouble, including drugs and alcohol, but whose family has brewed moonshine for generations.

There were three parts of this story that really worked well. Lulu’s relationship with Mason, Lulu’s growth (or really the opposite of growth) over the course of the story, and the small town setting. Lulu and Mason’s relationship was definitely of the slow-burn variety, but it was really sweet. After all of this history Mason is reluctant to get involved with anyone, but especially someone like Lulu who’s fairly innocent and who is also leaving town at the end of the summer. But they slowly got to know each other and then slowly started a romance and grew closer, but also less close in some ways and the moonshine business and Lulu’s need to make money came between them. The fact that their relationship was growing, but then also devolving was really interesting and handled really well.

Lulu’s own journey over the course of the story was also really subtle. Maybe it’s because the story is also told from her perspective, but it wasn’t until I stepped back and looked at the whole story overall that I realized how Lulu had gone from this innocent good girl, to this law-breaking rebel who really drinks quite a bit and isn’t involved with the best people. It was a great example of how someone can start something wrong but still with the best of intentions, but then quickly get in over their head.

And the town Lulu lives in and the town’s population was handled beautifully. Not only main characters like Lulu’s best friend Roni and Roni’s boyfriend Bucky who helped make the moonshine, but also Lulu and Roni’s boss Sal and the “muscle” who work at the junkyard. There was also the town priest and Lulu’s parents who were very much in the background, but very much fleshed out. Even “bad” characters like Mason’s cousin Seth were handled really well and even though Seth was easy to hate it was also easy to see his motivations.

If there were three things about this book that works really well there are two things that didn’t quire work as well. The story is told in first person from Lulu’s perspective, but it’s told as a kind of letter she’s writing to Mason to try to explain how the summer and their relationship came to be. It’s not clear until the end of the story how it ends so you never know if Lulu is writing is writing it to Mason and Mason’s dead or in jail or disappeared or back in rehab or just with her. That was fine, but what was awkward was all of the “you” thrown into the story, things like “you put your hand on my arm and my heart sped up” or “you mixed the mash for the moonshine.” It wasn’t done poorly, but it still made for somewhat of an awkward story.

The other, bigger problem, was how the story kind of came apart at the end. For most of the story it was just about Lulu and her friends trying to make money off of moonshine, but the closer it got to the end it turned into more of a action/adventure/caper and at times it felt kind of forced and little ridiculous. At the beginning and towards the middle of the story there was definite potential for being a favorite book of 2015, but all of the drama at the end ruined that. Plus, even with all the drama, I found the ending very anticlimactic. Clearly I don’t want to spoil anything, but I would have liked some more struggle and consequences in the end.

Bottom LineMy Best Everything is really a charming debut about a very unique subject. I was easily swept up by the main character, her small town, and the moonshine business. The romance and other relationships in the book were also great. Sadly the story kind of lost the script towards the end, but I would still recommend it and I’m eager to see what else Sarah Tomp comes up with.

I received an electronic review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley (thank you!). All opinions are my own.

One Year Ago: Book Review: The Summer I Found You
Two Years Ago
Book Review: Out of the Easy


Book Review: I Was Here

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Title: I Was Here
Author: Gayle Forman
Release Date: 1/27/15
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Gayle Forman is Gayle Forman is Gayle Forman. Is that enough said? It’s really not because having read 5.25 Gayle Forman books I can tell you this isn’t your typical Gayle Forman book. In a lot of ways I thought I Was Here was more of a typical YA story that, at times, fell prey to some typical YA story tropes, but on the other hand the story was well written, smart, and featured the stellar characters that Forman is known for.

Going into the story I knew it was about Cody, whose best friend Meg commits suicide, completely by surprise, and then Cody gets caught up in trying to figure out exactly what happened to Meg. I didn’t realize that the story (mostly) took place in a very small town in eastern Washington state. The community that Cody and Meg come from is very small and very poor and much like I’ll Meet You There I really liked take on poor, white America.

Meg made it out of their small town to go to college in Tacoma, Cody got into the University of Washington, but she didn’t get any scholarships and her single, kind of disengaged mother, can’t afford to send her/refuses to take out loans. So Cody stays in their small town and attends community college. While the distance and different circumstances did negatively affect Cody and Meg’s friendship Cody still considers them best friends so when Meg takes her own life Cody is left completely dumbfounded.

Meg’s parents ask Cody to go to Tacoma to clean out Meg’s apartment and it’s there that Cody starts to see a side of Meg she didn’t know. She meets Meg’s roommates, a stoner guy, an earnest innocent girl, and a geeky computer programmer guy, and she also starts exploring the Seattle music scene where Meg had spent most of her free time. In Seattle she meets Ben McAllister, a mysterious musician who Cody first blames for Meg’s death, before realizing the situation is much more complicated. Cody finds an encrypted file on Meg’s computer and after getting the geeky computer programmer to crack it she’s led into the last few months of Meg’s life and a world she never imagined.

I liked Cody tremendously, she’s had a tough life and the situation with Meg is terrible, but I almost never got the impression that she felt sorry for herself and I really admired that. There were moments where she struggled and when she broke down, but she still managed to rise back up and continue on. I liked her friendship with Meg as well. We don’t get to see enough of it to really call it a great YA friendship, but Cody and Meg were true friends and it’s always nice to see one of those in YA literature. I also enjoyed the mystery surrounding Meg’s death. Going in I knew there would be questions about the circumstances surrounding her death, but even once I started reading it I had no clue what those circumstances would be and when we found out, not terribly far into the book, I was fascinated by them and the way the Cody dealt with them (I want to say more about that, but I’m trying to avoid spoilers!). As I mentioned I also really enjoyed the setting and I thought Forman did a great job of fleshing out the supporting characters, from Meg’s roommates to her family to Cody’s mom and even the librarian in their town.

Yet there’s something holding me back from really embracing this story. The romance was always a little weird to me and romances are such a big part of Forman’s books. I liked the romance, but the baggage attached to it made me a little hesitant. In the end I just think it’s filled with a few too many coincidences for me. Meg’s brother realizes there’s something fishy about the suicide note, Cody finds Ben at the club she goes to in Seattle, Cody is able to so precisely follow Meg’s digital path at the end of her life, and not to mention all the coincidences with Meg investigating Cody’s death that I don’t want to go into here in case anyone hasn’t read the book. It’s not like I didn’t like any of these things happening, there’s a big part of me that really did, but there’s also a part of me that makes a face and ask, “Really?”

Bottom Line: Maybe I’m going easy because it’s Gayle Forman, but when push comes to shove I really enjoyed I Was Here. It’s not without its problems, there were a tremendous amount of coincidences and the romance made my skin crawl a bit, but in the end it mostly managed to rise above and I was swept up in Cody and Meg’s story, their small town, and the rest of the engaging cast of characters.

One Year Ago: Book Review: Fix You
Two Years Ago
Waiting on Wednesday: Unremembered


Top 10 Tuesday: Favorite Heroines (Part II)

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Top 10 Tuesday is a meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. You can see all the topics here.

I love me a strong heroine and this is actually a topic I’ve tackled before, back in 2013 (as a rewind post) shortly after I started my blog. Since I’ve done the topic before I’m going to do my favorite heroines since 2013.

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1. Judith from All the Truth That’s In Me: My favorite word to describe people I really like is badass and Judith just embodies that. She goes through something unimaginable and is treated horribly, but has such fight and dignity to her.

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2. Cath from Fangirl: Cath is like the inner geek living inside of me. She’s funny and awkward and so smart. I dare you to read Fangirl and not like her.

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3. Kestrel from The Winner’s Curse: I’m really trying to refrain from calling everyone on this list a badass, but Kestrel is another one who just embodies that word for me. The society she lives in makes life very hard for women, but she just goes on living her life secretly holding so much power.

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4. Annie from Breathe, Annie, Breathe: Annie is like the badass girl next door. The poor girl’s boyfriend dies and she has to find a way to go on. Plus who doesn’t think running is awful?

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5. Lara Jean from To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before: Lara Jean is a character I like because she’s typically a character that would drive me crazy (created by an author I formally loathed), but who just sunk her wacky claws into me and wouldn’t let go. I cannot wait to see what happens to her next.

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6. Paige from The Princesses of Iowa: I did not always like Paige, but she’s still one of my favorites. She’s not perfect and she makes mistakes, but deep down she’s trying to be better and I just love how real she was.

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7. Caitlin from Hold Still: For so much of these book Caitlin absolutely broke my heart, but the way Nina LaCour slowly brought her out of the dark just made me so happy and I think anyone who’s ever dealt with grief will relate to her story.

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8. Harlow from Dirty Rowdy Thing: In my next life I want to come back as Harlow. She’s strong, she’s funny, she’s loyal, and she’s really freaking smart (and she has a trust fund…holla!). I loved the way she juggled all the things going on in her life in such a strong, but vulnerable way.

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9. Valentina from Kiss Kill Vanish: I feel like the poor little rich girl fallen from grace would be so easy to hate, but Valentina really steps up and lives her life. It was hard and not always easy to read about, but I really admired her, even when she made some questionable decisions.

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10. Celeste from Flat-Out Celeste: There are a lot of charming heroines on this list, but I don’t know if any of them are as charming as Celeste. She is so fabulously awkward and kind and just amazing. I don’t think I put this book on any of my best of 2014 lists but now I’m kind of wishing I had.

One Year Ago: Top 10 Tuesday: Books That Would Make Great Book Club Picks
Two Years Ago
Book Review: Gabriel’s Inferno


Pub Date: Valentine’s Day

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Happy late Valentine’s Day my friends! I hope you had a good one, or, like me, a non-existent one that you’re perfectly happy with. I’m in love (pun!) with this Pub Date topic not only because it’s fun, but also because it came together so easily for me.

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One of my favorite beers is Ithaca Beer Company’s Flower Power. It’s the beer I’m always happy to see on store shelves and the one I definitely turn to when I need some loving. I first tried it several years ago at a bar in Brooklyn that was having a special NY Finger Lakes region beer week. The Ithaca Beer website describes it as “Simultaneously Punchy and soothing with a big body and a finish that boasts pineapple and grapefruit. Flower power is hopped and dry-hopped five different times throughout the brewing and fermentation process.” I mean hopped five times pretty much describes my beer heaven. They also say it pairs well with “hot and spicy cuisine like Indian and Thai curries or Mexican” which are my favorite foods and “strong cheeses like Stilton, Danish Blue or Gorgonzola” which are some of my favorite cheeses. It’s meant to be. Flower Power has also been apart of the National IPA Championship Final Four (the what now? why have I never heard of this before?) three times.

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What better book to pair a Valentine’s beer with than a romance novel? Not only is Tessa Dare’s Say Yes to the Marquess a great romance novel (I never reviewed it, but I would happily give it four stars), it’s also about beer! I mean could it be any more perfect? Wait, yes it could, because it even goes so far as to cover the history of the IPA, my favorite kind of beer. Bascially Clio has been waiting for this guy to marry her for forever (eight years!) and after she inherits a castle (pretty nice) she decides she’s done with the guy and she’s going to move to the castle and start a brewery. A brewery! The fiance’s rakish/brutish brother, who’s serving as his proxy while the fiance is abroad, decides that this is not ok and that Clio has to marry his brother and he tries to woo her to the idea of marriage, but they end up falling in love.

Happy late Valentine’s Day! I hope you still have some chocolate (and beer!) left. Make sure to check out my Valentine’s Day “Pub Dates:”
Brittany
Estelle
Andi

One Year Ago: Book Review: Being Sloane Jacobs
Two Years Ago
Book Review: Hooked


Book Review: When Reason Breaks

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Title: When Reason Breaks
Author: Cindy L. Rodriguez
Release Date: 2/10/15
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

First thing first, if you want to read a really great book about how Emily Dickinson impacts modern day high school students read Jenny Hubbard’s And We Stay. I’m not telling you that because I think When Reason Breaks is a bad book, it’s a fine book, but it definitely could use some improving.

The bones of When Reason Breaks is good. The stories of Emily and Elizabeth are interesting and I appreciated the way that Rodriguez juxtaposed their lives, but there was just something about the execution of this book that was really lacking for me. The number one thing that drove me crazy was how freaking predictable the book was. If you’ve read the blurb you know going in that one of the girls tries to kill herself by the end of the book and actually you find this out right at the beginning of the story which then quickly flashes back to the past to tell us how we got there. As you’re reading the book there’s one character that’s made out to be the more unstable one, but it’s so in your face and over the top that it’s pretty obvious what the “twist” of the story will be.

Besides the predictability the difference in what we knew about Elizabeth’s life and Emily’s life drove me up the wall. Elizabeth is the dark, goth character and we know all about her issues at home with her dad leaving and her mom struggling to be engaged in her and her sister’s life. We also know a lot of the thoughts and feelings going through Elizabeth’s head. However for Emily, whose eyes the story is also told through, we don’t really get that. We know how Emily got in trouble at a party last year and how her father is overprotective, but there’s no real internal monologue for her. Which would have been fine if she wasn’t one of the main characters and if the story hadn’t been told from her perspective.

The writing style and pacing also didn’t work for me. I tend to read books told in first-person narrative, but some of my favorite books have been told in third-person, but this was not a good handling of the third-person perspective. The entire time I was reading the fact that it was told in third-person was just so obvious that it took away from the story. There were chunks of the book about Ms. Diaz’s English class where I literally felt like I was sitting in the classroom listening to their discussion. And I don’t mean that as a good thing. It was just kind of drawn out and I didn’t feel like it really brought anything to the story. The story also skips around a lot and glazes over certain things, which just didn’t work here. Besides getting into Elizabeth’s head much of the book was spent just skimming along on the surface.

