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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.

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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.

 

 

Review – Marlena by Julie Buntin

 

Marlena

By Julie Buntin

SummaryAn electric debut novel about love, addiction, and loss; the story of two girls and the feral year that will cost one her life, and define the other’s for decades

Everything about fifteen-year-old Cat’s new town in rural Michigan is lonely and off-kilter, until she meets her neighbor, the manic, beautiful, pill-popping Marlena. Cat, inexperienced and desperate for connection, is quickly lured into Marlena’s orbit by little more than an arched eyebrow and a shake of white-blond hair. As the two girls turn the untamed landscape of their desolate small town into a kind of playground, Cat catalogues a litany of firsts—first drink, first cigarette, first kiss—while Marlena’s habits harden and calcify. Within the year, Marlena is dead, drowned in six inches of icy water in the woods nearby. Now, decades later, when a ghost from that pivotal year surfaces unexpectedly, Cat must try to forgive herself and move on, even as the memory of Marlena keeps her tangled in the past.

Alive with an urgent, unshakable tenderness, Julie Buntin’s Marlena is an unforgettable look at the people who shape us beyond reason and the ways it might be possible to pull oneself back from the brink.

Source: BOTM Club pick

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Review:

Marlena was a well written and haunting story about Cat, a 30 something with a drinking problem and a past. The book mainly took place in the past where Cat was 15 and drawn to her neighbor, Marlena, who was troubled and addicting. Marlena was like the movie Thirteen with a tragic ending. 

The book was full of great passages throughout that truly capture Cat’s feelings and the chaotic and hypnotic person that was Marlena. I could relate in many ways because I was pretty much a good kid who got good grades and was often drawn to the troublemaking and carefree girls when I was Cat’s age. Fortunately, I never got quite so deep, but Cat’s POV was one I recognized to some degree. 

With that being said, I’m a bit surprised by the sheer number of overwhelmingly positive reviews. Marlena was very tough to get into and it lost me multiple times. I felt like there was a lot more telling instead of showing, even though the words came together in a way that I could appreciate, I felt very disconnected. Even Cat, who was a character I could identify with, felt just out my grasp as a character. Everyone was distant and I never really connected with or cared about them. Perhaps the constant shift from present and past and back again was to blame for some of the disjointed feelings, but I think the book was written in a more passive way than it should’ve been in order to fully capture the way Marlena impacted Cat as a person. 

Marlena was good, but it fell short of my expectations. It wasn’t as gritty as I wanted it to be. As much as I enjoyed the more passive character in the beginning, I felt like the book needed to be more in-my-face in order to truly tell the story well. Cat was immersed in Marlena’s lifestyle, but the writing made her still seem removed from it. 

Star 3

Review – The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

 

The Upside of Unrequited

By Becky Albertalli

SummarySeventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back. 

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. 

Right?

Source: I received a hardcover in April’s Owlcrate.

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Review:

The Upside of Unrequited was about Molly, a girl who crushed hard and often. She had some self esteem issues that seemed mainly due to weight and had never actually had a successful relationship, start of a relationship, or anything. Her sister Cassie met Mina and became and instant puddle of goo about her for the first time Molly could remember. And for some reason, they kept trying to hook Molly up with Mina’s friend Will to finally end the stream of Molly’s unrequited crushes. And Molly began a job at a store where she met a nerdy guy named Reid who made her comfortable for the first time in a long time. She wasn’t tongue tied around him, so they became fast friends. 

The book had such a great premise. A socially awkward girl with self esteem issues finally comes into her own somehow and gets the guy? I love books like that and I thought I would also enjoy getting a nice group of supportive friends and a great family in a YA book. In a lot of ways, it was perfectly quirky, upbeat, and romantic. 

I loved how diverse the entire cast of characters were. Different body types, different personality types, different sexual preferences, ethnicities, religions, etc. all made an appearance in the book and it was kind of awesome to see everything fall into a story that way. I absolutely love getting characters with different backgrounds and body types and ethnicities, etc to make appearances in fiction, be main characters, and have it be so nonchalant like it’s not the main focus of the book or a big deal or anything. They just are what they are and it’s not weird or forced. The author was able to just drop a thing about a person like it’s the color of their hair and it’s so natural and I admire that. It was one of my favorite things about this book…… But the characters were little more than their own diverse aspect and that’s where I started to get a little aggravated. I felt like no one really had much more depth to them, which makes them seem a lot like “token” characters with an existence only to show off how diverse you can be as an author and that is NOT cool. The beginning introduction to Molly and her world was amazing, but I never got much more character building for most of the characters and it started to feel like there was some thing artificial about what originally seemed like such a natural type of thing.. I got this amazing group of diverse friends and family and yet none of them have real personalities? I can’t really tell you much about WHO the characters really are deep down and that’s my issue with the book. However, I’m not completely sure that it was done with the intent to just check off diverse aspects. I think perhaps the book was just not long enough and the author was trying to stay on point with Molly and not delve too deep in the side characters, which is what I hope was the case.

