Reviews, Special Review, ya contemporary, ya romance

Book Review: It Started With Goodbye by Christina June

Goodreads Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Tatum Elsea is bracing for the worst summer of her life. After being falsely accused of a crime, she’s stuck under stepmother-imposed house arrest and her BFF’s gone ghost. Tatum fills her newfound free time with community service by day and working at her covert graphic design business at night (which includes trading emails with a cute cello-playing client). When Tatum discovers she’s not the only one in the house keeping secrets, she finds she has the chance to make amends with her family and friends. Equipped with a new perspective, and assisted by her feisty step-abuela-slash-fairy-godmother, Tatum is ready to start fresh and maybe even get her happy ending along the way.

Review:

I was surprised by this book many times. At first I thought it would be an angsty “woe is me” book. Then I was like ahhh something horrible is going to happen towards the end and it will ruin my ship. But none of my theories or guesses happened (except for who Shay was).

We start of at the Police station. Tatum, her friend Ashley, and Ashley’s boyfriend are arrested. Why are they arrested? Because Ashley’s bae decided to steal a whole bunch of smartphones. Now Tatum is stuck with a fine and community service even though she knew nothing of what Ashley and her bf had planned on doing that day they went to the mall. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The story progresses as Tate struggles with being under house arrest under her stepmother’s watchful eye. Her stepmother Belen is very harsh on her and her step sister Tilly hardly acknowledges her existence. To make things worse, her father goes out of the country so she is left alone with her step-family. Throughout the entire book, Tate learns that the people closest to you can disappoint you, that making new friends may not be as bad as she thought it would be, that forgiving others is always good even though it takes time for the person you forgive to realize their mistake (Yes, I am talking about Ashley) and that you shouldn’t judge others, especially if you haven’t taken the time to properly get to know them (Her stepmother Belen and her stepsister Tilly).

My favorite character’s were Abby (Her new friend and journalistic wiz) and Blanche (Belen’s mother, Tilly’s grandmother). They both brought humor and the reality check that Tate needed. They were great support systems, yet they didn’t baby Tate. Loved this!

Overall, It Started With Goodbye, is a solid debut. I will keep a lookout for Christina June’s next novel.

(P.S. I didn’t write about the romance/ship in this novel because while it is in the story, I liked that it wasn’t the main point so I shall keep it that way.)

Rating: 4 out of 5

Disclaimer: I’d like to thank Blink/Harper Collins for providing me with an ARC of this novel. Receiving this novel for free does not sway my review.

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ARC Review: Invincible Summer by Alice Adams

Invincible Summer

GoodReads Summary:

Four friends. Twenty years. One unexpected journey.

Eva, Benedict, Sylvie and Lucien graduate in 1998, into a world on the brink of the new millennium. Hopelessly in love with playboy Lucien and keen to shrug off the socialist politics of her childhood, Eva breaks away to work at a big bank. Benedict, a budding scientist who’s pined for Eva for years, stays on to do a physics PhD, and siblings Sylvie and Lucien pursue more freewheeling existences–she as an aspiring artist and he as a club promoter and professional partier. But as their dizzying twenties become their thirties, the once close-knit friends, now scattered and struggling to navigate thwarted dreams, lost jobs and broken hearts, find themselves drawn together once again in stunning and unexpected ways. Breathtaking in scope, this is sure to be the book of the summer.

My Review:

Invincible Summer takes place over a 20 year period. Each chapter is a glimpse into Eva, Benedict, Lucien, and Sylvie’s every day lives. When I first read the synopsis for Invincible  Summer it sounded in curious. I have been friends wit people I went to college with, going on 11 years now (whoa!) so a story about their lives felt like the right thing to read. It can be difficult to keep in touch with people, life drives you in different directions. Their growth over the novel mostly felt like small hills, but by the end it is clear that they have grown up, that the events that take place in their lives affected their life trajectory.

I had a difficult time  connecting with the characters. I’m not sure if it was because of the location- London- or the language usage- not American slag- or the fact that this really took place during a time period when I was really only a child. As a twentysomething myself, I understand lost dreams, heartbreak (maybe not so much haha), change, world image, and ultimately happiness. These things change over the course of one’s life and can change one’s life as well. So while I did have a difficult time connecting with the character’s, the themes behind them I could understand. These things change over the course of one’s life and can change one’s life as well.

