BLOG TOUR: The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich [GIVEAWAY]

The Love InterestThe Love Interest
by Cale Dietrich
Release Date: May 16, 2017
Genres: YA, Contemporary, LGBTQ

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SYNOPSIS: There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: The boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: The brooding, dark-souled guy, and dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose a Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be ‚Äď whoever the girl doesn‚Äôt choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.

REVIEW:¬†This book was a little different from what I was expecting. I knew that both of our main characters were spies, but I still kind of expected this book to be a cute contemporary-ish romance where (basically) everyone finds love in the end. That is not this book. There’s a much bigger conspiracy/fighting the bad corporation aspect that was surprising to me. The plot was pretty slow at the beginning, but then moved a lot quicker after about two-thirds of the way through. However, I felt that there were some plot holes/really unrealistic things (even given the world that they were in). Like, a¬†bunch of celebrities are supposedly in relationships with Love Interests, but celebrities always date other celebrities? And their relationships don’t usually last forever so…what gives? I just don’t understand how Love Interests could realistically be infiltrating our world, that’s all.

I thought the characters were just alright. Caden wasn’t super likable and I didn’t find Dylan super likable either. It was honestly just hard to really get to know the two main characters as they were basically putting on an act¬†the whole time. I thought the fact that they had trainers in their heads the whole time was pretty weird as well. And Caden’s trainer was always like, “Sorry I’m late/missed that, I was on a date”. Cut to me scratching my head and wondering why the heck that detail was necessary. Caden’s relationship with his “parents” also seemed unnecessary. I didn’t see how that added anything to the story or to Caden’s development. I don’t even think they really helped us to learn more about the big bad company. They were just kind of…there.

I will say, that I thought this book did a great job poking some fun at the “bad boy vs guy next door competing for a below-the-radar girl’s heart” trope. There were some classic scenes especially when it came to Dylan: broody bad boy reads poetry, sexy bad boy at the school dance, hardcore bad boy rides a motorcycle, etc. It really reminded me of certain other books and made those things kind of laughable–in a good way. It’s so hard for me to say anything else without spoilers, but without giving anything away, I thought that the way sexuality was represented in this book was a little…manipulative? It seemed like it came into play when it was convenient. Perhaps I just didn’t get it, though?

Overall, I thought this book was pretty good. It was a refreshing take on some common tropes and I really enjoyed that part of it. Other aspects of the book fell flat, but they weren’t necessarily deal-breakers. I think this author has a bright future in YA ahead of him.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Moderate
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Moderate


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cale Dietrich

Cale Dietrich is a YA devotee, lifelong gamer, and tragic pop punk enthusiast. He was born in Perth, grew up on the Gold Coast, and now lives in Brisbane, Australia. The Love Interest is his first novel.

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Note: I received this book free from the author/blog tour in exchange for an honest review.

Daybreak is Not Your Normal Summer Camp | The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord [ARC]

The Names They Gave UsLucy is ready for her summer to go exactly according to plan. She’ll be spending the summer at the Christian summer camp that her parents own just like she does every summer. When she gets back, she’ll spend time with her perfect boyfriend Lukas until her senior year starts. Unfortunately, her mom’s cancer is back with a vengeance. Before she knows it, Lukas has paused their relationship and Lucy is headed to be a counselor at Camp Daybreak for the summer at her mother’s request. Lucy is baffled as to why her mom would send her away to a “hippie camp” instead of wanting to spend an entire summer together at their Christian camp. The summer has a lot in store for Lucy and she’ll question her faith while finding that her family’s history isn’t as cut and dry as she once thought.

I keep trying Emery Lord’s books because I hope that something will compare to The Start of Me and You (which I LOVED)¬†but I’m starting to think that it’s never going to happen. Stephanie @Stephanie’s Book Reviews really hit the nail on the head in her review¬†where she talks about feeling like Lord is just trying too hard. For me, I just felt like she was trying to cram in SO MANY ISSUES. First, we have Lucy who’s trying to reconcile her faith with all of the things that are going on in her life. Then we have her mom who has cancer. Then there’s also a transgender character and all of the stuff that comes out about Lucy’s family history…it’s just a little much. I wish that the author had maybe edited some of that stuff out. It was just a little overwhelming as a reader.

