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Review – All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places

By Jennifer Niven

SummaryThe Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this exhilarating and heart-wrenching love story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.

Soon to be a major motion picture starring Elle Fanning!
 
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.
 
Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.
 
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.
 
This is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.

Source: I purchased a kindle copy

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Review:

It’s official. Those quirky contemporary books that everyone else seems to gobble up like candy and rave about all over social media? Not for me. And when the hype gets to me and I’m like “oh, maybe the book IS decent, even for a contemporary issue book with quirky characters” I need to remember where I stand. Because All the Bright Places is just not the book for me. I can’t really say I hated it, but I’m frustrated by it. I can’t tell if maybe it’s just a tired trope or not as well written as I’d hoped or I’m just simply too old for the YA issue books with absent adults and inherently wise teenagers. But whatever the problem is, I just have to keep reminding myself to not let the hype get to me.

I don’t want to sound cold or ill informed when I say that I just didn’t think All the Bright Places captured anything real. I’m sure there are people out there who would vehemently disagree. But I will say that the book didn’t have the kind of writing that sucked me in or characters who found their way into my heart and that made any actual realistic aspects of depression, suicide, bipolar disorder, etc just fall flat. I feel like books should call out to not only those who have suffered from the tough topics they talk about, but to those who haven’t, so they may feel that they walked a mile in someone else’s shoes. If I haven’t felt like it was enlightening or realistic or remotely moving, what was the point?

All the Bright Places was like Paper Towns except the main characters were suffering from an array of mental disorders. Violet was dealing with the loss of her sister and having to face life without her. Finch was bipolar, but he was also from an abusive home and neglectful parents. In this story, he was the girl from Paper Towns, leading Violet on grand adventures. If Violet was the type to try to make herself appear smaller and avoid the spotlight, Finch was the loud and proud class clown who runs around in order to stay in the spotlight. Both characters were not dealing with life in a healthy and stable way and neither of their parents seemed to pay attention to anything. 

The book felt contrived, full of issues, lacked real character depth, and left me feeling frustrated. It announced itself as a suicide book from page one and I knew I was waiting for someone to die. I knew who it would be and I’d hoped for some real emotion along the way. I’d hoped both characters would save each other in some way, even if one of them would die. But I never really connected with the story.

Star 2

 

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Review – Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon

 

Everything Everything

By Nicola Yoon

SummaryMy disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

I avoided Everything Everything after hearing some criticism about the ending and not really being sure if it was a book I’d enjoy in the first place. A few months ago, I read The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon and it was very good, so I decided I’d amend my decision to not read Everything Everything. It fit a category for my POPSUGAR Reading Challenge and was decently priced at the store.

I devoured the book within a matter of hours. To be fair, that is the norm for me and contemporary novels, but it is still normally a sign that I’ve enjoyed the book.

Everything Everything was written in a way that just sort of sucked me in and I couldn’t get enough. The fact that I knew the twist based on reading other reviews when the “hype” around it was happening did not hinder my enjoyment at all. In fact, knowing how it ended made me pay close attention to some of the dynamics in the book and I appreciated the twist more because it still fit with the story and the behaviors of characters in the story. 

I prefer The Sun is Also a Star because it more closely explored the cultural aspects of both Jamaican and Korean cultures and what it means to be those things and be American, but I think Everything Everything delivered a story with diverse characters as well. My only real complaint is that I wish there was more depth in regards to the medical aspect, though I imagine it would’ve been difficult to incorporate that knowing the story. 

Everything Everything wasn’t realistic, but it wasn’t annoyingly so. I felt like it captured emotions and the essence of falling in love and being a teenager well, even if it wasn’t completely grounded in reality. I definitely recommend the book for a short and sweet contemporary YA read.

Star 4

Review – By Your Side by Kasie West

 

By Your Side

By Kasie West

SummaryWhen Autumn Collins finds herself accidentally locked in the library for an entire weekend, she doesn’t think things could get any worse. But that’s before she realizes that Dax Miller is locked in with her. Autumn doesn’t know much about Dax except that he’s trouble. Between the rumors about the fight he was in (and that brief stint in juvie that followed it) and his reputation as a loner, he’s not exactly the ideal person to be stuck with. Still, she just keeps reminding herself that it is only a matter of time before Jeff, her almost-boyfriend, realizes he left her in the library and comes to rescue her.

Only he doesn’t come. No one does.

Instead it becomes clear that Autumn is going to have to spend the next couple of days living off vending-machine food and making conversation with a boy who clearly wants nothing to do with her. Except there is more to Dax than meets the eye. As he and Autumn first grudgingly, and then not so grudgingly, open up to each other, Autumn is struck by their surprising connection. But can their feelings for each other survive once the weekend is over and Autumn’s old life, and old love interest, threaten to pull her from Dax’s side? 

Source: I purchased a kindle copy

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Review:

I enjoyed By Your Side. Like other Kasie West novels, it was a fun and short contemporary romance. I loved that it started out in a library and that it was a romance between two people who probably would’ve never crossed paths before. 

Autumn got stuck in a library when she ran into pee before going off with her friends for the weekend. Somehow, it seemed like she got lost in the shuffle because her friends didn’t come back for her. Dax, a guy from her high school ended up locked in the library, too, but he was a lot less freaked out and also had an overnight bag with him. Autumn didn’t know him very well, but just heard rumors about how he was trouble. 

Autumn had anxiety, but none of her friends knew. She was constantly thrown into crazy scenarios and parties with her friends and she found herself escaping to a quiet corner when she could. Probably how she ended up locked in the library without her friends looking for her. They were used to losing track of her. Dax, while he wasn’t very talkative or friendly, didn’t seem to mind that she had anxiety and was freaking out about being trapped in the library. He seemed to know exactly how to talk to her.

I loved By Your Side because it was all about not judging books by their covers and learning to be honest with yourself and your friends.

Star 4

Review – Until It Fades by K.A. Tucker

 

Until It Fades

By K.A. Tucker

Summary: “Tucker is adept at spinning stories with hot romance, unexpected twists and turns, and a strong, independent female lead who is not afraid to take charge, who is not perfect—which is why she feels so real.” —Toronto Star

Twenty-four-year-old truck stop waitress and single mother Catherine Wright has simple goals: to give her five-year-old daughter a happy life and to never again be the talk of the town in Balsam, Pennsylvania (population three thousand outside of tourist season). And then one foggy night, on a lonely road back from another failed date, Catherine saves a man’s life. It isn’t until after the police have arrived that Catherine realizes exactly who it is she has rescued: Brett Madden, hockey icon and media darling.
Catherine has already had her fifteen minutes of fame and the last thing she wants is to have her past dragged back into the spotlight, only this time on a national stage. So she hides her identity. It works. For a time. But when she finds the man she saved standing on her doorstep, desperate to thank her, all that changes. There’s an immediate connection, and it’s more electric than the bond of two people who endured a traumatic event. It’s something neither of them expected. Something that Catherine isn’t sure she can handle; something she is afraid to trust.
Because how long can an extraordinary man like Brett be interested in an ordinary woman like Catherine…before the spark fades?

Source: I preordered a Kindle copy

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Review:

K.A. Tucker is one of my favorite contemporary romance authors, so of course I was eagerly awaiting her latest novel. I wasn’t as big of a fan of her last book, He Will Be My Ruin, mostly because it’s hard to bridge the gap between romance and thrillers when I read both and have really high expectations. But Until It Fades was firmly in romance territory, complete with the conflicted heroine with a tough past. Tucker always does an amazing job at creating characters and giving them conflicts and backstories that complicate things in a believable way. Until It Fades was no exception. It was great!

I didn’t read the synopsis because Tucker is an auto-buy author of mine, so I started the book feeling a little hesitant. If there’s one thing I really can’t stand, it’s teacher-student relationships (but I do excuse a few books from this issue because they are so good.) My stomach dropped in the beginning because I really wasn’t in the mood, but fortunately, it wasn’t one of those books. While Catherine’s past did impact her future, the book was not about that particular relationship and was instead focused on her overcoming and finding her place in her judgmental town years after the affair.

I love K.A. Tucker. She creates such amazing characters. This book could’ve totally been another awful NA romance with some hunky sports player with bigger muscles than brains and a heroine falling all over herself over someone famous, but it was nowhere near being one of those novels. Every time I read one of Tucker’s books, I can’t help but want to jump up and down and scream, THIS IS WHAT I WANT IN A NEW ADULT NOVEL! It’s not afraid to talk about the adult things, but it’s not smutty and ridiculous. Her books have depth to them even if hinted romance in the synopsis sounds like it could be a trope filled novel. 

While Catherine had somewhat of a broken past, I have to admit, Until It Fades was definitely one of her “fluffier” books. There wasn’t any of that darkness that Ten Tiny Breaths and the Burying Water series both have. But for the New Adult category, it’s not at all fluffy. 

I highly recommend Until It Fades. I flew through the book and I enjoyed every minute!

Star 4

Review – Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Eliza and Her Monsters

by Francesca Zappia

SummaryEighteen-year-old Eliza Mirk is the anonymous creator of Monstrous Sea, a wildly popular webcomic, but when a new boy at school tempts her to live a life offline, everything she’s worked for begins to crumble.