I will say that these character’s felt very selfish, self-centered, and it was difficult to watch them make choices… maybe that is the point. Not every decision is the right decision. Taking the easy way out can result in unintended consequences. Sometimes you have to fight for what you believe in, to fight for what you want. And what you want you can’t always have or aren’t meant to have.

It’s funny, when I started writing this (and it took several days to gather my thoughts) I had intended to give this novel a 2 out 5 stars. But while writing this review, I finally understood the purpose to the book. So while I may not have connected to the characters directly, their stories are engaging, the themes are responsive, the final product is meant to understand- not move mountains.

Rating: 4 out 5

I’d like to thank NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company for the opportunity to read and review this ARC. Receiving this ARC for free does not sway my review.

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Reviews, Special Review

ARC Review: Recoil by Joanne Macgregor

Recoil

Goodreads Summary:

When a skilled gamer gets recruited as a sniper in the war against a terrorist-produced pandemic, she discovers there’s more than one enemy and more than one war. The Game is real.

Three years after a series of terrorist attacks flooded the US with a lethal plague, society has changed radically.

Sixteen year-old Jinxy James spends her days trapped at home – immersed in virtual reality, worrying about the plague and longing for freedom. Then she wins a war simulation game and is recruited into a top-secret organisation where talented teenagers are trained to become agents in the war on terror. Eager to escape her mother’s over-protectiveness and to serve her country, Jinxy enlists and becomes an expert sniper of infected mutant rats.

She’s immediately drawn to Quinn O’Riley, a charming and subversive intelligence analyst who knows more about the new order of government and society than he is telling. Then a shocking revelation forces Jinxy to make an impossible decision, and she risks losing everything.

Recoil is the first book in a Young Adult dystopian romance trilogy, and makes great reading for lovers of Rick Yancey (The Fifth Wave), Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games), and Veronica Roth (Divergent).

My Review:

Recoil is the most recent work by Joanne Macgregor. It takes place in modern day United States, three years after a terrorist attack used biological chemicals to unleash a plague. The story is very realistic dystopian fiction. It’s full of elements that terrorist attacks cause- hyper-awareness of foreign residents, larger defense industry, mass media reporting on threats, politician comments about terrorists.

Jinxy starts out naive, playing a game that eventually leads to recruitment with the military. She takes the words of the media, politicians, and her unit commander Sarge for face value- believes they have the people’s best interests at heart. At 16, it makes sense that she would trust those older than her. It isn’t until Jinxy meets Quinn that she starts to question her missions, especially when he finds out she is a sniper. Jinxy understands why she needs to shoot the infected rats, but when she is required to shoot other animals, and eventually is given more classified missions, she has a difficult time, trying to reconcile herself and her values with the values of her unit and the military. Macgregor does an excellent job of showing Jinxy’s progression from being naive to doubting herself and her missions to taking matters into her own hands, making her own educated decisions.

Quinn is a fascinating character. He is also super hot with an Irish accent (swoon). He does what is required of him, but also has his own secrets that are kept from Jinxy. He helps Jinxy open her eyes and understand that her missions are not what she is being told. There is a strong attraction between them, but her missions separate them- pit on against the other. I will say I had a difficult time with the start  of their relationship. It just sort of happens and I couldn’t figure out what drew them to each other. But by the end Macgregor had me rooting for their relationship. And the way the book ends, I just need to know what happens next.

There is a quote in the book- “We’ve repatriated hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of foreign residents, refugees, and workers. We’ve insulated ourselves, sealed our boarders against immigrants and imports and competition… And as a nation we’ve channeled billions into a defense industry that was sitting idle after the last wars fizzled out.” It is scary how closely it describes our current country. We have a presidential candidate who wants to build a wall on the US/Mexican boarder to keep illegal immigrants out; we have alienated anyone who looks middle eastern and have grouped all those who practice Islam into the terrorist stereo type. This novel is so realistic I can see something like this possibly happening.

If you enjoy dystopian settings, this is a great start to a fascinating realistic series.

Rating: 4 out of 5

I’d like to thank Joanne Macgregor for providing me with an ARC. Receiving this ARC for free does not influence my opinion in any way.

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ARC Review: Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

Everyone Brave is Forgiven

GoodReads Summery:

It’s 1939 and Mary, a young socialite, is determined to shock her blueblood political family by volunteering for the war effort. She is assigned as a teacher to children who were evacuated from London and have been rejected by the countryside because they are infirm, mentally disabled, or—like Mary’s favorite student, Zachary—have colored skin.

Tom, an education administrator, is distraught when his best friend, Alastair, enlists. Alastair, an art restorer, has always seemed far removed from the violent life to which he has now condemned himself. But Tom finds distraction in Mary, first as her employer and then as their relationship quickly develops in the emotionally charged times. When Mary meets Alastair, the three are drawn into a tragic love triangle and—while war escalates and bombs begin falling around them—further into a new world unlike any they’ve ever known.

Review:

I am a lover of World War II (as demented as that may sound). I live for the documentaries and movies that take place during that time period. And this book absolutely stole my heart.

We experience the war through several different points of view, and if I didn’t know that this was a work of fiction I could truly believe that this story, or something similar, took place in real life. This story is about real life- how one lives and responds to war, death, destruction, love, and rebuilding after it’s over.

Mary North is not your average London socialite- she wants to help with the war effort and does so through teaching children the countryside neglected. Tom Shaw, her supervisor and lover, is there to support her effort. The story through their everyday life. Alistair is an exceptional young man who befalls the misfortunes of war. Hilda is the typical socialite (and I don’t understand how Mary is friends with her) who just wants love, specifically the love of a man in a uniform- she is very superficial. Zachary is one of Mary’s students who suffers through the war, but also through the racism of 1940s London.

Each person is the glue and Everyone Brave is Forgiven wouldn’t be complete without them. This book isn’t about the big moments in one’s life, but the small moments that we don’t think about or celebrate. And don’t think to know the end. If this book is about everyday life, then the ending is representative of that.

The language Cleave uses is baroque and abundant. He clearly did the research to know how these characters spoke in the 1940s. It shows real thought and courage to get the story as accurate as possible.

I have never read a Chris Cleave book before, and this book certainly was not on my TBR list. I kind of stumbled upon it thanks to NetGalley and their little emails. And I am glad I did stumble upon it. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, but also to anyone who likes realistic stories about love, loss, and rebuilding.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven is beautifully gut-wrenching.

“It was a world one might still know, if everyone forgiven was brave.”

Rating: 5 out of 5Blog Signature

 

Everyone Brave is Forgiven will be available on May 3, 2016. you can purchase it at Amazon and B&N.

Disclaimer: Thank you Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for giving mr the opportunity to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Receiving this book for free does not influence my opinion.

Reviews, ya contemporary

ARC Review: 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad

13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl

Goodreads Summary:

Growing up in the suburban hell of Misery Saga (a.k.a. Mississauga), Lizzie has never liked the way she looks—even though her best friend Mel says she’s the pretty one. She starts dating guys online, but she’s afraid to send pictures, even when her skinny friend China does her makeup: she knows no one would want her if they could really see her. So she starts to lose. With punishing drive, she counts almonds consumed, miles logged, pounds dropped. She fights her way into coveted dresses. She grows up and gets thin, navigating double-edged validation from her mother, her friends, her husband, her reflection in the mirror. But no matter how much she loses, will she ever see herself as anything other than a fat girl?

In her brilliant, hilarious, and at times shocking debut, Mona Awad simultaneously skewers the body image-obsessed culture that tells women they have no value outside their physical appearance, and delivers a tender and moving depiction of a lovably difficult young woman whose life is hijacked by her struggle to conform. As caustically funny as it is heartbreaking, 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl introduces a vital new voice in fiction.

Review:

I really enjoyed reading 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl because I empathized with Lizzie. Struggling with weight in a society that won’t accept you if you aren’t skinny is difficult. It affects you mentally and physically. The book is an eye opener- you need to be comfortable in whatever body type you have. And if you are heavier and lose weight, your thought mentality won’t change just because you lost that weight; you’ll always be worried about getting fat again… like Lizzie does. Reading through this I definitely understood the thoughts Lizzie has- trying on clothes is the worst experience, nothing fits right, she has a difficult time looking at and talking about her body, and she has a lot of insecurities with guys because of her weight.

The ending wasn’t my favorite, but it makes sense. As a women, I believe we need to accept our bodies and while Lizzie may not ever accept her body, she understands that this is only body she has, therefore she needs to take care of it.

Mona Awad takes a deep look at the character’s flaws and insecurities, and should be a must read for all women whether you are skinny, fat, short, tall, etc. It is reflective of our current society and something we need to change.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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This book will be released on February 26, 2016. And is available at Amazon and B&N.

Disclaimer: Thank you First to Read and Penguin Random House for providing the opportunity to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Receiving this book for free does not influence my opinion.

NA Romance, Reviews, Special Review

Book Review: ROYAL MARRIAGE MARKET By Heather Lyons

Royal Marriage Market

GOODREADS SUMMARY:

Every decade, the world’s monarchs and their heirs secretly convene to discuss global politics and social issues—and arrange marriages between kingdoms.

Elsa may be the Hereditary Princess of Vattenguldia, but she finds the entire situation archaic and unsavory. While she wants what’s best for her country, she isn’t about to jump into an unwanted relationship—let alone a marriage—with a virtual stranger. Of course, her feelings matter little to her parents, whose wheeling and dealings over trade pacts and alliances achieved at her expense begin the moment they set foot in California for the Summit. So when a blindingly handsome royal runs into her, she doesn’t hesitate to tell him there’s no way she’s marrying him.

Christian is all too happy to agree: no marriage. As the Hereditary Grand Duke of Aiboland, his main goal is to get through the summit without a bride being foisted on him. Which is why he suggests they help each other field potential intendeds. As Christian slowly gets to know Elsa, though, he realizes they have a lot more in common than just their feelings about the Royal Marriage Market. Only he can’t fall for her, because royal or not, they’re not meant for each other.

Elsa and Christian will have to evaluate matters of the heart verses those of state and crown, and decide whether or not tradition trumps love.

LIZ’S REVIEW:

I wanted to like this book, so much. That is an empirical statement. I have read Heather Lyons’ other books- The Fate Series, The Collector’s Society, The Deep End of the Ocean. Each one was just as fascinating as the previous. She kept me enthralled, was able to tear my emotions apart. However, the Royal Marriage Market was less than spectacular. Actually, it fell short… like really short.

First, I got stuck on Elsa’s name. Maybe it wasn’t an intentional use of the name. Maybe that is just the character’s name? I understand this. BUT! Disney has a Queen Elsa, who is Scandinavian. I might be dramatic because my eye twitched. And of course all I saw was this blonde haired ice queen. But given that her full name is Elsa Victoria Evelyn Sofia Marie, could we have it mixed up? Give Elsa a different first name and she still be the same person? Probably. Speaking of names, the countries names! WHAT? I didn’t get them. They sound so fake. Doing research, Aiboland is a real thing… but Vattenguldia, nope it’s not (that I am aware of).

Second, it felt too wordy. Every statement Christian or Elsa made was followed with descriptors, upon descriptors, until I was to the point where I wanted to go read a children’s book for simply structured sentences. There were no back and forth conversations like you would normally see. Everything was prefaced with the POV of that character. And, maybe I missed them, but I didn’t read any descriptions of the characters. Maybe they were wrapped up in the complex sentence structures I had a hard time getting around.

The characters themselves felt one dimensional. Christian and Elsa didn’t want to be part of the RMM. They wanted to make their own choices. Their parents were the same- arranged marriage and you’ll do as I say or face the consequences! There was no real differentiation between each character’s voice, other than being told who is talking at the beginning of each section. And the action, or the juicy details, didn’t even make their presence known until 60% into the book. At that point, I just wanted to be finished.

That being said, I did enjoy the last 40% of the book. I liked the interactions Christian and his brother, Lukas, had. You could feel the sibling love (unlike Elsa and Isabelle). I appreciated Charlotte and Parker (Elsa and Christian’s personal secretaries). The Royal Marriage Market wasn’t a complete misadventure, but it wasn’t Lyons’ best work.

Rating: 2 out of 5

VERO’S REVIEW:

**Spoilery Review**

How do I start this… It’s been several days and my feelings are still mixed. Let’s start of with my favorite character.

Lukas. Every time he appears in the story, he makes it that much better. He is funny, real, and a great brother. His relationship with Christian is one of the best sibling relationships I’ve read in 2015.

I guess it is time to talk about my ‘mixed’ feelings. RMM is enjoyable. Once the story picked up, it was a breeze to read. Before that though… I questioned whether this was the book for me. It wasn’t the royal or romance side, but the writing itself. At times I was a little lost. At times it was hard for me to get through some sentences. I’m being lenient on that though because I was reading an ARC and not the finished product.

I both love and hate Elsa and Christian’s relationship. I like that they started of as friends, but disliked I was able to predict how it would go. I’m not saying everything that happened was predictable because Lyons threw me for a loop twice, but the ending was exactly as I thought it would end.

I did like that the story did not end at the end of the RMM. I loved that the story continued into weeks and months to come. I do wish I’d gotten more of Charlotte, and Elsa’s relationship with her father when she was younger. It would have been nice to see and not told.

Overall, if you are a fan of romance, I do think you will like this.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Disclaimer: Thank you KP Simmon at InkSlinger PR and Heather Lyons for giving Veronica and I the opportunity to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Receiving this book for free does not influence my opinion.

Reviews, Special Review, ya romance

Book Review: The Trouble With Destiny by Lauren Morrill

The Trobule With Destiny High Res

Written by : Veronica Robles

Goodreads Summary:

It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey…

With her trusty baton and six insanely organized clipboards, drum major Liza Sanders is about to take Destiny by storm—the boat, that is. When Liza discovered that her beloved band was losing funding, she found Destiny, a luxury cruise ship complete with pools, midnight chocolate buffets, and a $25,000 spring break talent show prize.

Liza can’t imagine senior year without the band, and nothing will distract her from achieving victory. She’s therefore not interested when her old camp crush, Lenny, shows up on board, looking shockingly hipster-hot. And she’s especially not interested in Russ, the probably-as-dumb-as-he-is-cute prankster jock whose ex, Demi, happens be Liza’s ex–best friend and leader of the Athenas, a show choir that’s the band’s greatest competition.

But it’s not going to be smooth sailing. After the Destiny breaks down, all of Liza’s best-laid plans start to go awry. Liza likes to think of herself as an expert at almost everything, but when it comes to love, she’s about to find herself lost at sea.

Review:

*Spoiler-y Review*

For some reason all I can think of right now is the sugar cubes Finnick eats in Catching Fire. The Trouble with Destiny is a sweet, crunchy sugar cube. If it were a stuffed animal, I would squeeze it so hard because of all the feels it gave me. Alright let’s begin.

Liza is stressed, frazzled and has a one-track mind. All she can’t think is “Save The Band From Funding Cuts!” The band is on the Destiny for that very reason, The competition taking place on the Destiny that can give them the money they need so that the school can keep the band for another year. That is if they win of course. The entire trip she experiences, sabotages, misunderstandings, a broken heart, and hope.

What I really like that Lauren Morrill did is that in a fun way, TTwD shows the reality any schools are facing today. Public schools around the country are being forced to close the art and music departments due to funding cuts, just like Liza’s school is facing. It is a sad reality, one that seems will not be disappearing anytime soon.

TTwD also focuses on friendships. A big focus of Liza’s and Demi’s. Liza and Demi were best friends when they were young but one day it all fell apart when Liza was done being Demi’s twin. Both girls are enemies for most of the novel until they have a heart to heart and what really happened is said and moth make amends. I really liked seeing a good friendship gone bad, become something more than a sour note in both of the girls’ lives.

Last but not least we have Lenny. Lenny is an adorable teddy bear. At first, I was fooled. He seemed a little bit like the stereotypical air-head jock, but he is a lot more than he seems. Lenny’s  actions made him seem as air-headed and annoying, but he was doing those things intentionally. Lenny’s crush made him act in a way that fit the stereotype which made everyone oblivious as to what was really happening and where his actions were coming from.

The Trouble with Destiny was a breath of  fresh air. It was light, fluffy, and sweet. The perfect dessert after a long day of work.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Vero Signature copy

You can preorder a copy here: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Indie

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Disclaimer: Thank you Random House Children’s Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book for free in exchange for an honest review. Receiving this book for free does not sway my opinion.