Lucy was okay as a protagonist but I had a really hard time with some elements of her character. For example, as I started this book I was super excited because I have been WAITING for an author to give us a portrayal of a normal Christian character outside of Christian Fiction. I really thought Lucy was going to be that character for me, but almost immediately she starts having this crisis of faith which is completely understandable for her situation, but wasn’t what I was hoping for. In addition, I felt like she was just kind of unrealistic? I feel that Christians get a bad rap a lot of the time for being “sheltered” or “naive”. Like, Lucy gets uncomfortable when people around her use Christ’s name in vain, but then she doesn’t blink an eye when a character comes out as transgender. That’s just not consistent! First of all, I don’t think that a normal Christian teenager is going to blink at somebody else saying “Jesus Christ” about something–I know I didn’t. It was just stuff like that…I don’t know. One positive about her, is that in the end I really did like her relationship with her parents.

The secondary characters were pretty good and mostly well developed. Everybody at Daybreak has a past and we get into that a little bit with Jones and Annabelle and others. The one thing I will say is that Jones seemed too good for Lucy and honestly kind of unrealistic. I know he had some stuff in his life that made him more mature than his age, but is any teenage boy really going to act like him? It honestly felt like he was closer to 25 than 17 or 18.

Overall, I thought this book was just okay. I didn’t dislike it as much as When We Collided but it’s nothing compared to¬†The Start of Me and You. Some people have had an issue with the ending, but I’ll go on the record as saying that I didn’t hate it. It was definitely bittersweet, but that’s life, right? Some trigger warnings real quick: this book contains some mention of suicide, physical abuse, and bullying. Probably others too, but sorry those are the ones I can come up with right now.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Moderate
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate. Some underage drinking.
Sexual Content: Moderate

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

Cyberbullying in a strange, future New York | The Takedown by Corrie Wang [ARC]

The TakedownKyle is a queen bee. She and her three best friends are the most popular girls in school. On top of that, she’s also on track to be school valedictorian and is working to get into all of her top choices for college. But all of that comes crashing down when a video is leaked of her having sex with her English teacher. Except…it’s not her. As the video goes viral, Kyle watches everything she’s built come crashing down. Nobody believes that it’s not her in the video, so it’s up to Kyle to prove that somebody’s out to get her.

This book first came to my attention because one of my favorite authors (Ryan Graudin) has been raving about it. Unfortunately, I found it to be pretty disappointing. First off, the setting is this really strange, future New York but it’s not really apparent that we’re in the future until a few chapters in. Was it necessary for the book to be set in the future? I don’t really think so. It just made it confusing because I had to learn about a completely new set of technology, social media, etc. And the way they talk was also really strange. It’s like…they would swear, but without the vowels? It was just super weird–I don’t actually think the English language is going to evolve like that.

Kyle, the main character, is not likable. I didn’t feel sympathy towards her or bad for her in any way. She just wasn’t likable and she didn’t really experience any growth. So if that was the goal, then the author definitely accomplished that. But if it wasn’t, then I think she needs to rethink how she¬†writes her characters in the future. Kyle was just really entitled and selfish the whole book. She’s so focused on “me me me me me me” that she doesn’t notice anything that the people around her are doing. Her life is crashing down and she feels like everyone around her needs to be worrying about that as much, if not MORE, than she is.

The secondary characters were just okay. I didn’t really like any of them more than I liked Kyle. I also didn’t like that her brother was also named Kyle. The author gave a reason for that and I understand why it was “necessary” for the plot, but…just no. Figure out another way to accomplish that plot point because having a brother and a sister both named Kyle is just too weird and confusing.

The plot was also just okay. I’ve read a lot of books that are supposed to be a type of mystery, but there’s no way for the reader to solve it on their own. I’d like to read a book where the reader can take an active role in solving the mystery along with the characters. As it is, most books that involve a mystery just expect readers to sit back and enjoy the ride. This book was no different. Sure, there were clues. But in the end, there was really no way for the reader to decide who the “bad guy” was with any certainty. We just don’t get all of the facts until the very end. We’re left trailing the main character instead of working alongside them.

Overall, I was disappointed by this book. There were too many elements that just weren’t working for me. That being said, this book does have a rating of 4.03 on Goodreads, so take my review with a grain of salt I guess. I didn’t like it very much, but you might still enjoy it.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Moderate
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: None
Sexual Content: Heavy. Nothing very explicit, but this book is all about a sex tape so it’s talked about a lot.

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

A book about grief and growing up too early | Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer [ARC]

Letters to the LostThe accident happened months ago, but to Juliet, it feels like it was just yesterday. Her mom took an earlier flight home as a surprise because Juliet begged her to. Now she’s dead. Hit and run. So Juliet writes her letters. Of course, she knows that her mom will never read them, but it feels good sometimes to put those emotions down on paper. When Declan finds one of Juliet’s letters at the cemetery where he’s doing community service, he can’t help but respond. They become pen pals of sorts and under the cover of anonymity they can admit things that they never had the courage to admit before.

I did not expect this book. It was deep and meaningful and was a really intense look at grief from all kinds of different angles. All of the characters in this book are flawed and the author doesn’t shy away from the ugly parts of their lives or personalities. Juliet and Declan are both kind of angry people, but I didn’t find that I minded like I have with characters from other books. Mostly I just felt sad for both characters. They’ve both had these huge events in their lives that completely change how they interact with the rest of the world. I wouldn’t say that either of them are particularly likable, but I still felt for them and I think that’s a sign of really well developed characters.

The cast of secondary characters was also amazing. I loved both Rev and Rowan, but especially Rev and I’m very excited that he’ll be getting his own book¬†coming out next year. They were a great support system for the two main characters and honestly just seem like really good people. At the same time, they had their own flaws that we don’t really have time to get into in this book–but they’re there. I also just want to give a shoutout to the fact that Rev is an unashamed Christian and isn’t portrayed as a complete freak. Then there are the adult characters. Frank, Juliet’s dad, Declan’s mom and step-dad, Rev’s parents, Mrs. Hillard, and Mr. Gerardi. A lot of times YA books portray adults as the enemies or like they just don’t understand or completely absent. There is a little bit of that in this book, but there are also a lot of times when adults are present and they are every bit as flawed as our teenage protagonists. Despite those flaws a lot of the adult characters are also super enabling. I especially loved the interactions that Declan had with Frank and Mrs. Hillard. It’s not always an us vs them thing when it comes to teens and adults–sometimes adults are on your side! So I give a big thank you to the author for illustrating that. I also loved Juliet’s gradual appreciation for her father.

There is a bit of a plot that runs as a constant thread throughout the book, but it’s definitely not the focus–we’re much more focused on the development of our main characters. I think my overall takeaway from this book is that we really shouldn’t judge other people before getting to know them. I think this is most apparent in the judgments that Rowan and Brandon make about Declan and Rev. Rowan and Brandon are nice, good people, but they don’t take the time to try to get to know either Declan or Rev. They only listen to the things they’ve heard about Declan and Rev is guilty by association and because he dresses strangely. How many of us are exactly like Rowan and Brandon? Let’s get to know and love the Declans and Revs of the world.

Overall, I thought this book was really great. While there were some¬†overused¬†elements (the “evil stepparent” for one), I also thought that the author included several refreshing elements. I think this book will, deservedly, stand apart from other books in the YA category.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Moderate
Violence: Moderate. Some brief descriptions of child abuse.
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate. Mostly due to one scene at the end of the book–not graphic.

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

The book to read if you ever wanted to learn more about autism | Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik [ARC]

Things I Should Have KnownChloe doesn’t have what anybody would call an “ideal situation”. Sure she’s pretty popular at school, but her dad died a few years ago and her mom married a total tool. On top of that, she has an autistic older sister to worry about. Her friends are supportive, but don’t really get it–not that she expects them to. When Chloe tries to set her sister up on a couple of dates, Chloe begins to see one of her classmates in a completely different light. She starts to think that maybe there is someone who can understand her after all.

This book was truly great. The author has a child who is autistic and I felt that that really shows in the book. It feels real and authentic and I learned a lot more about how to interact with people who are on the autism spectrum. This is the kind of diversity in characters that I can appreciate. The author has first-hand experience with autism and can portray it in a way that somebody without that first-hand knowledge never could in my opinion.

Chloe and David are both just really great characters. The love that they have for their siblings is obvious throughout the book. They’re definitely flawed, but I can’t help but feel that they’re still better people than I am. They have normal lives, but at the same time, their worlds kind of revolve around their siblings. Chloe and David make me want to be a better person when I’m around those with disabilities for sure. Their relationship with each other felt real and progressed at a natural pace. I thought they really balanced each other out. As far as secondary characters go, I felt that both sets of parents could have been developed a little more. More depth was shown at the end of the book, but it almost felt like too little, too late. James and Sarah were both really flat characters as well and didn’t contribute much of importance to the story.

One criticism that I have is with Chloe’s relationship with her step-dad. It just seemed so obvious to me. For once I would like to read a book where the main character looses a parent that they had a good relationship with, but then they also love their step-parent as well. Does that ever happen in real life? Does it even exist? Or am I just wishing for a unicorn here? It just feels like a really cheap way to add drama.

Ethan and Ivy were also great characters. I felt like they really showed how differently autism can manifest itself. Not all people with autism act the same way or have the same triggers. Also, I thought the author did a great job of showing that even their loved ones get fed up with them sometimes. People who have autism don’t necessarily need to be babied–they just need to be treated like normal people. The LGBT aspect of it was interesting as well. I don’t want to spoil too much, but I think the author brings up an important topic here.

Overall, I thought this book was fantastic. I’ve really liked LaZebnik’s books in the past and while this one was different, it didn’t disappoint. I definitely look forward to reading anything else that she comes out with.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Moderate
Violence: None
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Moderate

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

A timely book about racism | Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham [ARC]

Dreamland BurningRowan Chase has a dead body on her family’s property.¬†A brief investigation shows that the body was likely dumped there sometime in the 1920’s (almost 100 years ago) and Rowan is determined to figure out the story behind it. William Tillman is just another white teenage boy growing up in Tulsa during the Prohibition. After getting a black man killed for touching a white girl’s hand, Will starts to rethink how he feels about black people. On a Summer night in 1921 all of his new-found convictions are put to the test. While these two characters live in different times, their stories are unquestionably intertwined.

I have some mixed feelings about this book. As a minority myself, I have given a lot of thought about the representation of minorities and race in books (especially YA). I, personally, have a hard time sometimes when¬†white authors write about these subjects as they don’t have the same personal experiences that a non-white person has had (regardless of how much research they’ve put into their book). Instead, I feel that we need more diverse authors to write about the experiences of diverse characters (you can read my whole post here). As far as I can tell from some Googling and website/blog reading, Ms. Latham is white (and I apologize profusely if this is not the case, but I haven’t been able to find anything that would indicate otherwise) so I’m not sure how authentically she can tell the story despite the large amount of research she put into the book. There was one part in particular that had me scratching my head a little. Geneva, the forensic anthropologist, tells Rowan (who is half-black, half-white) that she can tell that the body is most likely black due to facial structure. Rowan then has this internal debate about whether or not she’s offended at these “racist remarks”. Mmmm…maybe it’s just me, but I don’t find that offensive at all. It actually makes sense to me that different races would have different bone structure. My eyes are shaped differently than white people, so why wouldn’t my eye sockets be shaped differently as well? Other than a couple of other things like that, I felt that the author did a good job dealing with such a heavy topic.