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, smart, and friendless. Online, Eliza is LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of a popular webcomic called Monstrous Sea. With millions of followers and fans throughout the world, Eliza’s persona is popular. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves her digital community. Then Wallace Warland transfers to her school, and Eliza begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile. But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart. With pages from Eliza’s webcomic, as well as screenshots from Eliza’s online forums, this uniquely formatted book will appeal to fans of Noelle Stevenson’s Nimonaand Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl.

Source: I received a hardcover in an Owlcrate

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Review:

Before I state my opinion, I’ll say that this book was a huge Owlcrate fan favorite. A lot of subscribers enjoyed this book and I completely and totally understand why. It’s a great book, short, sweet, and probably very easy for many introverted people to relate to. So my low-ish rating is more of personal opinion and not necessarily an indicator that this is a bad book.

I think this book is easy for a lot of readers and introverts to relate to and that ability to relate is what makes it so enjoyable. For me, I am kind of different because, while I do enjoy escape into books, I am not the kind of introvert who doesn’t enjoy real life, even when I don’t fit in. I feel like becoming comfortable in my own skin is important to me, even as tempting as escaping into myself tends to be, and it’s always kind of made it difficult for me to relate to the types of introverts who prefer to escape. This book is for those people. For me, it just wasn’t a book I identified with, though the author did create characters I wanted to root for even if I couldn’t relate.

On another note, I also dislike and do not participate in fan-fiction, so there’s another thing that other people probably loved and could relate to that I just couldn’t. I will likely never pick up Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (though I love her other books!) just because I know it’s not my cup of tea. I didn’t realize that this book would be about a fandom in that sense. Eliza created her world, but I didn’t expect the online fandom presence or the existence of a fan-fiction writer. And this definitely hindered my enjoyment of the book, though it didn’t really bother me until the end. I rooted for Eliza and Wallace for the majority of the book, but his behavior regarding his fan-fiction really bothered me and that’s partly because I think it was a crappy attitude about it but also because of how I feel about fan-fiction in general, published fan-fiction, and the rights of fan-fiction authors. (I’m sorry, but no author or artist or any person should ever be made to feel like they exist to give other people inspiration even if they do frequently inspire others. You are not an inspiration factory and if someone can’t get their life together it’s not your fault no matter what. This message WAS in the book, but the end of the book kind of rushed through some of that and I don’t think that was as clear as it could’ve been.)

And lastly, while I didn’t relate to Eliza, I felt like I understood her throughout much of the book. I was completely loving the book for at least 70% of it because the author did a great job of making me empathize with and love Eliza and “get” her situation. But once her identity was revealed and she had a panic attack, she generally stopped participating in life on and offline, and I just didn’t feel like the rest of the book handled the healing process very well. It glossed over a lot of it and I wanted the book to have more of a focus on overcoming and dealing with anxiety instead of just kind of skirting around it. While her family didn’t necessarily understand her focus on her comic and they finally understood it once they realized how big it was, the fact that it was so successful did not and should not mean that Eliza’s behavior was okay. There’s a middle ground there that just wasn’t obviously pointed out. I feel like the message, without meaning to, kind of sounded like “it’s okay to let anxiety control your life if you just do something successful.” The book did start to go in a more positive direction towards the end, but it just wasn’t as detailed or in depth as the whole rest of the book, so it just fell short for me and made the actual message it was trying to give a little less clear.

If you love comics, graphic novels, the creation of art, fan-fiction, and/or characters who are more comfortable online than in person and find that easy to relate to, this book is absolutely awesome and I definitely recommend it. But it’s not without flaws.

Star 3

Review – The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

 

The Sun is Also a Star

By Nicola Yoon

SummaryNatasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

Source: I received a signed hardcover in an Uppercase.

Uppercase_November_Unboxing.jpeg

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Review:

The Sun is Also a Star was a beautiful story. It was about love, chance, science, poetry, and those little moments that turn into big ones. It’s been on my shelf for months because I just didn’t know if it was the kind of contemporary for me since I’m so picky, but I’m glad I read it.

The Sun is Also a Star was what I wanted The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith to be. Natasha and Daniel met in this weird twist of fate one afternoon in New York City and somehow ended up spending the day together while they both worried about their futures. In one day, so much changed for both characters.

Natasha was a Jamaican immigrant and her family was being deported the following day. She was the kind of person who used to be full of dreams and turned away from them in favor of cold hard science. She was being deported because her dad, who never made it big as an actor, got a DUI and drew attention to his illegal status. Daniel was a Korean-American getting ready for his college admission interview. He loved poetry, but his family was extremely focused on his career path. He had to become a doctor and he had to go to a good college. The two characters were as opposite as they could possibly be, but they somehow met and crossed paths throughout the day, mostly due to Daniel’s persistence. 