All of that said, I did really like the beginning and end of the book. The scenes at the beginning when the suicide is taking place immediately had me hooked and I desperately wanted to know what happened. And even though I wasn’t particularly engaged in the majority of the book when I go to the end, when we find out what happens with the suicide and after, I was again sucked into the story and found myself really interested in Elizabeth and Emily’s lives. I just wish the rest of the book could have been that engaging.

Bottom Line: Would I recommend When Reason Breaks? No, probably not, but I also wouldn’t actively try to talk someone out of reading it. I wish the book had gone more in depth and been as compelling in the middle 80% as the first and last 10% was. I also didn’t enjoy Rodriguez’s writing style, the pacing was off with too much time being spent on certain things, and that’s the reason I can’t imagine giving another of her books a try.

I received an electronic review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

One Year Ago: Book Review: Better Off Friends
Two Years Ago
Book Review: The Submissive


Book Review: Better Than Perfect

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Title: Better Than Perfect
Author: Melissa Kantor
Release Date: 2/17/15
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I won’t lie, when I first started reading this book I was kind of annoyed. Like many people I want to read more books with diversity, and although this isn’t Melissa Kantor’s fault at all, I was bothered by Juliet’s privileged life in her wealthy New York City suburb. However, the more I read the more I realized that despite the many blessings in Juliet’s life she was grappling with real issues, issues that aren’t unfamiliar to me or many others, no matter what our socio-economic background is.

Juliet has always thought she had the perfect life. The perfect family, the perfect house, the perfect grades, the perfect boyfriend, and she thinks it will continue to be perfect when she and her perfect boyfriend get into Harvard together and have a perfect rest of their lives. Then her parents, who supposedly have the perfect marriage, separate and Juliet’s mother falls into a terrible depression. Seeing her mother fall apart makes Juliet question her whole life. Were her parents really happy? Do her parents even really know her? Does something like forcing herself to study until 1am every night to get A’s in Latin really make her happy? And that’s where the crux of the story takes place.

Yes, if her biggest worry in life is getting an A in Latin and getting into Harvard Juliet is still pretty damn lucky in the larger scheme of things, but there are still really valid and relatable aspects of this book. Many teens (and adults) feel the same pressure that Juliet does to be perfect and we all experience the stress over not succeeding or disappointing those around us. Juliet has always thought of those around her as being perfect, especially her boyfriend Jason’s family, but as the story goes on she starts to question if there aren’t secrets behind the outward impression of perfection in those around her and what that means for her.

When it comes down to it this is a story about Juliet, not really about her relationship with Jason or her attraction to Declan, a boy she meets at an especially difficult moment in her life who she feels a passion for she’s never felt with Jason, but who, even though he keeps popping up in her life, is off-limits. Her relationship with Jason, who’s a pretty perfect guy and who, despite his kind of annoying perfection, was really difficult to dislike, just highlighted the change in Juliet over the course of the book. I was initially worried that her relationship with Declan would turn into a love triangle, but thankfully it doesn’t and Declan actually wasn’t so much a focus of the story, something I really ended up liking.

The best parts of Better Than Perfect dealt with Juliet’s family. Her free-spirited aunt was a breathe of fresh air from all of the type A personalities in Juliet’s life. Juliet’s relationship with her parents was complicated and although Melissa Kantor did a great job of exploring it, I still wish there would have been more there, especially with her dad through the middle of the book. Even Juliet’s relationship with her brother was great, he’s a couple years older and away at college, but it was a great depiction of siblings who like each other and have no real problem, but just kind of aren’t close.

There are aspects of the story that I think could really drive some people crazy. Juliet’s quest for perfection could come off as annoying, but it was very relatable to me and I have no doubt that it will be relatable to other as well. Juliet and Jason have this thing where they refer to each other as “J” and do this good-bye where they link pinkies and sat “J power” to each other. It kind of made me want to vomit, but that’s young so I’ll cut them some slack. Juliet also makes some frustrating decisions, but they’re decisions that fit really well with her personality. As the story goes on she becomes more and more stressed, but she keeps adding more and more commitments on top of her already hectic life. I wanted to shake her and tell her to slow down, but that’s kind of Juliet’s personality. It’s also never really explicitly discussed but Juliet is obviously someone who wants to please people around her and that definitely makes me one of those characters you want to shake and tell her to just do what’s best for her (but in the best possible way).

Bottom Line: I wouldn’t say Better Than Perfect is a book for everyone, it deals with a very small section of the population who’s very privileged and that can be frustrating. But the stresses in Juliet’s life, whether they’re about school or her family falling apart are things that most of us have gone through or will have to go through and I really enjoyed the way Melissa Kantor told Juliet’s story.

I received an electronic review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss (thank you!). All opinions are my own.

One Year Ago: Waiting on Wednesday: Since Last Summer
Two Years Ago
: Book Review: Beautiful Bastard