It’s cheesy, but like in a good way | Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

Alex, ApproximatelyBailey has just moved across the country to live with her dad. The fact that her online penpal lives in the same city had nothing to do with the decision. Well, almost nothing. She doesn’t even know for sure if Alex likes her and what if he ends up being a total creep anyway? That’s why she’s not telling him that she moved. She’ll scope out the situation, see if she can find him, and then if he’s normal it’ll be a big “surprise!” and they’ll ride off into the sunset. If only this annoying guy from work would leave her alone, she could really concentrate on finding Alex. But Porter seems intent on getting a rise from her every time they’re together and it’s becoming quite distracting.

TL;DR – This is a fun beach romance that has a surprising amount of depth. The predictability of the plot does not make the book any less enjoyable.

First off all, I had my doubts about this book. I mean, I kept hearing everyone else saying that they loved it, etc., but to me it sounded extremely predictable. Now, there’s a time and a place for predictability, especially in romance, but for some reason this just sounded like it might be really boring to me. Well, I was proved wrong. Yes, the book is extremely predictable. We know from the beginning that Porter is actually Alex. While that fact didn’t necessarily create tension within the book, I think it did make it so the reader had this really interesting view and opinion of Porter that Bailey did not initially share.

The plot, again, was super predictable, but I thought the overall tone was nice. It had a really good balance of lighter moments and also really heavy stuff. There were so many parts throughout the books that I just don’t think would have worked or be enjoyable in another story (especially a beachy YA romance), but somehow it all just really works in this book. I did wonder if Bailey was a little too “damaged” as a main character, though. Obviously authors want their characters to be flawed and have baggage, but there are times when I think too much has been added to a character. I feel like Bailey is right there on the edge of being too much.

The romance was nice but I felt that it progressed a little too quickly. I thought there’d be just a little more back and forth before they actually got together. I felt that Porter as a love interest was a little too mature and the overall relationship was a little too serious, but I still cared about both Porter and Bailey and their relationship. One thing I really liked is that after Bailey’s dad and Sergeant Mendoza warn her away from Porter, Bailey actually tells Porter about the conversation instead of just continuing to hurt his feelings. That never happens in YA books! I feel like characters are always keeping things and conversations to themselves when they don’t need to and it creates all of this unnecessary angst. Transparency is key!

Overall, I can’t quite put my finger on why this book was so enjoyable, just that it was. It’s a perfect read for the summer or any time that you wish it were summer, really. It also had a ton of old film references. I don’t have a ton of knowledge in that area myself, so a lot of the references went over my head, but if you are into that I think you’ll enjoy this book.

Overall Rating: 5
Language: Moderate
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate

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Weekend trip turned nightmare | S.T.A.G.S by M.A. Bennett [ARC]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two teens. One airport. | The Chaos of Standing Still by Jessica Brody [ARC]

The Chaos of Standing StillRyn needs to get home by New Years. Unfortunately, her father believes in paying the least amount on flights as possible. Which is why she is flying on Cheap-o Airlines with a layover in Denver on December 31st. Also, there’s a blizzard raging outside. Being stuck in the airport the night before the first anniversary of her best friend’s death is hard enough, but now she seems to have attracted a sidekick who won’t go away and keeps getting her into trouble. His name is Xander and he seems much too happy to be stuck in the airport overnight. Ryn has so many unanswered questions about Lottie’s death, but maybe Xander can help her to see that not every question needs to be answered.

Airports are kind of fascinating, aren’t they? They’re almost like little cities, but people are always in such a rush to get out of there that they hardly ever take the chance to explore. Honestly, though, this book made being stranded overnight at the airport sound not that bad.

Ryn was a pretty…weak character for me. She was kind of written that way on purpose and I think we were supposed to see a lot of growth from her as the book went on, but she kind of just stayed weak the whole time for me. I didn’t hardcore dislike her, but I didn’t like her very much either and didn’t really find myself with too much sympathy for her. I didn’t think she tried very hard to understand Xander or his situation. Speaking of Xander, as per the usual in YA books, he was way too mature/understanding/kind/forgiving for an 18-year-old boy. I’m not saying that all teenage boys are trash, but they’re definitely not like Xander.

