If I hear the term “swimcest” one more time… | Coming Up for Air by Miranda Kenneally [ARC]

Coming Up for AirFor years, the only things that Maggie has thought about are swimming, school, and food. She doesn’t have time for boys if she wants to get into one of the top swimming colleges–she has to concentrate on shaving seconds off of her race times. After a disastrous college visit, however, Maggie begins to rethink her “no boys” policy. The last thing she wants is to get to college and be completely inexperienced in the boy department. But how is she supposed to make time for boys with her busy swimming schedule?

The premise of this story is so cringe to me. Our main character doesn’t want to go to college inexperienced, so she turns to her best guy friend to help her get some “experience”. I feel so awkward just typing that sentence. And they kept using this term “swimcest” to describe two people on the same swim team dating…so cringe. For the record, it’s not the worst thing in the world to go to college without having kissed someone–I would know. (P.S. I turned out fine. I’m even married now! Funny how that happens). That’s kind of my main issue with this book I guess… I feel like it promotes an incorrect message that everyone going into their freshman year of college has had sex. This is so far from the truth! Do we really want teenage girls reading this book to feel defective if they haven’t had much experience with boys? Or feel pressured to get some kind of experience before college? That’s definitely NOT the message I’d want my daughters to receive. Every girl is on her own time table and that’s OKAY.

With all that in mind, I really think it’s about time that I cut this series loose. Looking at my Goodreads, I’ve realized that I haven’t given any of these books over three stars. Yikes. I think the only reason I keep reading these books is because I like finding the easter eggs–but that’s definitely not a good enough reason to keep reading.

But anyway, on to the actual book. I thought Maggie was completely immature in almost all of her interactions with other people. Perhaps I shouldn’t judge her so harshly since she’s only in high school, but I found myself rolling my eyes at her. A lot. Levi was a weird character who was nice enough, but didn’t have a ton of depth in my opinion. And then I guess there were other characters? But they were seriously so inconsequential that I can’t remember any of them.

The plot was completely predictable and had a ton of manufactured drama. That’s pretty much all I have to say about that.

Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this book. I wouldn’t recommend this series. While I appreciate seeing female main characters in prominent sports roles, that doesn’t outweigh all of the negatives that have accumulated from each of the books throughout the years.

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

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

Sex Trafficking Isn’t Just In the Movies | Ruby in the Rough by Emily Shore

Ruby in the RoughRuby has survived in the Ghetto for four years thanks to her friend Ink and her own ingenious survival skills. The Ghetto is a place where women are bought and sold regularly and are solely around for breeding and pleasure purposes. The Ghetto is ruled by gangs, a corrupt police force, and brothels. Ruby must avoid each of those groups if she ever hopes to make it out of the Ghetto alive. But with her face plastered on wanted posters all around town, that’ll be harder than you’d think.

I feel like independently published books are always a bit hit or miss when it comes to the quality of the writing (mostly a miss if I’m being honest), so I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the writing in this book. It read well, the language flowed, and I didn’t find myself noting errors every couple of pages. In addition to the great writing, I thought the overall message of the novella was great. The author is really trying to bring awareness to sex trafficking and to help readers to understand how people get caught up in it and why they might stay. Even though she’s created a world that is pretty different from the world we live in, I don’t feel like the topics she touches on are foreign.

I thought the characters were alright, but sometimes fell a little flat. The most developed characters were Ruby, Ink, and Angel which makes sense because they were the main characters, but I do wish there had been some kind of development of Big Sister and the other gang boss. Or even Ruby’s brother. I recognize that it’s a novella, so there’s only time for so much, but maybe that just indicates that this shouldn’t have been a novella–it should have been a full-length novel.

Some other areas where I feel like more time would have been beneficial is with world building and the plot. I didn’t really feel like the world was built all that thoroughly. The Ghetto was described to be really dirty and undesirable, but I needed more. I wanted more than just visual descriptions. I just wanted the world to have more depth overall. Then for the plot, there were some things that happened really suddenly–I didn’t feel like I’d gotten enough build-up to the events that happened. There were times when I would have questions regarding the plot. Some of those questions got answered eventually, but I feel like an author should anticipate what questions the reader will have and answer them before the reader even forms them. In this case, it was more like the author’s thoughts were developing at the same time as my own and all of the sudden she’d come up with a question and then answer it. The ending also took me by surprise and I’ve found myself questioning why the author chose to end the book that way, again, instead of just making her book longer.