So let’s actually get into the book. I thought Latham did a great job creating our two main characters.They were both likable and I think that’s impressive especially for Will as he has some racist tendencies due to the environment that he grew up in. You kind of want to hate him because of what happens in the beginning of the book, but then you just start to feel really sorry for him. He becomes really conflicted and his internal battle seemed pretty genuine to me. Rowan was a firecracker and a fun character as well. Her best friend was interesting but I do question why Latham chose to make him asexual as it didn’t really feel like it had an effect on who he was as a character–it felt more to me like diversity for diversity’s sake (which, again, I’m not a fan of).

I liked that the book had a bit of mystery to it. The book alternates between Rowan and Will so the reader ends up with quite a bit more information than Rowan as she’s trying to figure out whose body is in her backyard. It was fun and interesting for me to see Rowan making incorrect assumptions. Based on the information she has her deductions are quite logical, but we know that she doesn’t have the whole story. The reader is given clues from both the past and the present so I was able to figure out who the body was maybe around the 70% mark–but I think the author meant for us to figure it out at that point. The way the two story lines came together was also interesting and (for the most part) felt natural.

I can’t speak for black people, but as a minority I do appreciate that Latham has chosen to tackle this big topic of race and racism in America. While I think the book would have felt more meaningful if it had been written by a black author, it is apparent that Latham had done an extensive amount of research while she was writing. She doesn’t shy away from painting things as ugly as they were–she’s not pulling any punches here. This book has frank depictions of racism and the kind of cruelty that humans will inflict upon each other. Latham also illustrates the small types of racism that are still around today. Overall, I thought this book was well-done and I would recommend it for mid to older teens.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Moderate. Specifically the n-word is used several times (along with other language), but I did not feel that the author used it excessively in the context of the book.
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild. One brief, non-descriptive scene of attempted rape.

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

No Mourners. No Funerals. | Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

The Dregs are just another gang in Ketterdam, but the one thing they have that others don’t is Kaz Brekker. He’s young, but he’s good at what he does. When he’s approached to pull off the most impossible heist, all he can see is the pile of money waiting for him at the end of it. He quickly pulls a talented crew together–the only ones with a glimmer of a chance at success. Can they pull it off? Or will this job prove to be too much–even for Kaz “Dirty Hands” Brekker?

Six of CrowsI LOVE a good heist. Book, movie–whatever. So with that in mind, I thought that I was going to like this book. Turns out that I REALLY liked this book. The characters were all just so complicated and had an enormous amount of depth. I thought that Bardugo did a great job of switching between narrators and between past and present. That way the reader can get into every character’s head and kind of understand what their motivations are. At the same time, even though we’re jumping between characters, we’re not privy to everything that’s going on. There were a couple of twists that had me going, “WHAAAAATT????”.

This book and the plot were giving me serious Mistborn vibes (which isn’t a bad thing) but the thing that I thought Mistborn did better was the timeline. In Mistborn, they take a whole year (if I’m remembering correctly) to pull of their “thing” whereas Kaz and his team take approximately a week before they’re off. I just felt like that seemed less realistic. Another point of “realism” that always bothers me is when we’re supposed to be in a completely different world, but then the characters use our swear words. I don’t know why that bothers me so much. I mean…as far as I’m concerned, the characters are speaking English, so doesn’t it make sense for them to use English swear words? But for some reason it just yanks me out of the story every time.

Another¬†thing that kind of took away from the book for me…I keep harping on this same topic of not having diverse characters for the sake of diversity. I thought Inej being a POC was great and I felt like that characteristic played into who she was as a character and how she had developed throughout her life. That being said, there were a couple of other characters that had a diverse trait that seemed more forced. While I’m not opposed to having LGBT characters in the books that I read, I didn’t feel like it added to who the characters were or had any consequence in their development as people. More, it felt like Bardugo just wanted to neatly pair off the six main characters and this was the easiest way to do that. Sorry, not a fan. Maybe more will be revealed in the second book about how this trait played into character development. We’ll see.

Overall, I thought this book was really fun and I loved seeing another part of the Grisha-verse. After finishing I wished that I could immediately get my hands on the second book (unfortunately, I had to wait until Christmas). It’s on my list now and I’m REALLY hoping to get to it this month! But I also don’t want to read it because I want the story to last forever–it’s quite the dilemma.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Moderate
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate