Famous in a Small Town by Emma Mills [Review]

Famous in a Small TownSophie’s marching band has been invited to march at the Rose Parade. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like they’re going to be able to raise enough money to actually get there. That’s when Sophie comes up with a genius idea–if she can get hometown celebrity Megan Pleasant to come to a local festival, they might just be able to raise enough funds to make the trip. Sophie enlists her friends and newcomer August in this mission to get Megan Pleasant to come home at last.

TL;DR – Characters feel like characters rather than real people and the main character’s kind of taken for granted, but still a really enjoyable read.

Order: Hardcover | Paperback | eBook

I absolutely tear through these books. Emma Mills is really good at writing characters that are enjoyable to read. Even though her characters are a little¬†too witty almost all of the time, I still find myself enjoying the banter. You kind of just have to accept that these are obviously characters–not real people. One thing I liked about this book is that Sophie already has an established group of friends. I’ve noticed a trend in YA Contemporary where the main character is kind of this misfit and/or a really introverted girl who gets absorbed into this quirky friend group and is handed a love interest. I thought Sophie’s group of friends was interesting and I felt that their shared history gave the group depth.

On the other hand, there were a lot of times when I felt like Sophie was being completely taken advantage of and the rest of the group was acting really selfishly. Sophie cares so much for other people–ESPECIALLY HER FRIENDS–and I felt like she was repeatedly getting trampled on (figuratively speaking). I mean, how hard is it for her friends to care about the Megan Pleasant thing for TWO SECONDS just because it’s important to Sophie?!? TWO SECONDS. I just wish they’d been more supportive of Sophie.

The plot takes some interesting turns, but I don’t want to spoil anything. I’ll just say that one of the twists had me bawling and the other seemed…a little bit of a stretch. How everything played out just seemed a bit questionable and maybe a tad too convenient?

Overall, I liked this book as much as Mills’ other ones and will definitely continue to pick up her stuff. I had some minor issues with it, but nothing that really prevented me from enjoying it.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Heavy

Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate

 

Unpopular opinions | With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

With the Fire on HighEmoni has only really loved two things: her daughter and cooking. When her high school announces a new culinary arts course, it seems tailor-made for Emoni. Unfortunately, the chef who’s teaching the course seems a little more interested in how precisely Emoni can stick to the recipe than he is in actually making food that tastes good. Not only is her culinary class going poorly, but as a senior Emoni is feeling pressure from all sides to decide what she wants to do after high school. Balancing education with her passion for food and her responsibilities as a teen mom may prove to be more than Emoni can handle right now.

TL;DR – I know everyone loves this book, but for me it was just okay. I questioned many of the MC’s decisions and that made things less enjoyable for me.

Purchase: Hardcover | eBook

I was so excited for this book–anticipation was at an all-time high. Unfortunately, it just hasn’t done it for me. I know, I know, everyone else LOVES this book *shrugs*. Let’s start with the things I liked. Emoni’s passion for cooking is amazing. I loved all of the scenes where she’s cooking. She’s an extremely likable character and I enjoyed her relationships with her grandmother, Emma, and her friend Angelica. I also thought Chef Ayden was a gem–one of the few characters who displays some common sense in this book imo. As a new-ish mom, I especially appreciated Emoni’s interactions with her daughter. I could feel the love she has for Emma on a really deep level.

Things I didn’t like so much…basically any decision that Emoni made. First, she has this weird combination of extreme short-sightedness (NEEDING to go on the Spain trip and going out after school without telling her grandmother) and being really concerned with Emma’s future. Like…you have a kid, but you thought you could just go get ice cream after school without telling anyone? Come on. Also, how does she expect to hold a job at a restaurant if she can’t make herself follow a recipe in class when she has been EXPLICITLY TOLD TO DO SO. Again, come on. It is literally ridiculous. Contradictions abound.

I also didn’t love the way she was with her grandma in relation to watching Emma. She talks like she’s trying to be considerate, but all of her actions are super inconsiderate (see ice cream after school above). I thought Emoni’s relationship with Malachi was pretty flat as well. Malachi’s initial attraction to Emoni was 100% based off of her looks–that just rubbed me the wrong way. And then Emoni is talking about how she doesn’t want to be in a relationship right now and she needs to let Malachi know in no uncertain terms that this thing isn’t happening. But then she goes out for ice cream with him! I’m realizing now that I just had A LOT of issues with the ice cream date scene. Just…again, a lot of contradictions. Maybe this is just the reality of being a teenager? I really wanted Emoni to be more firm as far as Malachi was concerned and also to have like…two ounces of common sense. One for her, one for her daughter. Alas, her willpower to stay out of a relationship with Malachi proved to be tissue paper thin.

I feel like I might take some heat over this last issue, but I’ll try to explain myself the best way I can. This book has an unmistakable urban feel to the writing and dialogue and that’s just not something that I feel super comfortable reading. When trying to explain this to my husband, I compared it to reading classic books. The language of Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, etc. is just different from what I’m used to reading and speaking. That makes it harder for me to read those books. I can’t slip into them as easily and get lost in the story. That’s how books that are more urban feel for me as well. The language and feel don’t come as naturally for me and so reading a book like this doesn’t feel smooth. I couldn’t put my finger on it at the time, but I felt the same way about The Hate U Give¬†as well. Does that make sense? Obviously, I realize that for a lot of people this does feel more natural. And for others, they’re looking for books like this to mix things up with what they usually read–they want something different and perhaps more difficult. At this point in my reading life, I’m looking for books that I can easily get lost in and this didn’t check that box for me.

In this case, the fact that the book was harder for me to get into plus my issues with Emoni made the entire reading experience less enjoyable than I thought it would be. I was so excited for this book but ultimately feel some disappointment.

Overall Rating: 3.5
Language: Moderate
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Moderate

You get a gang, YOU get a gang, EVERYBODY GETS A GANG!!! | King of Fools by Amanda Foody [ARC]

King of FoolsEnne and Levi are in trouble after the Shadow Game has ended. Not only did they kill two of the most influential people in New Reynes, but they still have to deal with Vianca’s omertas. With an election coming up, Vianca has some things that she needs them to do. When Levi is approached by her estranged son, Harrison, and given a counter-offer, he will have some tough decisions to make including whether or not to let Enne know what’s going on. Meanwhile, Enne is out for revenge and she wants it in blood. As the election gets closer, the stakes keep getting higher.

TL;DR – While this book contains much intrigue and action, most of the “why” was unclear.

Hardcover | ebook

I had a really hard time getting into this book in the beginning. I just felt like the story took a while to get going and I couldn’t remember why I liked any of the characters from the first book. They all seemed annoying and there were plot points that were confusing to me. Vianca wants Levi and Enne to set up profitable gangs…why? I mean, I know she takes money from them, but was that the only reason? And then I’m not sure about Harrison’s deal either. Why does he need to know who the next don is? It’s all just kind of confusing.

As far as characters go, again, in the beginning I found everyone annoying. Over time, Enne grew on me–I think the same thing happened for me in the first book too. I really liked who she ended up being, but I don’t think her developmental arc made a ton of sense. I wasn’t super convinced. I don’t like Levi very much at all and I can’t quite put my finger on why. I don’t really buy him and Enne together, so that might be part of it. Neither character gives a convincing reason why they want to be together. Their relationship has no base, no foundation. What do they even like about each other aside from looks? I’m just not a fan of their relationship. There are a ton of secondary characters too who are all fine. I thought character diversity was done pretty well and authentically.

Overall, this book was just LONG and kind of confusing to me. Plot points and character reactions didn’t always seem logical. There were also all these excerpts from the legends of the North Side scattered throughout and I couldn’t see how they related to the story at all. The ending was intriguing and confusing and while it does make me want to read the third book, I’ll probably feel the same way about it as I do this one.

Overall Rating: 3.5
Language: Moderate
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Heavy
Sexual Content: Moderate

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

 

Apparently, I’m a Seattle snob | Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett [ARC]

Serious MoonlightBirdie and Daniel had possibly the most awkward first encounter of all time (they had sex and then Birdie ran away). Birdie would have been fine to never think about the experience again, except that Daniel is working at the hotel where she just got her first job. Determined to push past their initial encounter, Birdie and Daniel embark on a journey to solve a local mystery.

TL;DR – Not as good as Alex, Appoximately.

eBook | Hardcover

My first problem with this book is the cover. It’s great that they were able to get a model with long hair for Daniel, but where is Birdie’s flower? That’s such a key part of her character and I don’t feel like it would have been¬†that¬†hard to include that in the cover, but whatever. I mean, they’re eating pie, Birdie has a book…how did they miss the flower???

Some of you might remember that I LOVED Alex, Approximately¬†so I was fully prepared to love this book too. Unfortunately, it seemed a little too reminiscent of Alex, Approximately and wasn’t as enjoyable to me. Obviously there were some different plot points, but it was the same formula of “sheltered and somehow damaged girl meets extremely charismatic and attractive boy, boy pursues reluctant girl, girl discovers boy is also damaged, girl and boy get together”. It just felt too the same to me.

Then we get to the setting. I was born and raised in a suburb near Seattle and I just felt like this was a very tourist portrayal of the city. I mean, I guess maybe people who live in the city proper are different? But I don’t think so and I found it detracted from the book for me. I mean, Daniel calls Safeco Field “The Safe”. Literally nobody calls it that. Okay, I googled it and apparently some news stories have called it that, but I have never heard a local call it that. Literally never. Besides, it’s T-Mobile Park now so that “nickname” is already dated. There’s also a line where Birdie mentions that a Fremont Troll sized weight is lifted off her back or something. What. Who thinks stuff like that? It’s literally only in there to namedrop another Seattle landmark. And the weather is mentioned by Birdie way too often. Growing up, I would never think about the weather. If it’s raining, I’d grab my jacket and that was it. I never dwelt on the fact that it was raining in June or whatever. I hardly even noticed if the sky was overcast. Locals also never talk about the “Seattle freeze”. So there we go. Apparently I’m a Seattle snob or whatever. Don’t @ me.

Besides those things, I thought the side characters were okay. I liked Mona, Birdie’s grandpa, and Joseph, but we never really get time to know much about any of them. I thought the setting of the diner was good too (every pie sounded AMAZING). I didn’t love Birdie as a character, however. She complained about her grandmother A LOT and never seemed to really think about why her grandmother was so overprotective–she just kind of complained about it. I also never understood why she was so resistant to learning about and dealing with her narcolepsy? I guess maybe I didn’t realize that there was a stigma around it. Daniel was okay as a character if a little too perfect.

Daniel and Birdie’s relationship wasn’t super compelling to me. There was just too much angst (created by Birdie). It was so obvious the entire book that Daniel was SUPER into her, but Birdie was really hesitant and kind of held back the entire time. Even after she and Daniel “got together” and his mom had¬†told Birdie that he was super into her, she was still really paranoid and doubtful. It just made Birdie not make much sense to me as a character.

Overall, I just didn’t find this book, the characters, the subplots, or the setting as enjoyable as Alex, Approximately. I probably shouldn’t be comparing the two, but I can’t stop myself. I will say, this was a very sex positive book portraying teens practicing safe sex and consent, so it’s got that going for it. I haven’t read Starry Eyes yet, but I’m a little more hesitant to pick it up now.

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

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

A country music love story | You’d Be Mine by Erin Hahn [ARC]

You'd Be MineAnnie Mathers is country royalty. Her parents were both popular country singers and songwriters, but due to their tragic deaths, Annie is wary of following them into the spotlight. Clay Coolidge is currently country music’s hottest up-and-coming bad boy and when he asks Annie to join him on tour, she reluctantly accepts. As the tour and the summer progresses, Annie will have to decide just how far she wants to follow in her parent’s footsteps and whether her journey might have the same ending.

TL;DR – Flawed main characters have a surprising amount of depth. The author did a great job of creating emotion when I wasn’t expecting it.

Preorder: eBook | Hardcover

First, I’m just going to say that I really don’t like this cover. When I saw it on my Netgalley list I was like, “Man, why did I request¬†this?” But then I read the synopsis and remembered. I’m always down for a good celebrity romance book, but I was actually really surprised by how into this book I was. I could not put it down! As a new mom, I don’t really have time to read for hours at a time and I don’t always feel like picking up a book when I’ve got a spare 15 minutes, but I just kept coming back to this book. I wanted to know what would happen, but I also just really liked the characters–especially Annie.

The overall plot is nothing special, but I thought Annie’s conflict was really compelling. She kept seeing herself and Clay as an echo of her parents and she (obviously) didn’t want to end up like them. I thought she was realistically hesitant about getting into a relationship with Clay.¬† Hahn also did a good job creating this tragic backstory for Clay without it being too much. Secondary characters were pretty good, but they didn’t have a ton of depth. They were mostly around to support the main characters, but they were still enjoyable.

I also liked that for once we’re given a Christian character in YA who isn’t holier than thou or super prude–Annie is just normal! She mentions her faith a few times, but it isn’t overdone and this isn’t a Christian fic book. I also loved how Annie told Fitz that she doesn’t drink and he was super respectful of that. He just said, “I won’t ask again”. I love that!

I did have a few issues with the book, but they were super minor compared to everything else. First, I couldn’t tell if the author is a fan of country music or not? It mostly reads like a love letter to country, but every once in a while I felt like there was a little dig at the genre. Second, books about/with music are always hard for me because inevitably we get some lyrics, but there’s no melody so it just feels like something’s missing–I’m not getting the full effect. And sometimes I just really want to hear these songs! Lastly, when Annie writes and sings her song “You’d be Mine”, I feel like the first half of it is obviously about her parents while the second half is about her and Clay. But the characters only ever focus on the Clay section–I wish that Annie and the other characters had discussed that this is the first song she’s writing about her parents. It just felt really significant but it’s literally never addressed.

Overall, I was very surprised by how deep this book was. I thought it would be a light, summery celebrity romance, but there was so much more emotion than that. Hahn does a fantastic job exploring grief and how different people choose to deal with it. There were several parts in the book where I legit cried and I just wasn’t expecting that from this book. It was very close to a five star book for me, but not quite.

Overall Rating: 4.5
Language: Heavy
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Heavy
Sexual Content: Moderate

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

A girl on the boys hockey team–what could go wrong? | A Cold Day in the Sun by Sara Biren [ARC]

41044784Holland has been playing hockey with her brothers and other boys as soon as she could skate. It was only natural for her to try out for the boys hockey team, so when she made it onto the boys varsity team, it felt like it was meant to be. Unfortunately, there are others in her small-town community that don’t feel that way. Some people say Holland took the place of a boy who deserves it. Some say that she thinks she’s too good to play for the girls team. Others say that she’s just going to be a distraction. Holland is determined to prove them all wrong, but when her captain Wes (Hot Sauce) wants to spend more time with her off the ice, Holland finds that sticking to her rules might not be so easy.

TL;DR – Main character has a HUGE chip on her shoulder and that make the overall story less enjoyable.

I always have a hard time when I feel like characters have too many “things”. I think authors do that to try to create an authentic and well-rounded character, but in reality I think she would just be over-scheduled and wouldn’t have time to be good at any of her things. That was the case for me with Holland. She plays varsity hockey, she’s on the school newspaper, AND she’s super into music and has a blog. I felt like the author just needed to pick two of those three extra-curriculars and focus on those. I think the story still could have been the same, pretty much.

Holland as a character was just okay for me. She was overly defensive about everything. Anytime someone said something remotely misogynistic, she would bite their heads off. For example, if someone were to say, “Good hustle, guys!” she might say, “What? Only guys can hustle? Just because you’re a boy means you’re better at hustling?” Literally. That is a reaction she would have. It was super off-putting. Obviously, I thought it was important to stand up for herself, but…let’s have a little common sense here. I just kept thinking about Jackie Robinson. As the first black player in the Major Leagues, it was important for him to keep his cool and not freak out at people every time they said something negative. I think this is (a small) part of why we remember him in such a positive light today. Holland? Not so much.

Secondary characters were okay. I liked Holland’s brothers but her parents were really non-characters. It seemed like there should have been a point in time where one of her parents (probably her dad) sat her down and just talked to her about hockey and being a girl on the team, etc. I also had an issue with her best friends Cora and Morgan. I liked them as characters, but there was absolutely no backstory as to how they became friends. With Holland spending so much time playing hockey, it didn’t seem like a natural friendship unless they grew up together? But that’s never explained.

As a love interest, Wes was decent. But I didn’t like that he would respect Holland’s wishes. Firstly, I thought her reasons for not wanting them to date/their relationship to be public were SUPER valid. But he just kept pushing and pushing. Secondly, even if her reasons weren’t valid, they’re still her wishes! If he really cares for her, he should respect that. Holland had no reason to apologize to him, in my opinion.

My last thing is just a couple of things that didn’t site quite right with me. First, wouldn’t the obvious solution to Holland and Wes’ problem be to just…wait until the season is over to date? Are your hormones that strong that you can’t wait a couple of months? But they never bring up this possibility. It’s either right now or never. Second, Holland is obsessed with Old Donnie’s letter to the editor because he claims she’ll be a distraction. But she completely ignores the fact that he’s essentially saying he wouldn’t care if something happens to her because she’s pretty much asking to be sexually assaulted (with the whole girl in the boy’s locker room thing). Like, what? How is that not the issue for her?

At the end of the day, I thought the premise for this book was pretty solid, but it needed both more and less. That’s not super helpful to say, but I thought it needed more developed relationships with secondary characters and just less…Holland.

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

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

A book in which our MC makes many questionable decisions | You Owe Me a Murder by Eileen Cook [ARC]

You Owe Me a MurderConnor broke Kim’s heart and for that, he deserves to die. Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but he really, really sucks and now Kim is facing two weeks in London with him and his new girlfriend. And their flight is delayed. Luckily, Kim makes a new friend at the airport and they’re able to commiserate over their shared misfortunes. Nicki jokingly suggests that the perfect crime would be for her to kill Connor and for Kim to kill Nicki’s mom–nothing to connect either of them to the crimes. While under the influence of (stolen) alcohol, Kim agrees that it’s a genius plan and then promptly forgets about it. At least, until Connor ends up under a train and it’s looking like it might not have been an accident.

TL;DR – The plot is so…far-fetched and our protag is just kind of annoying and questionable the entire time.

There are so many things I want to say about this book, but I really don’t want to give any spoilers! Let’s just say that Kim is kind of annoying pretty much the whole time. She’s pining after this guy and is so worried about how other people think of her. It’s crazy to me that her parents pretty much made her go on this trip after she and Connor broke up. Like…how insensitive! Honestly, I think the only character in this book who is remotely palatable is Alex and he’s one of those “too good to be true” love interests. His relationship with Kim comes pretty much out of nowhere. He gives a small explanation as to why he’s interested in her, but really, it’s completely crazy and I’m not buying it.

Other characters are completely flat and underdeveloped. Connor has cochlear implants, which I guess shows that people with disabilities can be jerks too? It was a super random detail that felt like forced diversity. Emily (Kim’s “best friend”) is essentially a non-character. Basically, Kim just thinks about her from time-to-time and then at the end Emily sends her this clutch letter with a message that Kim literally could have gotten from a fortune cookie or billboard. The other students on the trip are also non-characters and are nearly indistinguishable from each other. And then Kim’s parents are just…???

The plot is so weird. What is the point of this London trip? I don’t actually understand it. And after like…four days Kim is doing laundry which does NOT make sense to me. She’s walking around the city like she’s been there for months instead of days and Tasha lets these teenagers (!!!) go and do pretty much whatever they want in the city. And that’s not even talking about the main premise of this book. Kim makes so many questionable decisions just starting in the airport when she decides it’s a good idea to help Nicki steal some vodka. She seems like a smart girl, so like…what? Her actions and how the author clearly wants to portray her to the reader as an intelligent, mature teenage girl never match up throughout the entire book. Kim just keeps lying about everything for pretty much no reason and I was basically tearing my hair out the entire book. And then there’s Nicki. What does she even do for money? She has all these connections and can somehow stalk Kim without any additional information. I don’t even think she gets her last name? Unrealistic.

Lastly, the ending is complete bogus. There are a million ways this book could have ended and I feel like it ends in the one way that makes zero sense. It’s too clean and nobody really faces any consequences. Kim ends up going home and is thinking about this huge lesson that she’s learned and I just want to shake her and yell, “That’s not the right lesson you moron!”

Anyway, I was extremely disappointed by this book. I wanted it to be a little more cat and mouse and a lot less annoying main character. It’s almost to the point where I’m wondering if Kim is this obtuse on purpose. Like, is there a deeper level here that I’m missing? At the end of the day, this book (mostly Kim) was not for me.

Overall Rating: 2
Language: Moderate
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate

Note: An ARC was provided to the library that I work at.