No traveling pants, but still a good read | The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares [ARC]

The Whole Thing TogetherRay and Sasha are more or less part of the same family. They grew up in the same house, with the same sisters, in the same bedroom…but they’ve never met. A long time ago, Ray’s mom used to be married to Sasha’s dad. A nasty divorce and two remarriages later, Ray and Sasha were born. 17 years later, theirĀ worlds are about to collide for the first time.

Okay, so I know that Brashares has written more things thanĀ JUSTĀ The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, but I honestly haven’t read anything else by her. I remembered really like that series though, so I decided to give this one a shot since it had a really intriguing premise to me. Right away, I really enjoyed the writing. The narration and dialogue all flowed together really well and the writing made the book very easy to read. The plot wasn’t super predictable, but there also wasn’t much that happened that was super surprising. This book is more about the characters anyway.

Family dynamics are very interesting. I’m going to say that it’s impossible for a family to be completely drama-free and the family in this book is definitely not an exception. The narration rotates between the five kids: the original three sisters (Emma, Quinn, and Mattie) and the new kids (Ray and Sasha). That, at times, got confusing for me. I was reading a digital ARC and sometimes there wasn’t a clear indicator that the book was changing narrators–I hope that’s something that is fixed or different in the physical book. That being said, if the narrators had very different tones or voices, this wouldn’t have been so confusing. Unfortunately, all of the narrators pretty much sound alike. It was very difficult to tell them apart just from the language. The only signals we get are from context.

The good thing about having so many narrators, though, is that I really felt like I got to know each of the siblings on a pretty deep level. If there had just been one or two narrators, we would have only gotten to know the other characters on a superficial level from our narrator’s perspective. I enjoyed getting to know how characters were perceived but then also having the internal viewpoint for each of them. I expected to not like at least one of the siblings, but I honestly really came to care for each of them in separate ways. Obviously they each had some less desirable traits, but I was willing to overlook them because I felt like I knew each of them on a deeper level so those things didn’t matter.

The only kind of negative thing that really stood out to me was that Jaime’s family seemed a little random. They had a ton of drama as well, but then they’re not really explored at all. I would have either liked more exploration there, or less description of it.

After reading (and pretty much loving) this book, I was surprised to see that there were many negative reviews for this book on Goodreads. One reviewer in particular (who admits to being a straight, white, female) thought that this book displayed “blatant sexism, body-shaming of all sorts, stereotyping, and some racism”. While I could see her points, I just wanted to give my two cents on some of those things. I’m also straight and female, but I’m only a quarter white so I might have a slightly different perspective.

“Blatant Sexism”. The reviewer points out a section of the book where one of our main characters, Ray, is looking at another character’s body–specifically her chest. The reviewer’s response: “This is a direct example of the ‘boys will be boys’ attitude that results in the normalization of rape and sexual assault. What could Ray do? Well I’ll tell you–he could have not looked down at Sasha’s dress, and kept his eyes to himself…” I see her point and I’m not at all trivializing the normalization of rape and sexual assault that is happening. However, I was listening to an interesting podcast the other day. It was a rerun forĀ This American Life (great podcast if you’re not already a subscriber). It was an episode completely about testosterone (listen here). In one of the sections the reporter was interviewing a transgender man about his transition. As part of theĀ transition, he had to be injected with a very high dosage of testosterone. It was really interesting to hear him talk about how he thought about women pre-transition (and testosterone) versus post. There was a stark difference. Obviously, we all have agency and can make our own choices, right? However, as a woman, I felt that my eyes were opened to this chemical thing that happens in boys that doesn’t happen in girls that I really had no idea about. It seems apparent to me that it’s not just a moral or ethical thing, but that natural chemicals and hormones are coming into play as well. I guess what my point is, is that even though I agree that Ray shouldn’t have been looking at Sasha’s chest, IĀ don’t feel that this interaction was necessarily out of place. I was uncomfortable when I read it too, but I’m not necessarily angry at Brashares for including it–I feel like I get it.

“Some Racism”. The reviewer describes her frustration that an Indian American man (actually he was raised in Canada)Ā is stereotypically a “tech genius”. Just as an aside here, I thought he was in finance, but I could have gotten that wrong. Another reviewer criticized the fact that this same character, Robert, was really trying to downplay the fact that he was Indian and wanted nothing more than to be just like all the white men out there. I can see why that’s bothersome, but I feel like we need to look at the overall context here. He was adopted by white parents and it sounded like he was raised in a white community. So from that perspective, it makes sense that he might not identify as being Indian–he wasn’t raised that way. In addition, it can be frustrating for people to make assumptions about you based on your physical appearance (I speak from personal experience here). I can understand why Robert would want to be “as white as possible” (for lack of a better term) since that’s more or less what he identifies as.

Those are just some of my thoughts about the negative comments that have been made about this book. I think a lot of the problems that people have with this book just need to be viewed in the appropriate context instead of being taken out and examined under a microscope. I, personally, was not offended by the book as a woman or as a person of color–in fact, I actually really enjoyed it! I’ll allow you to judge for yourself, but I don’t think these negative reviews should be enough to keep you from reading it if you would have picked it up otherwise.

Overall Rating: 5
Language: Heavy
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate (some drinking and some underage smoking)
Sexual Content: Moderate (nothing explicit).

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

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 sheĀ 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.

A book that proves fans of YouTubers are the worst | At First Blush by Beth Ellyn Summer [ARC]

25613996Lacey (known on YouTube as LaceyBlushes) is passionate about two things: makeup and her subscribers. When she lands a coveted summer internship at a top fashion magazine, she welcomes the opportunity to collaborate with fellow YouTubers and expand her audience. There’s also the added bonus of working closely with the subject of the magazine’s August cover story–ex-boy band member Tyler Lance. Unfortunately, working at the magazine isn’t all that she expected and Lacey will have to decide who she really is: Lacey or LaceyBlushes?

I was not expecting much from this book but it totally blew me away! I am a full-blown convert to the YA Celeb Romance genre and this book totally delivered on that front. I liked the main characters quite a bit right from the start. Lacey seems like a really sweet girl and I love how she’s always thinking about her fans and subscribers. Tyler is a good character as well though we don’t really get to know him on as deep a level as we get to know Lacey since the book is in her POV. Their relationship was mostly good, but I didn’t feel that it was developed from Tyler’s side at all. He likes her almost right away but it’s never really explained why. Lacey’s a sweet girl and all, but how did she grab his attention? What drew him to her? He can have literally any girl he wants, so why did he choose Lacey? That’s not a knock on her, I just felt like I needed that additional information to fully believe their relationship.

The secondary characters were fine but were definitely secondary. Lacey’s fellow YouTubers helped to flesh out the story and made her time at the magazine more interesting. I really liked the make-up girl that Lacey ended up working with sometimes…I feel like her name was maybe Reagan? But I don’t remember. Sorry. Anyway, she was cool. Most of the secondary characters including the ones listed plus Lacey’s parents, Cynth, and Tyler’s bandmates all seemed pretty one-note, but that wasn’t too big of a deal since Tyler and Lacey really were the main focus of the book.

Plotwise, I saw some things coming and the main story line wasn’t anything mind-blowingly original. I thought that it was awesome how supportive Lacey’s parents were with her YouTubing, but the part of the plot that involved them at the end was a little much. It just didn’t feel all the way thought out or incorporated with the rest of the story. Then there was all the drama with Cynth too–I didn’t really like that. I didn’t feel that Cynth and Lacey’s relationship was that well developed in the first place, so then the drama just felt like too much when it happened.

Overall, I thought this book was really cute and fun! It made me a lot more interested in watching makeup tutorials on YouTube. On another note, I also had the realization that viewers, followers, subscribers, etc. are the worst. When Lacey starts doing things that her subscribers don’t like, they turn on her SO FAST. Even though this is just a story, that kind of thing definitely happens in real life all the time. I mean, just because a YouTuber chooses to put some of their life on the internet for our viewing pleasure does not give us the right to try to dictate how they choose to actually live. Do people realize that? Anyway…rant over. I just felt really sick about some of the people on the internet these days after reading this book. With that being said, this book is awesome and I definitely recommend it if you need something cute and light to read.

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.

BLOG TOUR: Everyday Magic by Emily Albright [GIVEAWAY]

Everyday Magic Everyday Magic
by Emily Albright
Release Date: December 2nd 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

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Note: This book is technically the second in a series, but can be read as a standalone. The first book in the series is The Heir and the Spare.

SYNOPSIS:Ā For once, Maggie McKendrick just wants to control her own life. Her overbearing Hollywood director father has it all planned out for her: UCLA, law school, then working as an entertainment lawyer, preferably for him. But Maggie has other, more creative-spirit friendly, plans. Namely, Thrippletons School of Fashion and Design in England, and then onto becoming a designer, preferably a wildly successful one. The big snag in her plan? Getting it past her dad.

A movie shoot takes the family to the Scottish Highlands for the summer, and closer to Maggieā€™s dream school. While there, she runs into the charming Preston Browne. Maggie is intrigued and decides to bend her no guys ruleā€”instituted after her ex used her to get close to her dad. Forced to keep secrets from Preston in order to protect the future plans sheā€™s made, Maggie finds herself falling for the tall Brit. And for once in her life she knows that heā€™s interested in her, not her Hollywood connections. When Maggie’s father blackmails her into dating his lead actor, she isnā€™t left with a choice. The biggest problem isnā€™t having to date hunky, mega-hottie, Ben Chambers. No, itā€™s praying she doesnā€™t lose Preston in the process.

Excelling at her dream school, Maggieā€™s personal life is a tangled mess. She needs to decide if living a lie is worth losing Preston or chance going against her father and facing his wrath. When the tabloids expose the truth of her fake relationship with Ben, Maggie’s world is thrown into a tailspin. Ultimately, Maggie must find the courage to take risks and forge ahead on her own path.

REVIEW: While I liked the first book in this series fine, I definitely liked this one better. I really liked Preston from the first book, so I was excited to learn a little more about him in this one. Maggie as a main character was fun and interesting. I really liked that she had such a clear vision for herself and she had the passion and drive to make it happen. I also really liked her relationships with her mom and brother. Her dad on the other hand…maybe I’m a bit naive, but I just don’t even want to believe that there are people out there who are that evil. But, you know, definitely a very hateable character. That’s all I’ll say about him.

Like the first book, nothing was really groundbreaking as far as the plot went, but it was still enjoyable nevertheless. While I enjoyed some of the added subplots, there were a couple of times that I felt like the author was trying to cram in too many different ideas into one book. Instead of taking the time to really develop different plotlines, everything was kind of crammed together and happening at the same time. It just made the book feel kind of busy, but again, I still enjoyed it.

Overall, I thought the book was a great follow-up to The Heir and the Spare. I did enjoy seeing some of the original characters and catching up with them. I have a feeling that there will be a third book in the series but I’m not sure who it’s going to feature…Maggie’s brother? Suze? Someone else entirely? I’ll definitely be on the lookout though.

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


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



Emily AlbrightABOUT THE AUTHOR:Ā 
Emily Albright’s debut novel, THE HEIR AND THE SPARE, was released on January 18, 2016 from Merit Press.

She’s a writer, a major bookworm, a lover of romantic movies, a wife, a mother, an owner of one adorable (yet slightly insane) cockapoo, and uses way too many :).

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

A real life (but fictional) Will & Kate story | The Heir and the Spare by Emily Albright

The Heir and the SpareEvie’s just trying to follow in her mother’s footsteps and that means going to Oxford. While Evie loves her father, she misses her mother terribly and hopes that attending her mother’s alma mater will help her to feel closer to her. She doesn’t count on meeting history loving Edmund or his pack of friends. She certainly doesn’t count on falling for this tall, British dreamboat. When Evie learns something about her mother’s past, she starts to question who she really is and who the woman was that raised her. Sometimes it’s the people you love the most who hold the biggest secrets.

I really liked the idea of this book. I mean, what young girl doesn’t fantasize about falling in love with a prince? The overall premise is cute and not especially groundbreaking. The plot itself was fine even if it was pretty predictable. I mean the tagline on the cover basically says it all, “She’s secretly royal. He’s secretly loyal.” Corny, but accurate. So yeah, overall enjoyable, but not particularly memorable. This book is basically a cross between 13 Little Blue Envelopes and The Princess Diaries.

There was a little too much drama in my opinion. Evie and Edmund had this “will they or won’t they” thing going pretty much the whole time even though the reader knows how it’s going to end. I felt like the reasons behind their repeated breakups were inconsequential. Like, I didn’t feel like they should Ā have had as much weight as they did. I was a little annoyed by all of the back and forth.

The characters were okay as well. Edmund and Evie were both fairly likable, but their friends were pretty forgettable/interchangeable. Few of them stood out as their own person. They were kind of presented as this group and then stayed lumped together as a group the rest of the book. I would have liked a little more depth for the secondary characters. Then don’t even get me started on the “mean girls”. I mean…I’m not part of English High Society, but did those girls seem unrealistically mean to anyone else? I’m more a fan of the subtle enemy. I don’t want a character to say, “Back off, he’s mine”. Instead I’d like them to show me, if that makes sense. They were basically just mean for no reason.

Overall, this book was just okay. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either. In my opinion, the second book in the series (look out for my review of Everyday Magic tomorrow) was stronger. Technically this is the first book in a series of two, possibly more, books. However, both can be read as stand-alones though they do involve the same characters. So if you don’t want spoilers on this book, don’t read the second one first.

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

Teenage Girl Obsesses Over Siblings Who May or May Not Be Witches | The Graces by Laura Eve [ARC]

The GracesRiver is new to town and is trying to find her place at her new high school. She watches the Grace siblings from afar and plots how she might be able to become a part of their crowd. They never keep the same friends for long, but River is determined to show them that she is the one they’ve been waiting for. When Summer Grace finally notices her, River knows that she will do whatever it takes to keep the Graces from dropping her like they’ve dropped so many of their peers. She wants the Graces to teach her about magic and how to be a witch. In particular, she wants Fenrin Grace to notice her and (ideally) to fall in love with her. As River gets deeper in with the Graces, she starts to learn some of the family secrets. As it turns out, the Graces lives aren’t as charmed as everyone seems to think they are.

This book was strange for so many reasons. First of all, let me just say that I quite liked the writing. I thought it was beautiful and gripping and I was drawn into the story from the very first chapter. The settingĀ descriptions were also incredible. Even though we didn’t get that much of a description of the town, I still feel like I can picture it. Then, when we get to the Graces’ house and the rooms are described…seriously. AMAZING. The writing also did a good job of creating this kind of creepy/unsettling atmosphere. There’s obviously something wrong. Something weird happened to River and her mom before they came to town, but we only get bits and pieces of what it was as the book progresses. The writing was kind of the book’s one redeeming quality that kept it from being a 2/5 for me.

First of all, some of these charactersĀ definitely sound familiar (*cough* Twilight *cough*). But seriously! River’s so obsessed with this unnaturally beautiful, confident, and alluring group of siblings and the parents are just as beautiful and the kids never really interact with any of their peers and they’re so mysterious and BLAH BLAH BLAH. PLEASE. Spare me. I honestly would LOVE to read a book where the main character just completely sees through all of thatĀ BS. And don’t even get me started on River drooling over Fenrin. But okay, I’ll get into it. There comes a point where River is worried that Summer will think River only wanted to become friends with her to get close to Fenrin whichĀ sheĀ protests is not the case. But actually…that’s exactly what happened! I mean, it’s true that River wanted to be noticed by any of the Graces–she just wanted to be part of their group. But the whole time her main focus is completely on Fenrin. And he doesn’t even sound that great! Aside from being a Grace and being extremely good-looking (allegedly) what does this guy have going for him? I’m sure he has other qualities, but the reader is not told about any of them. Every time River sees him she’s just drooling over his good looks. That, my friends, is not what I want to read about.

River as a main character is not very likable, though I’m not sure that she’s supposed to be. The Graces were fine if not very three-dimensional. I couldn’t help but try to imagine the Graces as real teenagers in a real high school and, I’m sorry, I’m just not buying it. Maybe in Europe, but in the United States, NOBODY IS LIKE THAT. Then there’s River’s mom who is another unbelievable character. Talk about taking the absent parent bit to the max.

Plotwise…there wasn’t really a plot. Like there kind of was…but not REALLY. Mainly we’re just watching River try to make herself indispensable to the Graces the whole book. Then there are a couple of twists near the end, but I honestly saw them both coming. I wanted so badly for the book to take an UNEXPECTED turn, but I was to be disappointed. Then the book just kind of ends? But then there’s going to be a sequel…I’ll be honest, I was not expecting a sequel. I have no idea what could possibly happen in the next book and I’m not entirely sure that I care.

Overall, I think this author has a lot of potential. I would definitely read another book by her as long as there were different characters and a better plot, etc. Some people may end up really liking this book, but I just don’t fall into that camp.

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

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

Mini-Reviews: In Which I Review Some Average Books

The month of July was a struggle for me reading-wise. I was just so busy with schoolwork and such that I really didn’t have long stretches of time to dedicate to reading. That being said, I was also reading a string of average books that didn’t particularly make me want to read faster. Here are some of those books that I was reading.

The Walled CityThe Walled City by Ryan Graudin
This one had been on my list for a while and my husband had already read it and loved it. This book took me longer than expected to read and I think that’s because I didn’t really feel particularly connected to the characters. I loved the setting and the way that the streets and the Walled City itself is described, but the characters were a little lacking for me. I didn’t feel like they had all that much depth. I could sympathize with the characters, but towards the end of the book when the plot was most suspenseful I didn’t feel myself agonizing over whether or not the characters would make it (as I did during Winter by Marissa Meyers). One thing I did really like about this book is that it features Asian characters. In the end, I liked this book and I might even read it again someday, but it was no Wolf by Wolf.

Overall: 4
Language: Moderate
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate


The Lie TreeThe Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge [ARC]
Throughout this book I felt vaguely uncomfortable. The main character’s dad seriously creeped me out and a lot of the other characters were either creepy, unlikable, or both. The main character was fine, but I found it hard to sympathize with her because of how willfully blind she is to all of her father’s faults. She’s so committed to him when he’s obviously not a good guy. I did like her relationship with her little brother, Howard, though. I could not handle her mom and Uncle Miles was just another creepy character. It wasn’t exactly clear to me, at first, how the plant was supposed to work. This made some parts of the book just really confusing to me. I did like seeing the planning and plotting that went into each lie, though–that part of the plot was enjoyable. I also can’t say that I saw the ending coming.

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


Loser/QueenLoser/Queen by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Overall, I thought this book had a pretty interesting premise even if it’s not altogether believable. There are so many questions that could be asked…like how does someone know everyone’s secrets? How can someone text you from a number that doesn’t work? Why isn’t the main character creeped out that someone seems to be spying on her all the time? Our main character isĀ somewhat unbelievably naive about things which made the book less enjoyable for me to read. I couldn’t help but wonder how I would react in this situation and I think that I would have refused to do anything that could have been remotely harmful–I’m not really sure why she thought it was a good idea to go through with some of these things. I don’t want to have any spoilers, but if she hadn’t done anything questionable then some stuff wouldn’t have happened later… In the end, the book was okay, kind of sweet, but overall just okay.

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


9781619634961Poppy by Mary Hooper [ARC]
I felt like this book was a really good portrait of what it would have been like to live through WWI. A lot of the time WWII gets all of the attention, so I did appreciate reading a book set during WWI. I also liked that our main character seems to be intelligent and wants to help the war effort. However, she didn’t have much depth. The book is very much about the things that are going on and less about who the characters are–I guess I was just expecting it to be a little different. I also didn’t really thing there was much of a plot which kind of made the book drag a little bit. So yeah…this one was just another okay book. I thought it ended in a really weird place too–super sudden. I understand that there’s going to be another book, but still… It was just like *BAM* the book’s over.

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


Note: ARCS wereĀ received free from NetGalley in exchange for honest reviews.