My main issue, I think, is that I didn’t always feel like Ruby’s actions always made sense given the situation. There were times when she was really rude to the gang bosses and I just wanted to be like, “Girl, SHUT UP. They will KILL you. Aren’t you supposed to be a survivor? This is not surviving!” I also wondered a few times why Ruby didn’t cut her hair short? If it’s so dangerous to be a girl in this city, I’m doing everything that I can to pass for a boy.

Overall, I felt like there were some minor things that didn’t make the most sense to me, and I think the story could have benefited from being about a hundred pages longer. With that being said, I again want to say how important the cause is that this author is bringing awareness to.

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

Note: I received this book free from the author in exchange for an honest review. If you purchase this book, 50% of proceeds go back to Women At Risk, International – www.warinternational.org

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.

The Queen of the Tearling series by Erika Johansen

The Queen of the Tearling series

I have something to get off my chest…these are not YA books. They’re classified all over the place as YA, but they truly are not. They’ve got a completely different tone (you can just tell they’re meant for older audiences) and the content would not be appropriate for most teenagers. Now that that’s been said, I only read the first two books in this trilogy and I really had to drag myself through them. I felt that the first book had a promising beginning, but then we start to learn more about the world and its history and the main character herself…basically everything just starts to get SUPER confusing.

The plot moves very slowly and the second book has a ton of flashbacks which just serves to make the plot even slower and things in general to become more confusing. I’m sure everything starts to make more sense in the third book, but I just can’t do it. Getting through the first two books was hard enough and I just can’t do a third one.

I felt like the characters were complex and, for the most part, interesting. The only problem was that there were so many of them. There are a lot of names being tossed around and I had a hard time keeping track of anyone who wasn’t Kelsea, Mace, or Pen. I don’t know, maybe my problem is just the genre in general. Maybe I’m just not meant to read fantasy (or would this be classified as high fantasy?)

This is what I’ll say about them. The second book leaves you with this massive cliffhanger, but I have no desire to find out how the story ends. I just don’t care enough to force myself to read the last book.

The Queen of the Tearling/The Invasion of the Tearling
Overall Ratings: 3/3
Language: Heavy/Heavy
Violence: Extreme/Extreme
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate/Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate/Heavy (the second book deals a lot with a physically, mentally, emotionally, and sexually abusive relationship)

Anything You Want by Geoff Herbach [ARC]

9781402291449_9b451First off, the author admits on Goodreads that the way the book is presented (cover and marketing-wise) is a little misleading to the reader. For anyone looking for a nice contemporary romance kind of book, this is not that book. This is a book about a boy named Taco who has a positive attitude about literally everything. His mom has died, his dad is nowhere to be found, and his older brother is a drunk. Yet, Taco is still determined that every day is going to be the best day and tomorrow will be even better. He also calls the reader dingus. A lot.

I could not relate to Taco at all. He was too optimistic. Too sunny of a person. I just could not understand him or how he thought about things. I also just felt like he was an unrealistic character because I don’t think that ANYONE can be as unfailingly optimistic as he is. I also don’t understand how he can be dumb enough to not understand how he got his girlfriend pregnant, but he’s on the honor roll every year… I just don’t get how that works.

Things I did admire about Taco: the fact that he was so positive, he’s a hard worker, he loves his family even with their flaws, he’s willing to do the right thing even if it’s not what he would prefer. So yes, there are some things that make Taco an admirable character. I really did appreciate his work ethic and that he’s 100% committed to his family and to being a dad.

The other characters in this book are kind of strange. I did not like Maggie at all. She was so erratic and treated Taco like crap. Even if Taco was dumb enough to not understand how people really get pregnant, I feel like Maggie should have known. In the end I just feel like she was this really immature and selfish character who had zero growth and development.

Overall Rating: 2
Language: Moderate
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Heavy, one character is an alcoholic.
Sexual Content: Heavy, mentioned a lot but no explicit descriptions.

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

Angsty Teenagers and The Bubblegum Reaper (Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick [ARC])

Every Exquisite ThingNanette is a typical high school girl. She’s co-captain of the soccer team, goes shopping with her mother on the weekends, and sometimes enjoys school. When her favorite teacher, Mr. Graves, gives her an out-of-print cult classic for Christmas, everything changes for Nanette. She develops a friendship with the quirky and reclusive author and starts to rethink all of the choices that she’s made in her life. Soon Nanette has quit the soccer team (with much cursing and bird flipping) and starts talking in the third person (as suggested by her therapist). As Nanette continues to reread The Bubblegum Reaper she will try to figure out what, exactly, she’s supposed to do with the rest of her life.

I’ll admit, I’m surprised that I requested this book on NetGalley as I don’t really feel like it’s my kind of book. But then The NOVL sent me a copy in the mail too and so I had to read it. I thought this book had a lot of really great ideas in it. The whole book within a book is very meta and it added an interesting layer to the overall story. I liked the “quotes” that the characters would mention because you think about them in the  context of what’s happening in the story, but then you also start thinking about them in general too.

The characters were really lacking to me. They all just seemed a little too much–too extreme. I don’t think there were any characters that were just normal. Having a “normal” character isn’t a necessity, but when all of the other characters are so extreme, the “normal” character gives readers the opportunity to catch their breath a bit. All of the relationships in this book were very strange to me too but that might also be due to my overall dislike for the characters.

The plot was okay. I felt like it was really supposed to be reflective of the plot from The Bubblegum Reaper but then at times it was really different. In the end, it really just felt like nothing had happened. Sure, Nanette grew as a character, but not as much as I think she should have.

Overall, I’m not sure how this book compares to his other books. The writing was quirky and had a distinct tone, but everything else about the book was just okay for me. I get the feeling, though, that if you generally like this author, you’ll probably like this book too.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Heavy
Violence: Moderate. A couple characters are physically bullied.
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Heavy. Talked about a lot, but no really explicit descriptions.

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

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

IMG_0099Hermione is at the top of the high school food chain. She’s popular, she’s dating one of the hottest guys in grade 12, and she’s a cheerleader. And in a small town where the sports teams repeatedly lose, cheerleading is a big deal. She’s ready to have the best senior year ever, until someone slips something in her drink at camp. The next thing she knows she’s waking up in a hospital bed and her best friend delivers the bad news–she was raped. Now Hermione has a new label. Instead of “queen bee” or “cheerleader co-captain” she’s “that raped girl”. And in a small town, that’s a label that’s going to stick.

This is not my typical book. I usually steer clear of anything that deals with tough issues that are going to make me sad. I appreciate that that kind of thing is available, but I am not usually in the mood to read that kind of thing. That being said, this book felt too important to pass up. This is not like anything I’ve ever had to deal with, but Johnston does such a good job making Hermione likable and it almost feels like her group of friends is also your group of friends too.

I loved that Johnston made this story feel real. It could be really easy to have characters react in predictably Hollywood ways, but I feel like each character had a raw and honest reaction to Hermione’s sexual assault including Hermione herself. I love that she had so many supporting people surrounding her from her parents, to her best friend Polly, to her teammates, to her coach. In an author’s note at the end, Johnston recognizes that in this way she did write about an ideal situation where the victim has a lot of support and cooperative and respectful police officers involved in the investigation–she notes that this is not usually the case. However, she does say that she purposefully gave Hermione a Polly (who is AWESOME by the way) and that she believes there is a Polly out there for all victims of sexual assault.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book but just be conscious that it deals with a really heavy topic and may not be suitable for younger readers. That being said, the relationship between Hermione and Polly is one of the best I’ve ever read and in the end the main feeling I get from this book isn’t sadness, but triumph.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Moderate. A couple of scenes with brief, strong language.
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Violence: Mild
Sexual Content: Heavy. Due to the overall subject matter, but not explicit.