Buzz Books 2018 | Young Adult Spring/Summer (part 1/2)

NetGalley puts out this great compilation every season of some of the hot new Young Adult books that will be coming out. Here are my thoughts on the first 6 books featured and be on the lookout for my thoughts on the next 6. As always, covers link to Goodreads.

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes (7/10)

FawkesCover: I’m not super jazzed about this cover. It looks like it’s going to be a bad fairy tale retelling. Other than that, I have no indication of what this book might be about. What genre is it even? Fantasy? Historical Fiction? It could be horror for all I know. 3/10

Premise: This is literally the summary, “Nadine Brandes thrusts readers back to the time of anarchy and Guy Fawkes, with fantastical twists and unlikely love in Fawkes.” That still gives me almost nothing. I’ve heard of Guy Fawkes, but I have no idea who he is or what he did. I guess this is historical fantasy? Maybe? 3/10

Excerpt: I can already tell that the magic used in this world is too complicated. There are masks and colors that respond to types of voices…on top of that, I think the author’s trying a little too hard to be poetic in the descriptions. I also found the main character to be annoying and whiney after just the first few pages. 4/10

TBR?: No. This one just isn’t for me.

The Boy from Tomorrow by Camille DeAngelis (5/8)

The Boy from TomorrowCover: Just from the cover I think I can tell that this one is more middle grade than YA. It looks like it might be about a kid who time travels to the past? If I was in the target age range I think this cover would definitely appeal to me. 7/10

Premise: This sounds a lot like the movie Frequency. Again, if I was younger, I think I would really dig it. 6/10

Excerpt: It’s kind of interesting…even though this is clearly a middle grade book, I think the author has written in a very mature tone. The characters act like they’re 12, but think as if they’re older. I also like the aspect of having some interesting historical facts included since one of the characters lives in the past. 7/10

TBR?: Maybe. I wouldn’t usually add a middle grade to my TBR, but since this one reads a little older, I might.

Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne (5/1)

Brightly BurningCover: This cover does not appeal to me at all. Something about the text…the font that was chosen and the image…the colors… It just doesn’t look interesting to me. Probably some new space book where a girl from Earth falls in love with some guy from space. 2/10

Premise: Okay, well I was right about it being a space book. For some reason this seems like it might be a retelling of an old classic? But I think it’s probably one I haven’t read because the names and overall premise don’t sound very familiar to me. I’m just going to say, though, that having a 19-year-old boy be “notorious throughout the fleet for being a moody recluse and a drunk” seems a bit of a stretch. I mean, how long could he really have had that reputation for? Already I can tell that I’m going to want the characters to be older. 5/10

Excerpt: Not really a smooth beginning. It’s hard to join a story already in progress, but I feel like right off the bat there was a conversation between two characters that didn’t feel genuine and only served to catch the reader up to speed. It just didn’t feel as organic as it should have. Props to the author for including a diverse character right away, though. 5/10

TBR?: Nah.

Unbreakable by Sara Ella (5/1)

UnbreakableCover: Man, what is with these covers? None of them are speaking to me. This looks like a fairy book that I would have read 10 years ago. I don’t like the font and the imagery gives me no clues as to what this book might be about. 2/10

Premise: I guess this is the third book in a trilogy that I have never heard of before. Other than that, no clues from the summary. 3/10

Excerpt: The writing doesn’t seem too bad, but I just did a quick skim since I haven’t read the first two books. 5/10

TBR?: No and not just because I haven’t read the first two books. I read the synopsis for the first book and just wasn’t interested in that one either.

Legendary by Stephanie Garber (5/29)

LegendaryCover: Yes. HECK YES. I loved the cover of Caraval so much and this one is just as intriguing and magical. I love the colors and the text and how it looks both simple and complicated at the same time. 8/10

Premise: For the most part, I really liked Caraval, but I did have some issues with it. I hope that this book is able to build on the first instead of repeating elements. I like the idea of Elantine’s Day, but if it’s too much like Caraval then I’ll be disappointed. 7/10

Excerpt: Some of my issues from the last book stemmed from Scarlett as a character/narrator. So maybe with Tella as the new main character and narrator some of those issues will go away? I’m as intrigued as Tella by the deck of cards and I really liked the way her mom talked about fortune telling. 8/10

TBR?: YES. Actually, it already was. But if it hadn’t been, it definitely would be now!

Chemistry Lessons by Meredith Goldstein (6/19)

Chemistry LessonsCover: Okay, this looks like it has the potential to be a really cute and fluffy contemporary romance and I am HERE for it. I like the font choice, I like the periodic table in the background, I like that the droplets are little heart shapes…I’d definitely pick it up off the shelf and read the back. 7/10

Premise: Oh man, this premise seems a little risky. It could go well, or it could be extremely over the top and annoying. All I want is a smart girl main character who ISN’T a spazz. Up to this point, that has been too much to ask for apparently, but we’ll see with this book. 6/10

Excerpt: Just from the excerpt I think that I’ll like Maya as a character pretty good. It seems like she’s surrounded by a quirky cast of diverse secondary characters as well. I also like that the book really feels like it’s set in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 7/10

TBR?: Yeah, I’ll give this one a shot.

Let me know in the comments what you’ve heard about these books!
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Weekend trip turned nightmare | S.T.A.G.S by M.A. Bennett [ARC]

S.T.A.G.S. STAGSGreer just started at her new boarding school, a posh place called St. Aidan the Great School. As a scholarship student, she doesn’t fit in among the elite upper class–the ones who look born to be wearing the black Tudor coats that is their school uniform. So when she gets invited to spend the long weekend with the “it” group on campus, the Medievals, she leaps at the chance. The invitation says they’re in for a fun weekend of “Huntin’, Shootin’, and Fishin'” and Greer can’t wait to prove to these popular upper classmen that she deserves to be friends with them (and maybe even more in the case of Henry de Warlencourt). What she doesn’t expect is to have the picturesque weekend marred by creepy servants and terrible “accidents”.

TL;DR – There was way too much clumsy foreshadowing. The plot wasn’t as exciting as it initially sounded. Characters were just…meh. Pass.

I had pretty high hopes for this book. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I have a strangely specific passion for books about unique boarding schools. This book also sounded like it had some Hunger Games elements to it so I was all in. Unfortunately, I don’t think that the writing was up to par the entire time and the plot was a little weak.

The way the book is written, Greer is essentially narrating the events to the reader. She drops a lot of “hints” throughout the book as to what is actually happening. But instead of creating suspense, as maybe the author hoped, it destroys it and becomes more than a little annoying. There is a time and a place to use foreshadowing effectively, but it was just too heavy-handed in this book–not at all subtle and definitely overkill. Greer keeps referencing how the weekend ends and she makes it seem like a¬†really big deal. By the time we actually get to that point, I was a little let down. It almost didn’t seem like as big a deal as Greer had made it out to be throughout the book.

Like I said earlier, the plot was intriguing to me going in, but once I was actually in the book, it started to make less sense. I understand how the entire plot comes together in the end, but it still seems a little bit of a stretch–just not very believable. I’m not saying that every plot has to be super believable, but in this case, a believable plot would have made the book seem a lot more interesting. I don’t want to get too much into it because of spoilers, but I feel like this same plot could have been done in a much more intriguing and clever way.

The characters themselves were just okay. I don’t really feel like any of them were fully fleshed-out, not even Greer. That made it hard to really care for any of them. It didn’t really matter to me if they made it out alive or not. I think it would have been a lot more interesting if Greer hadn’t been the object of a certain character’s affections. The author made it seem like he might like someone else at the beginning and I think following through with that would have been a lot more unexpected and interesting. And wouldn’t have had a huge impact on the story line.

Overall, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this book. There were so many parts of it that just dragged. I was really hoping this book would be so much better than it was.

Overall Rating: 2
Language: Moderate
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: None

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

New Year, New Mini-Reviews

Apparently I’m already 2 books behind on my Goodreads challenge. How is that even possible??? Regardless, here are a couple of books that I’ve already finished in 2018.

I Am the MessengerI Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

I first read this book around the time that I was a freshman in high school. At that point, I remember enjoying it but in hindsight, I feel like I was too young to really¬†get it. Recently my husband and I were discussing how great this book is and I decided to reread it now that I’m about 10 years older (I’m more committed than ever to the reread). Guys. This book is SO GOOD. It just makes you think. It makes you look around at the people you see every day and it also makes you think about the people you don’t. I love how spectacularly normal Ed is, but he still makes an impact–sometimes by doing something so small. Zusak gives the reader an unapologetic look at what it means to be human by showing normal, daily struggles. He also illustrates that anybody can make a change. There is a moderate amount of adult content in this book, but I would definitely recommend it for older teenagers. Honestly, this should be required reading in all schools. 5/5

RenegadesRenegades by Marissa Meyer

I’ll be honest, this book was pretty disappointing to me. I still liked it, but not as much as I’d hoped I would. I love the Lunar Chronicles and Heartless. AND I love superheroes. I really thought this would be a match made in heaven, but something about it just wasn’t as satisfying. I think part of me was making direct comparisons between this book and the Reckoners trilogy by Brandon Sanderson. The world building just didn’t really compare. It also took a while for me to feel any connection towards the main characters and even at the end, I don’t feel like I really¬†know any of them. Nova could be a really likable and complex character, but I feel like we were more told that instead of being shown it. One thing I did really like was the idea of Adrian’s power–very original. The ending was a surprise and I am interested to see how that plays out, so I’ll for sure be reading the next one. Overall, I still liked it, but was ultimately left wishing it was a bit more. 4/5

7 ways to keep yourself from going crazy on NetGalley

For book bloggers, NetGalley is a magical place where maybe, just maybe you might get a chance to read the next Sarah Dessen/Morgan Matson/”insert author here” book before everyone else. In my experience, it’s a lot easier to get approved for digital galleys on NetGalley than it is to get publishers to send you physical copies (I’ve only succeeded at that like twice). Perhaps this is why it’s so hard to practice self-control once you get on the site. There’s just an enormous potential to receive¬†free books.

book pile gif
Me with all my free books from NetGalley

So how do you keep yourself from requesting every book that you see? Well, after a couple of years, here are some tips that I’ve come up with to (hopefully) keep your ARC load manageable.

1) Only request books that you actually want to read.

Baby Reading

This seems like a no-brainer, but I have definitely found myself being approved for a book and then wondering why the heck I requested it in the first place. Getting on NetGalley when you’re bored is sometimes like going grocery shopping when you’re hungry. EVERYTHING SOUNDS GOOD. But then when it actually comes time to eat (or read/review) you’re left with a bunch of things that don’t really sound that appetizing. So make sure when you’re requesting that the book actually sounds¬†really good to you. Not just pretty good or okay.

2) Keep a record of books that you’ve requested.

List

Even though you can view all of the books that you’ve requested on NetGalley, it’s easy to forget just how many books you might have already requested or when they’re all being published. I’ve had times where I’ve been approved for books weeks later. All of the sudden, I have 7 books to read and review for April and I’m not really sure how that’s happened. I suggest keeping a list in a more visible place as you’re requesting books. That way, if you’re on the fence about a book, you can see if you’ve already requested a lot of books being published in the same month and use that to help you make your decision.

3) Only request books that have a future publishing date.

Sometimes NetGalley has books on it that have already been published. I fell into this trap early on where a book would sound good, I requested it, but then found out that it had been published the year before. It didn’t seem so bad at the time, but when I also got approved for future books, the ones that had already been published got pushed to the back burner. For me, there just isn’t the same urgency to review already published books as there is to review books that are still to come. Eventually I created a rule for myself that I could only request books that were going to be published in the future.

4) Get to know which publishers you like and which ones you don’t.

reading gif

There are certain publishers that will almost always produce good quality books (HarperCollins, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, etc.). I feel pretty safe requesting books from these publishers. But there are other publishers that I have found to be hit or miss for me (SOURCEBOOKS) and still others that I don’t request books from anymore (Entangled Publishing). It might take you a little bit to establish which publishers you like, but eventually you’ll figure it out. I know that no matter how cute and fluffy a book sounds, if it’s published by Entangled Publishing, I’m most likely going to end up regretting my request.

5) Keep a schedule of ARCs that you’ve already been approved for.

This is similar to keeping a record of ARCs that you’ve requested, but even more important imo. These are books that you’ve already committed to reading and reviewing. If you’ve already got 5 books scheduled for this month, maybe rethink that book you’re about to request that comes out next week. Really consider if you have the time to read and adequately review all of the books on your schedule before potentially adding another one.

6) Set a request limit for yourself. AND STICK TO IT.
limit gif
It does Lindsay, it really does

Setting a limit for how many books you can request on a given day will keep you from requesting every book that sounds remotely good. Instead, you’ll have to prioritize which books you¬†actually want to read. Having a limit will force you to actually consider if it’s worth it to request a book or if you should save your request for something else.

7) Do judge a book by its cover.

This is so superficial, I know. But it’s a really easy way to keep yourself from going overboard since it eliminates a number of previously eligible books. If a cover doesn’t look interesting to you, don’t even look at the description. You might miss out on a great book here or there, but I think it’s worth the “risk”.

Now that you’ve figured out how to effectively use NetGalley…go forth, request, read and review!

Chang reading community gif

Did I miss any NetGalley tips? Do you have any NetGalley horror stories? Let me know in the comments!

6 books I didn’t like that other people did

Title links are to Goodreads and “My rating” links are to my reviews if applicable. Click here¬†if you’d like to see a list of 6 books that I did like that other people didn’t.

On the FenceOn the Fence by Kasie West – My rating: 3 stars; Goodreads: 4.05 stars

What other people are saying: “Tomboy Charlie was a lot of fun getting to know. She wasn’t exactly my favorite at the beginning but she grew on me. I liked her growth in the story and her progression of self-acceptance was very believable.”

“…this was a generally enjoyable read and it has a giddily happy ending…”

What I say:¬†I honestly didn’t like Charlie very much–she just seemed too clueless! I get being a tomboy (I was one too) but even without a mom, I feel like there were some things that she just should have known by being around other females like her teammates. I also didn’t particularly care for any of the secondary characters–they just seemed super flat. Lastly, the ending was just too fast and the repeated use of the word “love” made me cringe so much.

Shadow and BoneShadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo – My rating: 3 stars; Goodreads: 4.05 stars

What other people are saying: “Everything was fabulous: writing, setting, uniqueness, feels-inducing, swoon worthy villains characters.”

“First, Alina is such an incredible main character. Not only is she likable and relatable, her growth throughout the story is stunning to read. It is so believable, even in a completely unbelievable world.”

What I say:¬†Alina…..ugghhhh. She is honestly one of my least favorite main characters. I felt like she was actually pretty pathetic and so SO weak. And talk about “special snowflake”. I don’t think I’ve seen another character who was a more special snowflake. I never felt like the romance between her and Mal was genuine and it creeps me out how everyone is super into the Darkling. HE’S TERRIBLE, YOU GUYS. I did like Bardugo’s concept of magic, etc. But seriously, Alina was the most annoying character ever.

Anna and the French KissAnna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins – My rating: 3 stars; Goodreads: 4.06 stars

What other people are saying: “This is one of the cutest feel-good teen romances I have ever read. It has a bit of everything that you want… humour, a likeable protagonist and a completely swoon-worthy guy called Etienne St. Clair.

“I love how Perkins created this romance between [St. Clair] and Anna. It was perfectly executed for my tastes, albeit at sometimes super drama-filled, but there was depth to their feelings for one another and I appreciated that.

What I say:¬†I do not understand the hype with St. Clair. I just don’t. He’s cheating on his girlfriend the whole time and it’s NOT OKAY. Also, the author really went overboard describing how beautiful he’s supposed to be. I got tired of it after the first 50 pages. Anna as a character was fine and I thought the secondary characters were fine too, but I am not on board the Anna/St Clair ship. Sorry, not sorry.

Red QueenRed Queen by Victoria Aveyard – My rating: 3 stars; Goodreads: 4.08 stars

What other people are saying:¬†“The book is harsh, romantic, action packed, fast paced, with twists and turns that it literally kept me up all night so I could finish it. LOVED it.”

“I also loved Mare, who never became lovesick though she was not immune to the charms of her princes. There was no eye-rolly moony-eyed moments. ”

What I say:¬†I felt like Mare was such a wishy-washy character who had major trust issues. I mean, how can you commit to joining a rebellion if you’re not actually sure that you want to be part of the rebellion? She just didn’t feel very well thought-out. And don’t get me started on the brother love triangle. I absolutely ABHOR those.

The Summer I Turned Pretty trilogyThe Summer I Turned Pretty (series) by Jenny Han – My rating: 2, 2, and 2 stars; Goodreads: 3.96, 4.14, and 4.17 stars (respectively)

What other people are saying:¬†“Belly’s character is great, in the first book she was a bit immature but as I read the other two books I saw how she had grown up and changed.”

“This story has depth in character growth, emotion, back story, and sweep you off your feet love.”

What I say:¬†These books were just…way too angsty for me. I felt like Belly was a really immature main character. I mean, I know she’s super young in the first book, but she still seemed like she was always on the brink of crying or getting overly embarrassed by things. While she does grow throughout the series, I don’t feel like she grows all that much. I also didn’t particularly care for the two main love interests (and AGAIN with the brother love triangle. Gag). These were just kind of throw away books to me. Super easy to read, but not something I would ever reread.

The Names They Gave UsThe Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord – My rating: 3 stars; Goodreads: 4.15 stars

What other people are saying:¬†“This was truly a book in which every reader could find themselves in. The protagonist might represent one thing but a voice was given to so many other perspectives.”

“Emery Lord never ceases to amaze me. She has a magical way of weaving words and creating flawed, complex characters that are entirely relatable.”

What I say:¬†Yes, there was a lot of diversity in this book. Dare I say even…too much diversity? It just felt like Lord was trying to cover too many things. I think the story would have felt tighter and more impactful if she had only chosen a couple of things to focus on instead of trying to cover everything. Lucy was just okay as a protagonist to me. She didn’t actually feel that authentic as a Christian teen to me. I also didn’t think that Henry was realistic at all either. He seemed about 25 instead of 17 or 18.

Please tell me I’m not alone in these opinions!

TRAILER: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I loved this book the first time I read it 6 years ago and it definitely held up when I reread it last year. I’ve recommended it to my husband and his brothers who have all loved it as well and I cannot tell you how PUMPED I am for this movie.

Warner Brother’s just released a featurette which may or may not have given me goosebumps:

Doesn’t it look AMAZING??? Here’s the original trailer too for anyone who hasn’t already seen it:

I’m usually pretty hesitant when my favorite books are made into movies, but I feel really good about this one. Just the fact that Spielberg is doing it (obviously) and it sounds like Cline was really involved with the process as well.

What do you guys think? Can the movie possibly live up to the book? Are you going to be at this movie opening weekend like me?

6 books I liked that other people didn’t

Title links are to Goodreads and “My rating” links are to my reviews if applicable. Be on the lookout for the next installment of this series: “6 books I didn’t like that other people did”.

The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares – My rating: 5 stars; Goodreads: 3.3 stars

The Whole Thing TogetherWhat other people are saying:¬†“The first half felt like a YA novel with the romance and family issues, but then the second half turned into a depressing mess with difficult marriages and family tragedies. The end felt cheap. And then the book was just… over. Most things I cared about were never resolved or addressed.”

“There are a lot of characters, and the author bounces between them often and rapidly. I don’t feel like I got to know any of them, which made it difficult to care about anything that happened.”

Several reviewers mentioned that they felt the book contained both racism and sexism.

What I say:¬†I really liked this book. To address the first point, I don’t exactly remember how the book ends, but I always take this kind of comment with a grain of salt. Real life doesn’t resolve easily, so why should a book? In contrast to the second comment, I actually liked all of the different POVs and did feel like I was able to get to know each character–just a difference of opinion I guess. Lastly, I can’t say that I completely agree with the racism and sexism allegations. I recommend you read my original review to see my reasoning.

The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd – My rating: 5 stars; Goodreads: 3.69 stars

The Madman's DaughterWhat other people are saying:¬†¬†“…the middle felt very uneven in comparison with the rest of the story and a major downside for me was the love triangle…. The romance just seemed uninteresting, boring, and way too over-emphasized.”

“…so many parts of the book seemed like pointless filler to stretch out a weak plot”

What I say:¬†I understand disliking the love triangle. Honestly, I get it. I, myself, am not a fan of love triangles. However, I feel like this book still does it well. I think the love triangle (and romance overall) actually¬†is¬†important to the book in a really subtle way. Even more, I think it carries the rest of the series. And then as far as filler and a weak plot goes…was the book a little slower paced? Yes. But I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it’s a weak plot. I think the plot is actually quite complex with Juliet having to figure out how she feels about her father and deciding what to do about him.

This Raging Light by Estelle Laure – My rating: 5 stars; Goodreads: 3.71 stars

This Raging LightWhat other people are saying:¬†“My main issue was with the writing style. It wasn’t my favorite. I think that if it was written in a different point of view instead of first person, I would have liked it.”

“I found that I didn’t really connect to the characters or the story at all until one point that had me almost choking up at the kindness of some people…. I also have a huge problem with unresolved plot lines, and this was one of those”

What I say:¬†Meh, I had no qualms with the writing style. In fact, I liked that the book was fast-paced and easy to read. I also felt like I really connected with the characters–especially the main character and her little sister. I think some readers wanted the main character to be a certain way, but¬†her mom freaking left her and her sister to fend for themselves. Like honestly, that would make me snap at my best friends too (even though they were being super helpful). And then again with the unresolved plot lines. Life, you guys.

Once and for All by Sarah Dessen – My rating: 5 stars; Goodreads: 3.78 stars

Once and For AllWhat other people are saying:¬†“I just couldn’t connect with Louna in any way and she felt like the least dynamic Dessen protagonist I’ve come across”

“I wanted a fluffy, cute read and this was more depressing than anything else.”

What I say:¬†I’m not going to pretend that Louna is my¬†favorite Dessen protagonist (Macy has that designation) but she’s certainly not the worst. In my opinion, Louna was the most Remy-like of all of them which I think makes her distinctly NOT undynamic. I loved her sour grapes attitude and it was nice seeing her more tender side with her mom, William, and Jilly. And then to the person who wanted a “fluffy, cute read”…have you ever read one of Dessen’s books? NONE of her books are fluffy, cute reads. They all deal with heavy stuff so you have to be prepared for that. It’s about the growth that the characters experience through the heavy stuff–not just the romance.

Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger – My rating: 5 stars; Goodreads: 3.79 stars

Etiquette and EspionageWhat other people are saying:¬†“Really, I did not expect this to feel so¬†young. It has such a middle grade vibe. And contains some immature characters.”

“It is funny, frivolous and frothy. I found that I wanted more substance.”

“The main fault of this book is the inexplicable absence of a plot: I kept on wishing something would happen, but nothing really did.”

What I say:¬†Pish posh. But really. I understand that since Carriger’s previous series was an adult series readers may expect this to fall in the same vein. However, it’s immediately made known that our protagonist is 14-years-old. So yeah, it’ll have a middle grade vibe, but if you keep reading the series, it grows up as the characters do (the last book is definitely, squarely YA). The girls are all 14 and so there’s some immaturity and frivolity, but I think it just adds to the overall fun tone of the book. With that being said, I also didn’t mind (or notice) the lack of a plot. They’re at a floating boarding school for assassins for goodness sakes! What more do you want???

Iron Cast by Destiny Soria – My rating: 5 stars; Goodreads: 3.81 stars

Iron CastWhat other people are saying:¬†“I also think a lot of my problem hangs on my lack of interest in any of the characters.¬†ALL of the characters are forgettable

“I couldn’t connect to the characters and I felt like the book dragged.”

What I say:¬†I loved the characters! Honestly, this was one of my favorite reads of 2016¬†because of the characters. The relationship that Ada and Corinne have seems so much stronger and bigger than a lot of YA friendships (especially girl-girl friendships). They weren’t catty, they weren’t competitive, they just cared about each other. I absolutely loved that the author focused more on their friendship than on their individual romances. I will admit that the beginning of the book did “drag” a little bit, but it’s because the author needed to develop the world and introduce the reader to these two amazing girls.

Does anyone agree with me? What are some books that you really love that have bad reviews on Goodreads?