What is the opposite of wanderlust? | Almost Impossible by Nicole Williams [ARC]

Almost ImpossibleFor as long as Jade can remember, she’s been on the road. That’s what happens when your mom’s in one of the most popular bands in the world. For once, Jade wants to experience a normal, teenage, American summer. That’s how she ended up staying with her super uptight Aunt Julie, her frequently absent Uncle Paul, and their overly scheduled 8-year-old twin daughters. As Jade tries to get used to life in Suburbia, she meets Quentin Ford, her hot (and he knows it) lifeguard coworker who also happens to live just down the street. She soon realizes that there are two sides to him, the outrageous flirt and the strangely responsible older brother. But as Jade starts to fall for him, she can’t help but feel like there’s something he’s not telling her–something big.

TL;DR – Cute summer romance, but the love interest seems overly mature and there’s some things that don’t really make sense regarding the secondary characters. Still a fun read though.

Right off the bat I really liked Jade. There’s just something about her that’s inherently likable. I thought it was refreshing how she recognized that she had a lot of freedom with her mom but that her Aunt Julie would operate by a different set of rules. Jade really seems to have her head on straight and I felt like she was very sensitive and patient with her aunt. Quentin is also a likable character–I don’t know how the author managed to make him so dang charming, but he really is. My only issue with him (and with a plethora of other love interests throughout YA) is that he seems too mature. After finishing the book it makes a little more sense why he’s so mature, but I still have a hard time finding that level of maturity believable in a teenage boy regardless of the circumstances–but maybe that’s just me. I also wonder if, all things considered, he would really be as flirtatious as he is? It just seems questionable to me that he would even be open to being in a relationship at this point.

The plot was fine. It’s your typical summer romance so there isn’t so much of a plot per se, but there are a couple of events that the reader knows is coming later in the book. Quentin has one big secret and the reader can anticipate that coming out and how Jade might react. I’m not sure if the reader is supposed to guess the secret so early in the book though? I was able to tell what it was after about a third of the way through. How Jade didn’t see it coming is beyond me.

Secondary characters were fine. Aunt Julie seems a little bit over-exaggerated, but hey, I’ve never been in her situation so maybe she’s pretty normal all things considered. Zoey was a pretty cool character and I wish that we had gotten more time with her and Jade. Something that Sarah Dessen does great is she gives her protagonists these great female friendships and then spends almost as much time developing that relationship as she does with the romantic relationship. I wish there had been more of that in this book.

One thing that really bothered me about the book though, was with the girls from Quentin’s old school. First of all, Quentin said he used to live a couple hours away, so how is Zoey friends with them? Why would they be at a bonfire by where Quentin lives now? And why do they go to the pool where Quentin works? There must be a closer pool that they could go to. So yeah, none of that really made sense. And then, if Zoey’s friends with them, how does she not know Quentin’s secret? And lastly, why the heck is Ashlyn so mean to Jade? It seemed like she was mean for no reason, to be honest. I think the author tries to make it seem like Ashlyn likes Quentin and so she’s jealous of Jade but at the same time it doesn’t really make sense that she would like him for multiple reasons.

Overall, I liked this book quite a bit. I feel like Williams always surprises me with how much I like her books. She’s not quite at Sarah Dessen or Morgan Matson’s level yet, but I could see her getting there. I’m a fan.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Moderate
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild. Some innuendo.

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

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Celeb romance with a psychological twist | Tell Me No Lies by A.V. Geiger [ARC]

Note: This is the second book in a duology and may contain spoilers for the first book. For my review on the first book, Follow Me Back, please click here.

Tell Me No LiesTessa is obsessed with Eric Thorn and now her wildest fangirl dreams are coming true–they’re officially dating. It’s not quite the fairytale she imagined, however, as she just had to frame herself for Eric’s murder. Now she and Eric are in hiding, but when another celebrity outs Eric’s death as #fakenews, he’s forced to go back to work for his label and they’re working him harder than ever. Tessa barely gets to see him and she starts to wonder if Eric really still cares for her.

TL;DR – Not as good as the first book in the duology. The author spreads herself over too many minor plot points and the main plot suffers.

I don’t remember really having an issue with the main characters in the last book, but man, in this book both Tessa and Eric are kind of annoying. All of the sudden they both just seemed really young to me. I mean, I think they’re both supposed to be like 17? And they’ve run off together? Um, no. Just no. Their interactions with each other as well as with other characters just seemed kind of immature.

Something I did like is that this book kind of takes a look at social media and some of the potentially damaging effects of it. However, I didn’t feel like it was always seamlessly integrated. I also liked the mental health representation. I liked the fact that it was there, but I did find myself wondering every once in a while about the authenticity of it. I just felt like a lot of Tessa’s actions and reactions didn’t make much sense to me, but that’s coming from someone without an anxiety disorder. So if anyone has any input on how authentic they felt Tessa’s anxiety disorder was portrayed, please let me know.

The plot in this book was just not as good as the last book was. I felt like the author spread herself a little thin with her other minor plot points like Tessa’s relationship with her mom and the other thing that happens that I don’t want to mention because of spoilers. These other plot points, while potentially interesting, just seemed kind of random and unnecessary. I wish the author had spent more time developing the main plot. While the book still had me guessing who was behind everything, I don’t feel like it was as twisty-turny as the first book and that’s something that I really loved.

Overall, this book isn’t awful, but I also didn’t think it was that good. I just remember feeling really amazed and confused at the end of the first book and this one did not leave me with that same feeling.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: None
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: None
Sexual Content: Mild

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

Probably the weirdest scavenger hunt ever | In the Hope of Memories by Olivia Rivers [ARC]

In the Hope of MemoriesHope knows that she’s dying, but before she does, she wants to make sure her friends receive one last gift: a scavenger hunt. Erik, Aiden, Kali, and Sam are all thrown together on this crazy adventure and they’re not sure exactly what Hope is trying to do. As they make their way through the scavenger hunt’s various tasks, they’ll learn something about themselves, their relationship with each other, and even some things about Hope.

TL;DR – Unlikable characters and an unbelievable plot make this book hard to read despite its great premise.

What a gorgeous cover, amiright? Unfortunately, this book did not live up to my expectations. I thought the premise was so promising! I love scavenger hunts and so I was excited to read this book, but at the end of the day, I was let down. My issue with this book mainly centers around the characters and the plot. First, I felt the plot was completely unbelievable. These four teenagers pretty much just take off to New York for a few days and then face almost no repercussions when they get back. And also, the scavenger hunt was EXTREMELY HARD. I literally have no idea how they were able to solve any clue.

The characters themselves were super flat and felt inconsistent. We get narrations from all four of the main characters, but I still didn’t feel myself connecting with or really liking any of them. When it was their turn to narrate, they were okay, but then from everyone else’s perspectives they were complete butts. It’s hard for me to figure out which perspective is the real character and they were all annoying anyway.

I thought the writing was pretty good, though, and I did enjoy wandering around New York City. I definitely would like to visit a few of those places. This book also includes a lot of diversity–each character kind of has their own thing going.

Overall, I just thought this book was too unbelievable. Hope is portrayed as being this perfect person with literally no faults (except for her penchant for graffiti, but even that isn’t so bad). I think the book would have been better if just one aspect of it had been more believable: 1) The characters weren’t so flat, 2) An easier scavenger hunt, 3) Hope was less perfect. Any of those things, I think, would have made the book more enjoyable for me.

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

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

Sense and Sensibility and Tea | Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge [ARC]

 

Okay, so I know I’ve been a little MIA for a couple of weeks, but we’ve had a lot going on lately. The main thing is that we moved! Just seven blocks away, but still. It was far enough. With the baby coming, we just needed a bigger apartment. So that’s what’s been taking my time lately–the packing, moving, and unpacking…it’s never-ending. But we’re just about done, so hopefully I’ll be back with more wonderful content soon! In the meantime, here’s a review for a book that I read (and enjoyed) last month.


Jane of Austin

Jane Woodward and her sisters had been doing pretty good for themselves after their father’s business scandal. They had found a nice location on Valencia Street with an attached apartment to open their dream tea shop. But when their landlord dies, his son (well, really his son’s wife) forces them out. After trying all of their contacts, the sisters are left with no choice but to move into their cousin’s guest house in Austin, Texas. As they struggle to find a new location for their tea shop, the sisters also have to adjust to a different pace of life.

TL;DR – Overall, a good Jane Austen retelling. I liked all the characters, but found Celia hard to read at times. This book also heavily features food which is a definite plus in my opinion.

First off, I have always loved the idea of books that come with recipes. Have I ever tried any of those recipes? No. But that’s beside the point. Books that center around food are wildly attractive to me. I love food and I love reading about good food even if it makes me jealous and hungry. That’s why having books with recipes is so genius. Not only can you read about the food, but you could (hypothetically) actually make it afterwards.

With three sisters, you might think that it would be hard to connect with all of them or to make them distinguishable. However, I thought the author did a great job of helping us to understand each of the sisters as individuals even though Jane was clearly the main character. I still felt like I connected with both Celia and Margot. I also thought Callum was a good character and I enjoyed his narrations as well as Jane’s.

Sometimes I like multiple POV books and sometimes I don’t. This time I think it worked, but wasn’t necessary–or at least, wasn’t necessary from Callum’s point of view. I didn’t mind it, but I thought that having Celia as a narrator might have made more sense? Of course, that may have made it so the book was more about the sister relationship than the romance, but would that have been so bad? There were just times when I felt like Celia was hard to figure out, so I wished that she got a chance to narrate.

Overall, the plot was pretty similar to the original Sense and Sensibility. I always love retellings and this one was as good as any. I will say that I thought the ending was a little abrupt and fairy tale-ish (especially the epilogue portion). Despite that, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants a fun, clean romance or anyone who enjoys Jane Austen retellings.

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

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

Taxonomies & Tourette Syndrome | A Taxonomy of Love by Rachael Allen [ARC]

A Taxonomy of LoveSpencer has Tourette Syndrome. You know, that thing where people start swearing randomly? Except it’s a lot more than that. He’s learned pretty well how to manage his tics and he also knows which neighborhood boys to avoid (read: all of his older brother Dean’s friends). Then Hope Birdsong moves in next door. They soon become best friends, but when Hope starts dating Dean, it puts a strain on their friendship. But things are still fine until Hope and Dean breakup and Spencer tries to kiss her (whoops). As they progress through high school, Spencer loses himself in wrestling and his new girlfriend Jayla. But he can never quite forget about Hope.

Recommended if you liked: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
TL;DR – I learned about Tourettes. The characters were moderately deep and had a good developmental arc, but I wasn’t a huge fan of how the author chose to pace the book.

First off, I’ve never read a book with a character who has Tourette Syndrome. To be honest, I knew very little about it before reading this book, but I feel like it does a really good job of treating it in a very frank and honest way while also being extremely respectful. I feel like I’m more prepared now if I were to ever interact with someone who has Tourettes.

I thought that the characters had a pretty good developmental arc throughout the book, but the pacing was a little weird sometimes. I was reading from a digital galley and I think some formatting things were lost in translation because all of the sudden the next chapter had skipped to the next summer and I felt like I had to catch up. I’m sure this is resolved in the final physical copy, but it made it hard for me to enjoy the book at first (I think my copy was just missing some headings or something). The book spans from when Spencer and Hope are around 13 to 19 so there are huge sections of these characters lives that are “left out”. At the same time, it gives a pretty good picture of how people change throughout high school and in response to life events, etc.

This book is less plot-centric than character driven so there isn’t too much to comment on in that area. I will say, it felt a little lazy to me that the author had Spencer and Hope’s friendship rebuilt “off-screen”. We leave them at a tentative truce and then in the next chapter it’s a year later and they’re friends again? I would have liked to have seen more of that develop than just having it be handed to me as a reader.

Overall, I thought this book was pretty good, but not necessarily mind-blowing. I did come out of it feeling more educated than I had been going in, but I had a really hard time adjusting to the pacing and time skips, etc. I would recommend this book to anyone who would like to learn a little more about Tourettes in a casual setting or to anyone who wants a break from the YA female narrator.

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

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.

I find it weird that these books never mention Dylan Thomas once | This Raging Light and But Then I Came Back [ARC] by Estelle Laure

Lucille and Eden have been friends forever. But the summer before their senior year, Lucille’s mom decides to take off on a solo vacation. She promises to come back before school starts, but Lucille and her little sister Wren are left waiting long after that deadline has passed. Meanwhile, Eden is struggling to come to terms with her future in ballet and the new feelings that have arisen between Lucille and her twin brother, Digby.

Just to start off, I really liked This Raging Light and But Then I Came Back was also enjoyable, but I didn’t like it AS MUCH. I just really had so many feelings about Lucille and Wren. Lucille has to be so tough and is put in this impossible situation. I noticed that some reviewers haven’t liked how mean she is to Eden and Digby after a little while, but I feel like I can understand it completely. She has to be so stressed out and she can’t REALLY talk to anyone about her situation. But one thing this book does do is make me believe in the kindness of strangers. So…there’s that.

The relationship between Lucille and Digby is…a little weird. It feels completely one-sided at the beginning of the book and it’s not completely clear what makes Digby have a change of heart. He’s got a girlfriend at the beginning of the book and he cheats on her with Lucille which is NOT OKAY. That being said, I did end up liking their relationship in the end. Mostly, though, the relationship that I really liked was between Lucille and Wren. I LOVE a good sister relationship and I felt that this book definitely delivered in that area. There’s a sizable age difference between the two girls, but they love each other and are there for each other through everything. My heart was seriously just breaking for these girls throughout the whole book.

There wasn’t too much of a plot beyond trying to survive while Lucille’s mom is gone, but I was okay with that. Again, there have been some reviewers that disliked how the first book ends because they felt like there wasn’t a resolution. I can definitely see that, but I finished the first book and immediately went into the second which picks up right where the first one left off so…I didn’t really mind the lack of a resolution.

The title is something that really drew me to this book initially. The poem it’s quoting is great (who doesn’t love it?) and the girls discuss it a little in the book. But then they never mention Dylan Thomas to my recollection. There’s no real reason why the NEED to talk about him, but perhaps it could have added an interesting layer or dimension to the book.

This is the point where I’m going to transition into my review of the second book, so if you don’t want some things spoiled from the first book, do not continue reading.

I didn’t like Eden as a narrator as much as I liked Lucille. There’s just something a little…chippy about her? I felt like she had this undercurrent of anger throughout a lot of her interactions with people. Then because Eden’s just woken up from a coma, there are some weird things that she sees that almost gives this book a magical realism feel to it where that was NOT present in the first book. It almost feels like a different genre.

The new characters that were introduced in the second book are interesting. I was a little confused, though, because apparently Eden has these two really good guy friends who are over all the time but who are never mentioned in the first book. I didn’t like the way that her new guy friends or even her parents and brother reacted to Eden at times. They got really angry with her when she didn’t want to do something–the girl just got out of a coma! I would think she’s allowed to not want to go to a club or party.

This book was interesting because we really get Eden’s point of view in the whole fallout between her and Lucille. Lucille really isn’t painted in the BEST light in this book, which was hard for me since I liked her so much in the first book. At the same time, I thought it was a great way of showing that there are two sides to every story, you know? I understood why Eden felt the way she did and ultimately why she reacted to Lucille how she did in the first book.

Overall, I thought these books were pretty great. I think it would make more sense to read them in order, but you could definitely read them separately and I think the second book would still make sense…mostly.

Overall Rating: 5 (TRL), 4 (BTICB)
Language: Moderate for both
Violence: Moderate (TRL), Mild (BTICB)
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate for both
Sexual Content: Moderate (TRL), Mild (BTICB)

Note: I received But Then I Came Back free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.