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Review – Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

Tell Me Three Things

By Julie Buxbaum

SummaryEverything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?

It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son.

In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?
Julie Buxbaum mixes comedy and tragedy, love and loss, pain and elation, in her debut YA novel filled with characters who will come to feel like friends.

Source: I purchased a Kindle copy. 

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Review:

I’ve been eyeing Tell Me Three Things for awhile, but hardcovers are expensive and I almost never fork out book money on hardcover YA contemporaries because I read them so quickly. And to be honest, I love waffles and I wasn’t quite sure if I only noticed it because of the waffles on the cover. I mean, that’s not a great a reason to pick up a book. I’ve been burned before by enticing covers. But when the kindle version went on sale over the holidays, I snatched it up. I’ve been in the mood for a nice contemporary that wasn’t totally dark or sad, so I finally picked it up and read it.

Tell Me Three Things was so good. I absolutely loved it. I flew through the book in an evening because I just couldn’t put it down without knowing who SN was. (See what I mean about how quickly I read contemporaries?)

Jessie’s life was completely upside down. Her mom died, her dad got remarried, they moved across the country, and Jessie ended up in an LA private school with a bunch of rich teenagers. And that was pretty much just the first paragraph. I hated being the new girl, so her situation was something I totally got. And while I fortunately have both my parents, I did have to deal with step parents and step siblings as a teenager, too, so I even understood that. It’s tough, and it’s even tougher when you have to also deal with grief. I knew I was settling into a book that hooked me.

After a rough first couple of days at her new school, Jessie received an email from SomebodyNoboby (SN for short) who offered to help her navigate the wilds of her high school. It was just the rope she needed to help keep her afloat. Here was a guy who really got her, but who was he? She took the help and ended up having some pretty meaningful conversations and he gave her some great pointers.

With SN’s help, Jessie was able to make some friends. She started working a project with a guy in her class and started to develop a bit of crush on him, but she was also desperately trying to figure out who SN was. She started a job and ended up working side by side with a guy dating one of the girls who was mean to Jessie, which created some drama for her. It was a complicated mess she was trying to navigate, while also trying to manage her home life. Her new home was huge, came with a flamboyant stepbrother who refused to talk to her in school, but was at least opening up a bit at home, a “helper” who made all of the food and made Jessie a bit uncomfortable, and a stepmom who was practically a stranger. The LA lifestyle was an alien world and Jessie was trying to figure it all out and still maintain her friendships back in Chicago.

I can’t really give anything away, but I loved the book so much. I loved the build up to the big reveal, the complicated boy drama, and the coming of age, figuring out who you are and how to be a better friend and forgive your parents. It was cute, but with just enough seriousness to balance it all out. 

I loved the end so much I reread it a few times just to experience the moment one more time! 

I definitely recommend Tell Me Three Things to fans of YA Contemporary. The book is every bit as delicious as the heart shaped waffles on the front. 

Star 4

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

 

Exit, Pursued by a Bear

By E.K. Johnston

SummaryVeronica Mars meets William Shakespeare in E.K. Johnston’s latest brave and unforgettable heroine. 

Hermione Winters is captain of her cheerleading team, and in tiny Palermo Heights, this doesn’t mean what you think it means. At PHHS, the cheerleaders don’t cheer for the sports teams; they are the sports team—the pride and joy of a tiny town. The team’s summer training camp is Hermione’s last and marks the beginning of the end of…she’s not sure what. She does know this season could make her a legend. But during a camp party, someone slips something in her drink. And it all goes black.

In every class, there’s a star cheerleader and a pariah pregnant girl. They’re never supposed to be the same person. Hermione struggles to regain the control she’s always had and faces a wrenching decision about how to move on. The assault wasn’t the beginning of Hermione Winter’s story and she’s not going to let it be the end. She won’t be anyone’s cautionary tale

Source: I purchased a hardcover

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Review:

I’ve been wanting to read Exit, Pursued by a Bear for some time and I finally bought it over the holidays and decided to read it shortly afterwards. 

The book is a YA contemporary involving rape, which I knew going in and caution anyone else about so they can decide if that’s a subject they prefer to read about. I didn’t have any real expectations, though I have to admit I did expect a somewhat dramatic novel due to the subject matter.

Surprisingly, the book was not the dark and turbulent novel I was expecting. Though Hermione did have to deal with being drugged, raped, and the aftermath, the book wasn’t focused so much on the darkness of the subject, but rather the support she received through her friends, family, and even her cheerleading team. Hermione was fortunate in many ways to have a support system and it changed how her story of survival went. Results aren’t typical for many people, but I was grateful for the unique perspective. She did not want to be a victim, a cautionary tale, or anyone’s object of pity, and she did whatever she could, with the help of her support system to maintain her normal life and recover.

There are a few negative reviews, admittedly among a sea of very positive ones, that mention how unrealistic the book is and how Hermione’s situation is an insult to real victims. I think there are hoards of rape stories from many perspectives and many, if not most, have fairly dark and awful truths, a lot of struggling and depression and blame going around. A lot of people don’t have support systems and most works of fiction involving the subject matter reflect that. They have to fight tooth and nail against legal systems, families, friends, social groups/towns, even religious groups, to be believed and heard and may not ever get any closure. It may ruin their lives in more ways than one and they remain victims of more than just the rape at that point. But one person’s experience (even MOST people’s experiences) does not negate the experiences of others. Hermione’s tale may not be typical, but it doesn’t make her story any less relevant or realistic. People with wonderful lives, friends, families, etc still get raped and have to live their lives after that. They have to deal with the situation, make tough decisions, and move on in whatever way works for them, through trial and error, with or without breakdowns. In fact, Hermione even mentioned to her therapist that she felt like something was wrong with her because she didn’t feel anything because she didn’t remember. I feel that Hermione’s determination to not be victimized by the situation was an attitude I admired, even though I realize it’s not that simple for most rape victims.

Exit, Pursued by a Bear is a story about a teen girl who was drugged and raped at a cheerleading camp and the events afterwards. She had a wonderful support system. No one really doubted her, the legal system did what they could to pursue the case. But even still, she had some tough and awful moments. She faced a decision about whether she’d have to terminate a pregnancy as a result. She lost time due to being drugged and struggled with waking up in the morning because she didn’t know where she was. She couldn’t remember the event, which halted her ability to really “deal” with the events because she had nothing to relive, no emotions to work through, until pieces of her memory were recovered after being triggered by certain smells, sounds, etc. Her lack of emotion regarding her own circumstances concerned her, since it felt like it had happened to someone else. In a small town, she also had to do her best to avoid being the tragic case for everyone to remember. She wanted to remain herself and hold onto the wonderful life she knew she had. But her support system made all of these things a million times easier than they are for many people and her friendships strengthened her. 

I’d recommend this book. I recommend reading it for various reasons. As a person who has not experienced what Hermione has, it was helpful because I was able to see how much a support system matters and how not to treat victims, how to be sensitive without pitying, how to be compassionate without making the victim feel fragile, how to be a friend to someone who has had this terrible thing happen to them and be a good one. The book even talked about slut shaming, victim blaming, and the way society still places a portion of the blame on the victim by asking questions like, “what could you have done to prevent it” without even realizing how screwed up that mentality is. I don’t think all stories involving rape need to be focused on being a victim. I thought this book was refreshing because, in an ideal circumstance, despite the awfulness of the situation, Hermione could overcome the events that might have otherwise further impacted her life. It’s not always simple to decide not to be a victim, but her attitude and her support system allowed her to do so. Still, if you feel that it’s a negative thing to have a character not be defined by her situation or if you feel it’s unfair to showcase a victim’s perspective when they had it relatively easy, then this is NOT the book for you. For others, including myself, it’s a refreshing point of view.

Side note: Hermione does release a breath she did not realize she was holding. *That phrase does not bother me, but if you’re already on the fence about the book, you might not like the writing. 

Star 4

Review – The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon

 

The Night Sister

By Jennifer McMahon

SummaryOnce the thriving attraction of rural Vermont, the Tower Motel now stands in disrepair, alive only in the memories of Amy, Piper, and Piper’s kid sister, Margot. The three played there as girls until the day that their games uncovered something dark and twisted in the motel’s past, something that ruined their friendship forever.

Now adult, Piper and Margot have tried to forget what they found that fateful summer, but their lives are upended when Piper receives a panicked midnight call from Margot, with news of a horrific crime for which Amy stands accused. Suddenly, Margot and Piper are forced to relive the time that they found the suitcase that once belonged to Sylvie Slater, the aunt that Amy claimed had run away to Hollywood to live out her dream of becoming Hitchcock’s next blonde bombshell leading lady. As Margot and Piper investigate, a cleverly woven plot unfolds—revealing the story of Sylvie and Rose, two other sisters who lived at the motel during its 1950s heyday. Each believed the other to be something truly monstrous, but only one carries the secret that would haunt the generations to come.

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

I am a huge fan of Jennifer McMahon novels and The Night Sister was certainly not disappointing. I’m always amazed when authors can deliver amazing stories that are consistently good and mysterious. While many of her stories share similarities, each one has a unique element that I never see coming and it makes each book it’s own wonderful adventure. Part mystery, part contemporary, part horror, part supernatural… all of her novels combine everything I love into compelling stories that feature something odd, something slightly off, and childhood adventures and misunderstandings that become adult secrets and memories of the past. 

I flew through The Night Sister on a cold and creepy evening, ready to be slightly scared, and the book definitely delivered. The story had 3 distinct parts. The 50s, where the story featured Sylvie and Rose, two sisters growing up in the Tower Motel in London, Vermont with their family; the 80s, featuring Amy, Rose’s daughter and her friend Piper, along with Piper’s sister Margot; the present, featuring Piper, who came back to town after an awful accident involving Amy. What secrets were hidden in the Tower motel? 

I loved piecing together the past and trying to unravel what was really going on in the motel. As I said before, McMahon isn’t afraid to throw a bit a supernatural into the story, so when Rose assumed her sister was a mare, a creature who could essentially shape-shift, I read with a healthy dose of skepticism and intrigue. Just because there are legends in the story doesn’t mean McMahon will necessarily include them as plot devices, so you never really know what to expect. I love never knowing what amount of the fantastic will be a part of the story and what is just part of the backdrop. It keeps me on the edge of my seat and it worked well in The Night Sister.

Aside from the mysterious plot and wondering what happened with Sylvie’s disappearance in the 60s, I was interested in the dynamics between Piper and Margot and Amy, as well as Jason, who played a part in the girl’s past and present and was later married to Margot. I love the complexities of growing up and discovering the problems of adults, wanting to figure out a mystery, and also having to deal with the emotions and hormone’s driving young teens. The book was compelling on several levels and it made it easy to flip through the pages eagerly.

I loved The Night Sister and I definitely recommend it. Still, my favorite McMahon novel is Don’t Breathe A Word, but The Night Sister was very good. I don’t know how she does it, but she tells great stories consistently, with none of them being disappointing to me. I highly recommend all of her books.

Star 5

Review – Mosquitoland by David Arnold

 

Mosquitoland

By David Arnold

Summary: “I am a collection of oddities, a circus of neurons and electrons: my heart is the ringmaster, my soul is the trapeze artist, and the world is my audience. It sounds strange because it is, and it is, because I am strange.” 

After the sudden collapse of her family, Mim Malone is dragged from her home in northern Ohio to the “wastelands” of Mississippi, where she lives in a medicated milieu with her dad and new stepmom. Before the dust has a chance to settle, she learns her mother is sick back in Cleveland. 
So she ditches her new life and hops aboard a northbound Greyhound bus to her real home and her real mother, meeting a quirky cast of fellow travelers along the way. But when her thousand-mile journey takes a few turns she could never see coming, Mim must confront her own demons, redefining her notions of love, loyalty, and what it means to be sane. 
Told in an unforgettable, kaleidoscopic voice, “Mosquitoland” is a modern American odyssey, as hilarious as it is heartbreaking.

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

 I picked up Mosquitoland to complete the 2016 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge category of Book About a Road Trip. The cover and title intrigued me and I’d seen it around enough times to be intrigued. And it was perfect fit because it was all about a road trip. Mosquitoland was awesome. I loved it. I cried, laughed, and loved Mim Malone with all of my heart. It was the perfect blend of quirky, adorable, serious, complex, and moving with a cast of unforgettable characters. 

Mim’s life spiraled out of her control when her parents divorced, her mom moved away, her dad met Kathy, and moved them all even further away from Mim’s mom. To top it all off, Mim’s mom was sick and Mim felt like Kathy was keeping her from seeing and communicating with her mom. So Mim hopped on a Greyhound and headed to Ohio in order to finally see her mom. And so began her journey.

I loved Mim’s character. And I felt for her. My parents divorced when I was in my early teens and, while I totally supported that, having both parents remarry and having to move away and deal with new siblings and step parents can be tough. And like Mim, my own perception of the situation ended up being skewed by a few things I didn’t quite understand until later. My childhood memories missed things, which Mim also experienced. I felt like, while I didn’t necessarily have the same experience, I had been where Mim was and felt the things she felt. 

It’s no secret that I love when young narrators unravel the complexities of adults. I love when books touch on this because finding out parents are flawed is a major part of growing up and it changes you. Finding out that the people you looked up to and thought had all the answers are human and flawed and not always logical is such a tough thing to go through. Mim was the perfect narrator to take us through the experience and her stubbornness to get on a bus and go see her mom was admirable. I loved that she wasn’t afraid. 

Mim’s experiences on the Greyhound bus were insane, but thoroughly entertaining. From strange people to tragic accidents, Mim’s journey was perilous and full of obstacles. Fortunately, she discovered the rarest things on the planet: Good people. And those people helped shape her into a better person.

I loved the book so much. It was everything a road trip coming of age YA novel should be. And even though it’s been done, this book is the one to read over all others. There is adventure, tragedy, romance, horror.. It’s got everything. And Mim is a compelling narrator who drew me in immediately. I highly recommend the book and I’m so glad I finally read it.

Star 5

Review – On the Fence by Kasie West

 

On the Fence

By Kasie West

Summary: For sixteen-year-old Charlotte Reynolds, aka Charlie, being raised by a single dad and three older brothers has its perks. She can outrun, outscore, and outwit every boy she knows—including her longtime neighbor and honorary fourth brother, Braden. But when it comes to being a girl, Charlie doesn’t know the first thing about anything. So when she starts working at chichi boutique to pay off a speeding ticket, she finds herself in a strange new world of makeup, lacy skirts, and BeDazzlers. Even stranger, she’s spending time with a boy who has never seen her tear it up in a pickup game. To cope with the stress of faking her way through this new reality, Charlie seeks late-night refuge in her backyard, talking out her problems with Braden by the fence that separates them. But their Fence Chats can’t solve Charlie’s biggest problem: she’s falling for Braden. Hard. She knows what it means to go for the win, but if spilling her secret means losing him for good, the stakes just got too high.

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

I love Kasie West books and her contemporary novel are perfect on a warm summer night. I knew I would enjoy On the Fence. It was short, but completely entertaining and just what I needed after reading so many books in a row that were 3 stars or less.

Charlie was a tomboy with a ton of brothers. When she started working at a boutique to pay off a speeding ticket, she realized dressing girly and wearing makeup wasn’t as hard as she thought and maybe she was tired of being treated like one of the guys. She went through this weird self identity stage where she felt like she was living two different lives, but starting to have feelings for a guy who had been hanging out with her and her brothers her whole life.

On the Fence was a quick and sweet contemporary romance that felt like a total pick me up. It wasn’t very long or detailed, but I felt like I got to know the character fairly well and I was engrossed in the book. I think Kasie West is a great author who just kind of sucks you in, even when it’s not necessarily the kind of story line you’d typically pick up.

I definitely recommend On the Fence for anyone looking for a fun, quick, and likable contemporary!

Star 4

Review – Chasing Impossible (Pushing the Limits #5) by Katie McGarry

 

Chasing Impossible (Pushing the Limits #5)

By Katie McGarry

SummaryAvailable by popular demand, the latest installment of the beloved, award-winning Pushing the Limits seriesTough and independent, seventeen-year-old Abby lets very few people into her inner circle. It’s common knowledge in her Kentucky town that she deals drugs, but not even her closest friends know why. But when a deal goes south and Abby’s suddenly in danger, she finds herself reluctantly forced to lean on daredevil Loganโ€”a boy whose restless spirit matches her own.Logan has his own reasons for wanting to keep Abby at arm’s length. But he never expected to find in her the one person who might help him face the demons he’s tried so hard to run from. Together, Abby and Logan will have to make a decision: let their current circumstances weigh them down foreverโ€ฆor fight for the future they both thought was impossible.

Source: I preorder a Kindle copy

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Review:

I love Katie McGarry books, especially the Pushing the Limits series. I couldn’t wait to get more characters and I enjoyed the romance between Logan and Abby. However, despite enjoying the book, I feel like it’s one of my least favorite in the series. I just didn’t like Abby as much as I enjoyed the other street kids and I think it hindered my enjoyment a bit. 

This may sound a tad insensitive, but I didn’t like that Logan’s only issue was his diabetes and why he let that seem like such a big deal that made him weak. I’m not saying diabetes isn’t scary, especially type 1, but I’ve never in my life viewed it as a big illness that makes people weak or seem less strong due to having it. Perhaps I’m just ignorant as to how sufferers feel, but it just doesn’t carry the stigma that I think Logan felt it did. I could be incorrect and I’m also not a teen and I realize teens will make anything something to make fun of you about. I’m not sure if the book shed light on the issue for me or if Logan was kind of making it a bigger deal than it had to be. I guess it’s a good thing I’ve never looked at someone and thought about their diabetes first, but I think it’s a sad thing if sufferers feel that way about themselves. 

While the book was a great contemporary romance, it fell short of my expectations because Abby and Logan didn’t feel as real to me as the other characters. Abby’s drug dealing thing was always a bit over the top, so I just felt like I didn’t “believe” her struggle the way I did with the other down on their luck kids. I felt like Logan’s diabetes, while eye opening for me, was just a conflict thrown in so that Logan could try to relate to Abby and have a secret. Their whole conflict seemed contrived in a way that shocked me after so many believable contemporaries in the series. 

The story was good and I enjoyed the action and the way the characters fell. It was sweet and full of conflict as are her other books. I am not sure if this just wasn’t as good as I’d hoped and my expectations were too high or I just wasn’t in the mood for this type of story. It wasn’t a bad story, it just isn’t one of her best. 

 

Star 3

Review – Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

 

Attachments

By Rainbow Rowell

Summary“Hi, I’m the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you . . . ” Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that somebody is monitoring their work e-mail. (Everybody in the newsroom knows. It’s company policy.) But they can’t quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They go on sending each other endless and endlessly hilarious e-mails, discussing every aspect of their personal lives. Meanwhile, Lincoln O’Neill can’t believe this is his job now- reading other people’s e-mail. When he applied to be “internet security officer,” he pictured himself building firewalls and crushing hackers- not writing up a report every time a sports reporter forwards a dirty joke. When Lincoln comes across Beth’s and Jennifer’s messages, he knows he should turn them in. But he can’t help being entertained-and captivated-by their stories. By the time Lincoln realizes he’s falling for Beth, it’s way too late to introduce himself. What would he say . . . ?

Source: I purchased a kindle copy. 

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Review

Rainbow Rowell is becoming a fast favorite author of mine. I didn’t think I’d like her style of quirky contemporary because I’m so picky about that sort of thing, but her adult books are just spectacular. Even better, they take place in the 90’s, so there’s something nostalgic about them that I just love! 

Attachments was a fun and unique type of novel. Beth and Jennifer sent each other emails at work right around the time the company warned them about key words being flagged. They made jokes and most of their emails were flagged as a result. Back then, it wasn’t such common knowledge that your emails would be monitored, so they didn’t think a human actually READ their emails. But Lincoln, who worked in IT was certainly the person who was reading them. He initially decided not to make a big fuss and not warn them, but then he realized he was enjoying himself and read the emails out of pure curiosity. To be fair, it sounds creepy, but their email exchanges were pretty hilarious. 

Attachments would made the perfect rom com movie because it was so much fun and yet it had those serious sweet moments, too. I really grew to care about all of the characters and genuinely wanted things to work out for all of them. It was so hilarious that Lincoln didn’t know who Beth was, but he realized her encounters with the Cute Guy in her email exchanges were her encounters with him, so it was this whole fun thing where you were rooting for the characters to finally meet and figure out who they were to each other. 

I highly recommend Attachments. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did, especially when it began as just emails back and forth. It didn’t take me very long at all to get into the story and love it. It’s definitely a fun read and I’m glad I picked it up. My favorite part of the book was when Lincoln was shopping in a video rental store and that just brought back memories of me doing the same thing on a weekend as a kid, hoping to run into your friends! And the Y2K scare. Oh, the nostalgia!

Star 4