I have my issues with Lottie too, but it feels kind of bad to criticize a dead person–even if they’re fictional. I just don’t really think she was a good friend for Ryn. Their friendship seemed enormously one-sided even though I think the author tried to paint it as two-sided.

There was not too much to the plot as it was mainly a character-driven book, but there were certain aspects that I questioned a little bit. While I love hearing Denver Airport conspiracy theories, I didn’t really understand why that was brought up. Or even what that character’s purpose was.

Overall, I think the book was pretty good. The pacing was quick and moved things along even with Ryn’s “flashbacks”. The writing was good as well and didn’t drag the story down. I wasn’t blown away by this book, but I would recommend it if you’re looking for a holiday read that isn’t a complete fluff-piece.

Disclaimer for my ratings: Usually while I read books I make notes about the content. But since I’ve been on hiatus, I haven’t been doing that. So my content ratings may not be 100% accurate (but I did try really hard to remember).

Overall Rating: 4 (rounded up from 3.5)
Language: Moderate
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate

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

Revisiting the Russian Fairytale | The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden [ARC]

This is the second book in the Winternight Trilogy. To see my review of the first book, please click here.

The Girl in the TowerAfter the events of the first book, Vasya knows that she can’t stay in her small town. She bridles her horse, Solovey, and takes off to finally have the adventure that she’s always longed for. Soon after, she discovers a village that’s been burned to the ground. Many of the villagers are dead and some have had their daughters taken. Vasya can find no trace of these bandits but doesn’t let that stop her. As she continues on her journey, she’ll find herself embroiled in Moscow politics and longing for a life that she may never be able to have.

This was a great follow-up to the The Bear and the Nightingale. It was very much in the same tone and the characters were just as real and complex as they were before (if not more so). Vasya isn’t always the most likable character, but she does make sense. She lives in a different time where women were just expected to stay in their towers all day, every day. Instead, Vasya longs for adventure and the reader can feel that throughout the book. She’s so conflicted because she doesn’t like lying by pretending to be a boy, but she knows that she wouldn’t be as helpful (or happy) if everyone knew she was a girl.

As far as other characters go, we get to know Morozko, Sasha, and Olga a lot better than we did in the first book in addition to new characters like Dimitrii and Olga’s daughter. This gives the reader a really diverse and interesting cast of secondary characters to get to know. I, personally, was not in favor of the priest from her hometown coming back. He’s just so…creepy. But I guess that’s the point.

The plot is slow-moving, but not boring by any means. I didn’t necessarily feel compelled to pick the book back up after I was done reading for the day, but I think that says more about my own reading preferences than the book itself. Arden is a talented writer and that shows through in this book just as it did in the first one. There’s the smallest little bud of a romance that blossoms in this book. I’ll be honest, I was wanting this romance from the first book, so I’m glad it’s getting explored and I hope we see more of it in the third book.

If you’re interested in historical Russia, Russian fairytales, or just love beautifully written (albeit slow-moving) books, then I would definitely recommend this book. I look forward to seeing what Arden comes out with next.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: Heavy, but not SUPER descriptive
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate

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

Aliens! The End of the World! | Zero Repeat Forever by G.S. Prendergast [ARC]

28945665Raven, her boyfriend, and her boyfriend’s identical twin brother got in some trouble. Instead of being sent to Juvie, they were given permission to work at a summer camp as camp counselors instead. That’s where they were when the Nahx arrived. The Nahx use their high-tech dart guns to kill any humans they encounter sparing no one. That is, until Raven. Not only did the Nahx she meet leave her alive, but he carried her to a place where her friends could safely find her. A Nahx has never showed a human mercy before, so why her?

First of all, I find the overall premise of this book kind of weird. I don’t know why I keep requesting sci-fi alien books, because I don’t actually like them very much. But anyway, I did like some things about this book. The emotions that I felt at times really took me by surprise. I was going along reading and then all of the sudden one of the scenes really hit me and I really began to empathize with Eighth. Like seriously, my heart just broke for him. Raven, on the other hand, I never really liked. I just didn’t really find her authentic as a character. She had all these mood swings. I mean, I understand that she’s currently witnessing the end of the world and that her boyfriend was killed and all that, but the context in which she has mood swings just didn’t really fit. So with that being said, her and Eighth’s relationship wasn’t my favorite. Eighth deserved better.

The writing in this book was kind of weird at times. It was very slow-moving to begin with, but then the flow wasn’t great or consistent. I mean, the book is almost 500 pages so it’ll take a little while to get through. It also deals with some HEAVY topics like abusive relationships, racism, grief, hope, identity. Just to name a few.

Overall, I thought this book was just okay. It didn’t blow me away, but I didn’t hate it either. Like I said earlier, I was surprised by the depth of the emotions I was feeling in the middle of the book, but I still didn’t particularly care for almost all of the characters. If you’re already into sci-fi, though, you might like this one.

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

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

BLOG TOUR: League of American Traitors by Matthew Landis [GIVEAWAY]

League of American TraitorsLeague of American Traitors
by Matthew Landis
Release Date: August 8th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Historical

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SYNOPSIS: Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it. . . . 

When seventeen year-old Jasper is approached at the funeral of his deadbeat father by a man claiming to be an associate of his deceased parents, he’s thrust into a world of secrets tied to America’s history—and he’s right at the heart of it.

First, Jasper finds out he is the sole surviving descendant of Benedict Arnold, the most notorious traitor in American history. Then he learns that his father’s death was no accident. Jasper is at the center of a war that has been going on for centuries, in which the descendants of the heroes and traitors of the American Revolution still duel to the death for the sake of their honor.

His only hope to escape his dangerous fate on his eighteenth birthday? Take up the research his father was pursuing at the time of his death, to clear Arnold’s name.

Whisked off to a boarding school populated by other descendants of notorious American traitors, it’s a race to discover the truth. But if Jasper doesn’t find a way to uncover the evidence his father was hunting for, he may end up paying for the sins of his forefathers with his own life.

Like a mash-up of National Treasure and Hamilton, Matthew Landis’s debut spins the what-ifs of American history into a heart-pounding thriller steeped in conspiracy, clue hunting, and danger.

REVIEW: I absolutely loved the premise of this book. Just the idea of the descendants of America’s most hated traitors coming together has so much potential. This book actually made me wonder where the real descendants are and what they’re doing. Beyond that, however, I felt the story needed a little bit of development. On a technical level, the transitions between sections weren’t always very smooth and it made things a little confusing at times. Like, things would be happening, but I wasn’t actually sure WHAT was happening. The book is less than 300 pages long and I really think it could’ve benefited from being longer to fill in some of the gaps.

The characters were likable, but didn’t really develop. I liked Jasper quite a bit as a main character, but I felt like his relationship with Nora came out of nowhere. I didn’t actually think they made sense as a couple and we didn’t really get to see the feelings develop on either side. Jasper thought about her a few times, but I honestly couldn’t tell if his feelings were platonic or romantic until he actually talked about kissing her.

I thought the plot was fine. Maybe some of it would have made a little more sense if I was a big history buff, but I’m not. Pacing was a little bit of an issue because some scenes would go really slow, but then it felt like the story would fast forward all of the sudden. I kind of saw the ending coming…but then didn’t at the same time. It was definitely a plus that I was kept guessing and I liked that it wasn’t some random character that hadn’t been introduced. But why did Jasper’s hair get mentioned so many times? I didn’t really get that.

Overall, I thought this book was pretty good. If you’re into American history, you might really like this book. I thought the premise was AMAZING but didn’t necessarily live up to its potential.

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


League of American Traitors Giveaway

Click on the banner above to be taken to the giveaway!



Matthew LandisABOUT THE AUTHOR: 
I love history, but not in the old, awful, kill-me-now-please kind of way. My passion is convincing my students that the past is actually hilarious, shocking, tragic, disturbing, and altogether UN-boring. While getting my graduate degree in History at Villanova, I realized that there was yet one more way to do this: write contemporary young adult books laced with history to convince my students that past isn’t as awful as they think. That’s a huge reason why I wrote The Judas Society.

Some other stuff: I love poetry but don’t understand it; I want Gordon Ramsay to give me a fatherly hug at some point; I tend toward the unapologetically dramatic; and (to my great shame) I didn’t read the Harry Potter series until last year. I’m also really good at covering up patent insecurities with self-deprecating humor (like this joke).

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

QUEEN DESSEN DOES IT AGAIN | Once & For All by Sarah Dessen

Once and For AllLouna met Ethan at a wedding. That fact on its own isn’t necessarily notable (her mother IS a wedding planner after all). But then she and Ethan shared the most perfect night together, wandering the streets of Colby. For one night, everything in Louna’s life was perfect. Until it wasn’t. Ethan was her ONE and what is a girl supposed to do when that one is gone? So Louna’s given up on love. She isn’t bitter–just realistic. She already had her chance at true love and what are the odds that she’ll get another one?

My expectations are always so high whenever a new Dessen book is coming out…it’s honestly not very fair to her. Except, she always delivers! Louna is such a great main character and gives off so many Remy vibes (which I LOVE). Honestly, they almost could have been the same character except I think Remy comes off as slightly more cynical. This only means that Louna is a fun combination of mild cynicism and general impatience. The secondary characters were awesome as well. I loved Louna’s mom and William–they had such a fun dynamic and often served as comic relief. Also serving as comic relief (in my opinion) is coffee shop guy, so quick shout out to him. I liked Jilly quite a bit as well, though I felt like I was missing that super strong female friendship that is often in Dessen’s books. Jilly and Louna were definitely great friends, but Jilly just wasn’t as present as other best friends have been. That being said, Jilly’s siblings were hilarious and I hope we see more of her little brother in another book.

Ambrose and Ethan…I thought they were great characters in different ways. I liked how we got to meet Ethan piece by piece in flashbacks and that his relationship with Louna didn’t feel forced or fake. I think that’s hard to do since they spent such a short amount of time together, but I was buying the whole thing. Also, thank Dessen for featuring my favorite location that she has ever created–the Pie Laundromat. So happy to see that place again. Ambrose was a completely different character from Ethan for sure and it was interesting to see Louna falling for both guys. I’ve seen some reviewers say they really didn’t care for Ambrose’s personality. I can honestly see why some readers may dislike him, but he’s so different from all of Dessen’s other romantic leads that I found him really interesting. And also the fact that he was so different from Ethan gave Louna more depth as a character, in my opinion.

As is common in Dessen’s books, there wasn’t really a plot since the book is more focused on the characters. That being said, I loved all of the different weddings that we got to see. I live just a couple of blocks from a really popular, local wedding spot and seeing so many brides and weddings day after day really just made me start to think how un-special weddings are. Like, they literally happen every day in the summer! I just found myself pondering the interesting paradox of this being one of the most important days of the bride’s life while for me it’s “just another wedding by my house”. Anyway, that’s a long explanation to say that I’m sure Natalie and William feel the same way to some extent and it’s interesting to view weddings from that perspective.

Overall, I loved this book just as much as all the others. As long as Sarah Dessen writes, I will continue to read and purchase her books. Honestly, she’s the only author I’ll pre-order for. The ONLY issue I have is that there’s a bonus chapter that exists, but it’s only available in the special B&N edition. For an Amazon addict like me, that’s no good. I’d already pre-ordered the book on Amazon when I found out bonus material even existed! Whatever. I confess to going to B&N just to sit on their floor and read the bonus chapter. I don’t even feel bad about it. But anyway, if you like Dessen, READ THIS BOOK. And if you don’t like Dessen or have never read anything she’s written, READ THIS BOOK.

Overall Rating: 5
Language: Moderate
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate