A promising premise ultimately falls short of expectations | Aversion by Kenechi Udogu

AversionGemma Green is an Averter. It’s her job to keep those assigned to her from doing things that will throw the rest of their lives off track. Unfortunately, her first aversion doesn’t go quite as planned. The boy she was assigned to avert, Russ Tanner, seems to remember her the next day at school and that’s definitely NOT supposed to happen. As Gemma tries to keep her distance from Russ, she’ll uncover secrets she didn’t even know were being kept from her and she’ll try to figure out just what it means to be a female Averter.

As you can tell from my title, I felt this book had a promising premise, but ultimately it didn’t quite do it for me. I liked the main character, Gemma, but I didn’t always understand why she made the decisions she did. More often than not, she convinced herself to make certain decisions that I thought were pretty obviously unwise. Perhaps this is just my age showing, but there were many times when she would consider following her dad’s instructions, but then she¬†would cave to Russ. At the time, this felt extremely unwarranted since, aside from Gemma’s intuition, the reader wasn’t given much cause to trust Russ. Russ himself was a likable guy, but we don’t really get to know who he is throughout the story. I believe Russ is a POC, though, so props for the diversity and I love that this book features an interracial romance.

The writing in this book was pretty good, but I felt the narration style made the story drag. The beginning of the book was extremely info-dumpy. There’s obviously a lot that the reader needs to learn about Averters and aversions, but the way it was presented was hard to digest. Gemma is our narrator and it feels like she addresses the reader directly to explain all of this background. I just felt like this section seemed a bit unnatural. Why is she addressing the reader? Are we part of the story? Is she actually speaking to another character through us? As the narration continues, we get a lot of Gemma’s inner monologue and that also kept the pace from picking up. There’s a fine balance between helping the reader to understand the character and her emotions while also keeping the plot moving. There were certain action sequences that I think could have been more exciting if Gemma wasn’t thinking so much. A lot of her thoughts were pretty repetitive as well which just contributed to the feeling of the story not moving forward.

Overall, I thought the premise was strong and unique, but the details could have used a little more work. I was kind of disturbed by the whole Averters having to mate with specifically chosen/groomed women… In the end, it’s clear to me that the ideas are there, I just think they need a little fine tuning. For those interested, this is the first book in a four book series (a trilogy and a prequel) all of which are published.

Overall Rating: 2
Language: Mild
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: None
Sexual Content: Mild. The mating thing is mentioned quite a few times, but nothing is ever explicit.

Note: I received a copy of this book free from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Somebody stop me from reading more books from this publisher | Incriminating Dating by Rebekah L Purdy [ARC]

Incriminating DatingAyla wants to make a difference at her school and the only real way to do that is by becoming class president. Unfortunately, that means running against the resident popular, mean girl who has been class president pretty much since Kindergarten. When Ayla catches golden boy Luke Pressler defacing public property, she sees her opportunity to get in with the popular crowd. If she blackmails Luke and his friends to support her, she could actually win this election. Unfortunately, what began as simply business threatens to become more as she starts to develop actual feelings for Luke. Ayla knows it’s stupid because he would never feel the same way about her, right?

I know I’ve talked about this before on here, but WHY DO I KEEP READING BOOKS FROM THIS PUBLISHER. They always have promising premises, but then they never payoff. I just need to learn my lesson and STAY AWAY. Seriously, next time I’m going to read one of these please, somebody stop me.

I liked Luke as a character but Ayla was just too much. I found her overbearing, judgmental, and more than a little self-righteous. To be honest, I’m not totally sure what Luke sees in her, but whatever. Luke had a surprisingly in-depth backstory and I feel like it was given enough screen time to really get to know who he is. Without giving anything away, I do question the plausibility of some things that happen towards the end…but maybe it’s a really big town.

The plot is predictably infuriating. Lack of communication leads to all kinds of drama, etc., etc. Also, characters really need to learn how to passcode protect their phones. That’s pretty much all I have to say about the plot. It’s all just very blah. The antagonist throughout the whole thing is a girl named Jenna Lee who is the cardboard mean girl that makes her way into most of these books. We get nothing from her as far as motivations go–she’s just mean for no reason. So that doesn’t really help to drive the plot forward much or make it more interesting.

Overall, I would not recommend this book. There are plenty of other “blackmailed into dating” books to read if you’re interested in that trope. I’d say give this one a hard PASS.

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

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

Sunday Fun-Day Mini-Reviews

Okay, I’ve had a few books on my list to review for a VERY long time. So I’m just gonna knock out a bunch here if that’s okay with you guys.

Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill [ARC]

Ever the HuntedI honestly can’t even with this book. The characters were SO BORING. Think of the most generic special snowflake female protagonist = the protagonist of this book. Think of the most generic super good-looking male love interest = the love interest of this book. The premise of the book sounded so interesting too! There was going to be conflict because her ex-best friend who she’s had a crush on forever is suspected of having murdered her father and she’s the only one who can find him! In reality, the book was just “I’m on a horse. Oh, I found the guy. Oh, I can tell when people are lying and so I know he didn’t kill my dad. Oh, he’s so handsome and still smells good even though we’ve been riding a horse for 50 days in a row. Oh, I need to save the kingdom now that I know I’m a special snowflake. Oh, but he really is handsome and really does smell good.” That was basically the whole story so now you don’t have to read it. You’re welcome. In the grand scheme of things, the romance/relationship should have taken a backseat to the rest of the plot. Instead, it’s shoved in our faces at every turn. Not a fan. I’m honestly surprised I didn’t DNF it. 2/5

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

HeartlessI really wish I had had the time to review this book right after I’d read it because it really does deserve a full review. I really liked this book. Not as much as the Lunar Chronicles, but I still really loved it. Cath is such a fascinating main character. We never really get to know the Queen of Hearts, you know? But there has to be some kind of backstory and the one that Meyer gives us is just as plausible as anything else. I thought the world-building in this book was AMAZING. I mean, the world already existed, but the way that Meyer describes it is so matter-of-fact and magical all at the same time. It’s hard to describe so I’m just going to plead with you to READ THIS BOOK. Throughout everything, the main source of suspense is just the knowledge of how the story ends. Meyer didn’t write this book to change the ending so we know that things are not going to end up happily ever after for our protagonist. With that being said, you really can’t help but to root for her. It’s terrible and awful and agonizing but wonderful all at the same time. 4/5

Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin

Blood for BloodThis is another book that really does deserve a full-length review. I adored the first book. Seriously, there are not words to describe how much I loved Wolf by Wolf. In my opinion, Blood for Blood wasn’t as good, but at the same time I didn’t really expect it to be. A part of the first book that I really fell in love with was the setting of the motorcycle race. Without that subplot driving the main plot as well as the pace of the book,¬†BfB¬†feels almost…relaxed in its pace. It’s definitely slower than the first book, but that does have its own advantages. The Holocaust is always a tricky subject, right? But I thought that the author did a great job being so respectful with it but not sugarcoating it either. Even though this is an alternate history, there are some facts that remain the same. With this book having a more relaxed pace, it allowed for the author to dive into the characters a little more and that made some passages especially powerful. Before reading this book, I had read a review that criticized Graudin for romantically linking a Holocaust survivor with a “Nazi poster boy” so I went into the book a little apprehensive about how the romance was going to go. Honestly, I thought it was really tastefully done and I didn’t feel like it was inauthentic to the characters. Overall, I would definitely recommend this one. 4/5

The Sky Between You and Me by Catherine Alene [ARC]

The Sky Between You and MeFirst of all, I didn’t expect this book to be written in verse, but it was. I never really know what to expect from books written in verse. I almost…don’t get them? I mean, they’re nice and all, but I just don’t always understand why the author chose that format instead of standard prose. Anyway. That’s just a me thing and does not reflect on this book in any way. This book is about a girl with an eating disorder but she really doesn’t acknowledge that to herself until the end. The thing I found really interesting about this book is that we never find out how much she weighs. I mean, we might know at the beginning, but we’re stuck in the main character’s head. So as the story progresses she’s obviously losing weight, but we have no idea how much it’s been or if the people around her should start getting worried. Honestly, this book really made me think about some things internally. I had never really thought that I would at all be susceptible to an eating disorder since I love eating food and I hate throwing up (not that those are the only types of eating disorders, but those are the ones I’m addressing right now). Recently, however, I’ve been trying to lose the ten pounds that I’ve gained since getting married and to do that I’ve started keeping closer tabs on the amount of calories that I consume. I’m not overweight by any means, but after reading this book I can see what a slippery slope any kind of weight loss is. While I’m still not concerned that I might be developing an eating disorder, for the first time I really felt that I could (at least partially) understand why somebody would. 3/5

Note: ARCs were received free from NetGalley in exchange for honest reviews.

Deaf Graffiti Artist Hates Everyone | You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner [ARC]

You're Welcome, UniverseJulia was only trying to defend her best friend and if somebody also appreciated her awesome graf, then so be it. Unfortunately, that same best friend ratted her out to the school administration and Julia is expelled from her deaf school and forced to go to a normal public school. Now she’s trying to avoid her new interpreter, Casey, while lying low so her moms don’t find out that she’s trying to plan a graffiti masterpiece for the underpass. When someone starts tagging her work, Julia becomes obsessed with figuring out who this new graffiti artist thinks they are.

So many feelings about this book… First I’ll say that the writing was fast-paced and punchy which made the flow really fun to read. I also thought that the insight into deaf life was really interesting. I liked that the author didn’t feel the need to say “signed” every time somebody said something. Characters just had normal conversations, but since they were deaf I imagined them signing without the author having to tell me explicitly that that’s what they were doing. I also liked the illustrations included throughout the book and the emoticons that Julia used were a fun touch as well.

That’s about all the positive things I have to say about this book unfortunately. Julia reminded me a lot of Parker from Eric Lindstrom’s Not If I See You First. They were both just so angry as characters. I didn’t really understand where all of Julia’s anger came from. She was very quick to judge other characters and overall I thought she was very selfish with almost no development throughout the story. I mean, she calls her new best friend YP (short for Yoga Pants) throughout the whole book. We literally never learn her name.¬†A couple times Julia just refers to her as “Pants”. Is this for real? That’s so demeaning! And her friend is apparently just okay with this? No thanks.

Julia’s relationship with her old best friend, Sydney, is strange from the start. Julia apparently feels really protective of her. So much so that she graffitis the school. But then her friend rats her out and Julia goes from protective to hating her best friend’s guts. That just doesn’t feel like a genuine relationship at all and only seemed to serve as a way to kick off the story and get the plot going.

My last issue is about the distribution of diversity in this story. I’m all for diversity in YA, but we have this one character who has a disability, is a minority, and also has two moms. It just seems a bit much for one person? I’m not saying that one person can’t have this many diverse characteristics, and the author more or less incorporated each one into the character’s previous development, but it just seems like all of the diversity is concentrated around Julia. She’s surrounded by white characters (with the exception being one of her moms) and even though Sydney is technically also deaf, she has Cochlear Implants so she’s basically a “hearie” according to Julia. It just would have felt more real if the diversity was spread out a little bit more. Share the love!

Lastly, the plot was just kind of there. It was a little confusing and not the most compelling, but it was alright. I didn’t really understand why YP’s ex-boyfriend got so much screen time, but whatever. I would have liked to have had her issues explored a bit more. She had an eating disorder, but then overcame it. But now she’s getting bullied and she has this weird relationship with her ex. But Julia’s so focused on herself that we never get to see what’s going on with YP or figure out why her dad bakes so much. The last thing I have to say about the plot is that the conflict between Julia and YP towards the end felt forced.

Overall, I probably wouldn’t recommend this book. The main character is just too angry and I felt so bothered every time I saw the letters “YP” on the page. I think it’s great that the author is trying to write a book with a deaf main character, but I would recommend Song of Summer by Laura Lee Anderson over this one (my review here).

Overall Rating: 2
Language: Heavy
Violence: None
Smoking/Drinking: None
Sexual Content: Moderate. There’s one scene in particular (not too explicit) that came out of nowhere and literally had no impact on moving the plot forward.

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

The Prince & Me except not as good | There’s Something About Nik by Sara Hantz [ARC]

There's Something About NikPrince Niklas of Lutgenstadt just wants a chance at living a normal life. As second in line for the throne he doesn’t expect normal treatment all the time, but he just wants to try it for at least a year. His parents reluctantly allow him to enroll in a boarding school in New Hampshire for his junior year of high school where he meets Amber. Last year, Amber was fighting cancer and reeling from the discovery that her boyfriend was cheating on her while she was recovering from treatments in the hospital. This year, Amber plans to focus on applying for a prestigious photography internship by making this year completely boy-free. Then she meets Nik Gustafsson who is as arrogant as he is attractive.

I thought this book started out okay. As characters I wasn’t a big fan of Nik, but I did like Amber quite a bit. I think my deal with Nik is that he seemed unrealistically clueless. I mean, I’ve never been rich, but is it so completely crazy that you have to take your own suitcase to your new dorm room? Then Nik and Amber meet and we’re switching off between narrators and things just started to feel…inconsistent. That’s always a big issue for me–especially in books coming from this publisher. I mean, does no one read these books all the way through to look for that kind of thing before they get published? If not, I am available for hire.

First of the inconsistencies: during his sections, Nik is always hyper-aware and concerned about spilling his secret. But then during Amber’s sections he (seemingly nonchalantly) drops that he’s got servants at home and MULTIPLE DRIVERS to take him wherever he wants to go. Someone who is actively trying to keep their identity secret would not say stuff like that. A second inconsistency that really stood out to me was regarding Amber. She’s supposedly SUPER close to her family but we never once see her brother even though they go to the same boarding school. She tries to explain that away by saying that he’s only in ninth grade so they never see each other, but if her family is so close wouldn’t they eat together or hang out sometimes? And then all this stuff is happening to her and Amber never once even THINKS about calling her parents. Instead, she just turns to Lauren for all life advice. I’ve had roommates that are super close with their parents and let me tell you, they talk to their parents¬†every single day (sometimes multiple times a day) and they tell their parents everything that is happening to them. I understand that, as a reader, we don’t see every aspect of these characters’ lives, but it seems like calling her mom would be a very natural reaction for Amber to have after everything hits the fan.

But anyway, the book is moving along and like I said earlier, I’m not a huge fan of Nik but I like Amber pretty good. Then the big dramatic scene happens and things get really intense between them and Amber’s reaction was just…not good. She compares Nik hiding his true identity from her to her ex-boyfriend Wade cheating on her while she was fighting cancer. She literally says that what Nik did was worse than what Wade did. WHAT??? I mean, of course Nik didn’t tell her who he really was! I don’t feel like he was obligated to tell her even if they’d been dating for two whole weeks. Anyway, the book goes on to place all of the blame squarely on Nik’s shoulders and I just don’t agree with that. Even though I liked Amber better as a character, everything was pretty much her fault and she never owns up to it.

Overall, this book started out pretty good, but then crashed and burned at the end in my opinion. I tend to like the trope where a commoner meets and falls in love with a member of some royal family, but I just felt this one was poorly executed. If you’re looking for something similar, I would recommend reading The Heir and the Spare by Emily Albright¬†instead (while still not GREAT, it was at least better than this one).

Overall Rating: 2
Language: Mild
Violence: None
Smoking/Drinking: None
Sexual Content: Mild, some kissing

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

Non-ARC Mini-Reviews (except for one)

The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily by David Levithan & Rachel Cohn [ARC]The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily
I really enjoyed the first Dash and Lily book. It was a perfect Christmas read with fun, quirky characters and a cute (if somewhat unbelievable) scavenger-type hunt throughout New York City. Twelve Days, while still good, was not quite as enjoyable as the original Dash and Lily in my opinion. I liked both Dash and Lily a lot from before, but they were both going through some stuff and were a little harder to like in this book–it gave the book a different tone I think. I also had a hard time remembering some of the things that happened and people from the first book. They mentioned a couple of people or events and I was just like, “What?”. Overall, I thought this was a cute follow-up to the original, but honestly Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares could have remained a stand-alone and I would have been fine. 4/5

Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Blackmail BoyfriendBlackmail Boyfriend by Chris Cannon
Mmkay…just looking at this title is ringing exactly zero bells. I had to look at the summary from Goodreads before I started remembering anything about this book. I think that gives some indication as to how I felt about it. Even though I can now remember parts of the plot, I can’t remember any specific problems that I had with it. I think it was probably just a general lack of originality plot-wise combined with weak writing. I remember there was some drama regarding Homecoming and someone spilled a soda at lunch…the main character also has two dogs that are named after cars…and she probably has some best friends who are equally as annoying as she is. Oh yes, I’m starting to remember that she has a best friend who bakes and is trying to get with the best friend of the blackmailed boyfriend (so proud of myself for remembering that detail). Overall, meh. This publisher keeps drawing me in with the cute covers and RomComish storylines, but I’m always disappointed. When will I learn?¬†2/5

City Love by Susane ColasantiCity Love
This book almost makes me wish I was just starting college again. ALMOST (because let’s face it, being done with school + being married is way better than living in a crappy apartment living paycheck to paycheck). But also, it makes me wish I’d gone to college in New York. And also that I’d known what Urban Planning was (I still don’t really). This book is narrated by three girls who are living together for the summer before they officially start school. They’ve all got pretty different personalities, but I didn’t really find myself particularly liking any of them. They each had something about them that was kind of annoying to me. Overall, I think this book is great for anyone who wants to fall in love with New York, but I thought it was pretty average with characters that weren’t immediately likable. 3/5

Audrey, Wait!Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway
The thing about songs in books is that I always want to know what the song actually sounds like (I’m looking at you This Lullaby). Having the lyrics isn’t enough because I have no idea what the tune is. But anyway, I have historically enjoyed books where characters accidentally become famous. This book was just okay for me though. Audrey was okay and I liked that her parents were involved and present in her life (I feel like that’s often missing in books like this). I also liked the guy from the ice cream store, but I feel like I didn’t like her best friend that much though I can’t remember why. Overall, this book didn’t blow me away, but I thought it was fine. 3/5

Sorry for the lame reviews, but I seriously read all of these books months ago. I’m still working on getting caught up but I’m making progress slowly but surely!

New Semester Mini-Reviews

Okay, so I’m really trying to get caught up on all of my reviews. I read a lot in August, but did not do so great on writing my reviews. So here goes:

One of the GuysOne of the Guys by Lisa Aldin
Honestly…I don’t even remember TOO much from this book. There’s a tomboy girl who goes to an all-girl prep school. She’s got four best friends and she starts this rent-a-date service? Anyway. It was all very predictable and I honestly didn’t really like how the friendships between the four friends resolved. I mean, I know that friends grow apart and all that, but if you’re really so tight, then I don’t think that just falls apart over one event? The conflict between the main character and her parents was interesting, but didn’t really add too much to the story, in my opinion. There were a few secondary characters that I really couldn’t stand, but other than that I think the characters were okay. The romance was alright and maybe this is a spoiler, but I appreciated that there wasn’t a love triangle. Overall, not an entirely realistic plotline, but the story was easy to read and had a nicely predictable ending. 3/5

99 Days99 Days by Katie Cotugno
So…I did not find the main character in this book particularly likable. She just kept making these decisions that had me face-palming THE WHOLE TIME. I’ll be honest, I have never been in the position where I have feelings for two brothers and have to decide which one I’m going to date. That being said, is it really that hard to have a little self-control? I mean, like I said, I don’t really know and I don’t want to come across as judgey, or preachy, or holier than thou or anything like that but…COME ON. I understand that one of the brothers is her ex and she has some unresolved feelings but is it really that hard to not make bad decisions? On another note, I thought it was interesting that each chapter was another day, but that also created some weird breaks and a lot of “Oh, let’s hang out tomorrow” so that a new chapter could start with the characters hanging out. I liked the ending because it just seemed more realistic instead of the typical ending for books like this. Overall, there were some good things, but there wasn’t too much about this book that I liked. I will never be behind the whole “brothers fighting over one girl” trope. 2/5

BlinkBlink by Malcolm Gladwell
I love this book! I’ve read it once before and just reread it for book club. I feel like this book is especially applicable now–even more so than when it was initially published. There’s a section on police work and it really helped me to understand what exactly goes on in a situation where a policeman needs to make the decision on whether or not to fire their weapon. I feel like with all of the police brutality situations and the Black Lives Matter movement going on, everyone needs to read this book in order to understand just what is going through a policeman’s mind. Obviously I’m not saying that it’s okay, but after reading this book I’m less inclined to put the policeman at fault. Does that make sense? Maybe not, but if you read the book I think it will. Anyway, Gladwell is such a good writer and all of his books are absolutely fascinating. I recommend them all! 5/5

The HuntThe Hunt by Megan Shepherd
Let me just start by saying that I am still weirded out by the whole inter-species romance! Like, come on Cora, the guy is NOT EVEN HUMAN. I though this book was a little more interesting than the first one, but I’m still a much bigger fan of Shepherd’s¬†The Madman’s Daughter trilogy. This is like a sci-fi book but without a lot of the science-y stuff. Like, it’s almost to the point where I wish there was more science because some stuff just still doesn’t really make sense to me. Like how is time the same in space and on Earth? I would just assume that if Cora and the gang ever were able to make it back to Earth and Earth was still there, everyone they knew would be long dead by hundreds of years. Also, I’m not sure that I like the whole telepathy/mind powers bit it seems like a bit of a stretch. The plot itself was okay. There was this little twist that comes in near the end that I’m still confused about. Overall, that part of the story doesn’t really make sense and I’m not sure how it moved the plot forward. The characters are a lot more enjoyable than they were in the first book so there’s that. Honestly, I’m just waiting to see how this series ends. At this point, it doesn’t really seem like it’s going to end well. 3/5