I loved the format of the book. It bounced from Natasha’s point of view to Daniel’s, but also included brief POVs from other people, like their parents, a person they just crossed paths with, or a brief description about a word or a scientific process that was relevant to the story. It worked really well and made the story more of an experience for me. I feel like I learned a lot about both the Korean and Jamaican cultures and some of that was because the story stepped out of Natasha and Daniel’s shoes for a minute to describe something or go on a tangent about a cultural thing. 

I teared up multiple times because I felt so connected to the characters. I felt very invested in their story. The whole time I was reading, I just kept thinking that this was a story I wanted, the reason I bought The Geography of You and Me, and I had it sitting on my shelf this whole time! The only reason I didn’t rate it five stars was because of the abruptness of the ending. We spent all this time with the characters and then it just sort of glossed over everything after the day they spent together and didn’t explore what happened next quite as much as I’d hoped. But I kind of liked the way it ended at the same time. My conflicted feelings just lead me to rate it 4 stars for now. 

Star 4

Review – The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

The Female of the Species

By Mindy McGinnis

SummaryAlex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it. When her older sister, Anna, was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best. The language of violence.

While her crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people, even in her small hometown. She relegates herself to the shadows, a girl who goes unseen in plain sight, unremarkable in the high school hallways.

But Jack Fisher sees her. He’s the guy all other guys want to be: the star athlete gunning for valedictorian with the prom queen on his arm. Guilt over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered hasn’t let him forget Alex over the years, and now her green eyes amid a constellation of freckles have his attention. He doesn’t want to only see Alex Craft; he wants to know her.

So does Peekay, the preacher’s kid, a girl whose identity is entangled with her dad’s job, though that does not stop her from knowing the taste of beer or missing the touch of her ex-boyfriend. When Peekay and Alex start working together at the animal shelter, a friendship forms and Alex’s protective nature extends to more than just the dogs and cats they care for.

Circumstances bring Alex, Jack, and Peekay together as their senior year unfolds. While partying one night, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting the teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever. 

Source: I borrowed a Kindle copy from the library

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Review:

WHY aren’t more people talking about this book?!

The Female of the Species looks like your average contemporary with the bright cover and quirky title. But underneath, it was a brutal and fierce book that pushes the ugliness of rape culture in your face. It’s full of cussing, screwed up situations, and violence, but it was a sucker punch I think we all need. 

On second thought, I’m actually glad that since it’s not the book everyone is raving about, at least it’s not in the spotlight of public outrage about what is appropriate in YA. I feel like there’s a big issue with people scrutinizing what is okay for YA fiction and if too much language or sex or violence is counterproductive or even triggering. I’ve always been in the camp that reading stories like this one SHOULD be uncomfortable to some degree because teens are cussing, drinking having sex, and dealing with a lot of issues that no one, including their parents, ever seem to talk about. Let’s talk about it and be real. There is even a scene that talks about talking about stuff like that and being In-Your-Face about it to get people’s attention. Tiptoeing around an issue won’t help people truly understand it.

I think the synopsis makes it sound like some romance between Jack and Alex, making me expect a much more run of the mill contemporary romance, but that was not what the book was at all. Alex was a brutal person who decided she had enough of behaviors and people slipping through the cracks. While Jack and Alex had a connection and ended up attempting to explore it, the story was more about the small town, groups of friends, and Alex’s place in an ugly and unfair world.

I loved Peekay. She was my favorite character because she had spunk and she treated Alex like something other than the girl with the dead sister. 

The Female of the Species is a 100% necessary book. It talked about rape culture, the way that girls are treated differently, the fact that no one ever seems to want to deal with sexual assault or talk about it. It also dealt with stereotypes and I absolutely LOVED that it didn’t vilify the promiscuous girl and instead asked why it mattered whether she got around or not. Maybe half the rumors about her aren’t true, but so what if they are? It was a book about the awfulness of people and the goodness in them, too.

The book is NOT for those sensitive to violence, sexual assault, or animal cruelty. None of those behaviors are excused in the book, but they do occur. 

I highly recommend it. I was going to rate it 4 stars at first, but the story has stayed with me for a couple of days and I found myself wishing I knew more readers to recommend it to, so I just had to bump it up to five stars. 

 

Star 5

 

 Quotes:

You see it in all animals – the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

I live in a world where not being molested as a child is considered luck.

Opportunity is what matters, nothing else… I’m telling you… It doesn’t matter. What you were wearing. What you look like. Nothing. Watch the nature channel. Predators go for the easy prey.

But boys will be boys, our favorite phrase that excuses so many things, while the only thing we have for the opposite gender is women, said with disdain and punctuated with an eye roll.