I also kind of had an issue with Molly’s acceptance of her self and her worth being tied so closely to her relationship and ability to finally get the guy, but I expected a love story and I think it was done in a way that worked well despite the flaws. Still, it would be nice for a girl to learn to love herself without it being tied to how much a guy likes her. Also I can’t stand when a character who has self esteem issues gets to be judgmental about image and no one bats an eyelash. It was completely not okay for her to immediately dismiss Reid in her head because he was super into Tolkien and not afraid to proclaim it by wearing a Tolkien shirt and dorky white sneakers. 

I didn’t hate the book, though, because it was a fun and quick read and I liked seeing the relationship unfold and all of the drama between Molly and her sister. I loved Reid SO MUCH as a character. It should’ve been Molly who was fierce and unafraid to be herself, but it was Reid. He was aware of his “uncool” hobbies, but he did not let it bother him. He wasn’t afraid to be himself and I loved that. I think that was why I was ultimately not so bothered by Molly finding her worth through her relationship with him because I knew he came from such a good place in his heart. He genuinely liked her for who she really was and his confidence could only be a positive influence on her. 

Ultimately, I enjoyed the book and got through it quickly. It isn’t a book I would’ve bought on purpose, but that doesn’t mean it was bad. I liked it. I recommend it, but would probably just recommend borrowing from the library or something. 

Star 3

Review – Scorched (Frigid #2) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

 

Scorched (Frigid #2) 

By Jennifer L. Armentrout

SummaryJennifer L. Armentrout (also known as J. Lynn), New York Times bestselling author of the Wait for You series, presents her latest book, Scorched.

Sometimes life leaves a mark…

Most days, Andrea doesn’t know whether she wants to kiss Tanner or punch him in the gut. He is seriously hot, with legit bedroom eyes and that firefighter body of his, but he’s a major player, and they can’t get along for more than a handful of minutes. Until now.

Tanner knows he and Andrea have had an epic love/hate relationship for as long as he can remember, but he wants more love than hate from her. He wants her. Now. Tomorrow. But the more he gets to know her, the more it becomes obvious that Andrea has a problem. She’s teetering on the edge, and every time he tries to catch her, she slips through his fingers.

Andrea’s life is spiraling out of control, and it doesn’t matter that Tanner wants to save her, because when everything falls apart and she’s speeding toward rock-bottom, only she can save herself.

Sometimes life makes you work for that happily ever after…

Source: I purchased a kindle copy. 

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Review:

Scorched is the second in the Frigid series, but more of a standalone since it involves the side characters from Frigid and their own romance story. I read Frigid, but I didn’t really remember much about it, but that didn’t have any effect on how much I enjoyed Scorched.

Andrea was a fierce and wild character who challenged Tanner. Her best friend found her soulmate, but it came with the baggage of his best friend, Tanner, so the four of them found themselves together a lot. It wasn’t that she didn’t like Tanner. She was aware of him all too much. And while she fought with him and it was sort of a game, she was really more sensitive about how he treated her than she appeared to be. For Tanner, he couldn’t get enough of Andrea, but was always afraid to go there because he kind of sensed it couldn’t just be a one time thing. He had no idea she wasn’t the fierce and party going person he thought she was and that she really was more sensitive. 

I enjoyed watching their relationship change and grow in the book. I love that the author chose to portray someone who was tough and confident on the outside, but struggled very much on the inside and suffered from panic attacks and anxiety. Andrea coped in a way that wasn’t working for her, but was sensitive to being judged and it was a constant cycle. 

I was rooting for Tanner and Andrea to finally use all that energy they spent fighting with each other on something more productive, so it was definitely entertaining to see them finally admit that they had a thing for each other. I also loved that Tanner realized she was a little more fragile than he thought and I liked seeing how he chose to handle that. 

Scorched was a quick read, a gooey romance, and a book that tackled some issues in a positive way. It was kind of perfect for a rainy afternoon and I’m glad I picked it up! My only real criticism is that I didn’t remember much of Sydney and Kyler and I wish the author did a better job of making me like that again. They seemed kind of dull as side characters and I’m not even sure I like either of them, but I’m sure I remember loving them in the first book. I wish their personalities were stronger, I guess. 

Star 4

Top Ten Tuesday – Summer

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday
Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

 

This week is a summer freebie!

As much as I’m not a contemporary reader normally, I ALWAYS want to pick up contemporaries in the summer. I don’t know why.

 

Top Ten Contemporary Novels I’ve Read This Year

 
 

1. The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon

 

 

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2. The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

 

 

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3. City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson (more of a thriller/thief novel, but it works)

 

 

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4. It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover

 

 

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5. The Fill In Boyfriend by Kasie West

 

 

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6. All the Rage by Courtney Summers

 

 

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7. Sad Perfect by Stephanie Eliot

 

 

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8. The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout

 

 

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9. Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

 

 

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10. Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston