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Review – P.S. I Like You by Kasie West

P.S. I Like You

By Kasie West

SummarySigned, sealed, delivered…

While spacing out in chemistry class, Lily scribbles some of her favorite song lyrics onto her desk. The next day, she finds that someone has continued the lyrics on the desk and added a message to her. Intrigue!

Soon, Lily and her anonymous pen pal are exchanging full-on letters—sharing secrets, recommending bands, and opening up to each other. Lily realizes she’s kind of falling for this letter writer. Only, who is he? As Lily attempts to unravel the mystery and juggle school, friends, crushes, and her crazy family, she discovers that matters of the heart can’t always be spelled out…

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Source: I borrowed a Kindle copy from the library

Review:

I skipped the August 2016 Owlcrate box and missed out on this book, so I decided to borrow it from the library. I’m a huge fan of Kasie West novels and I couldn’t wait to dig in!

P.S. I Like You was such a cute contemporary story. It featured a quirky guitar player and songwriter and her awkwardness. Her best friend kept trying to set her up with people and double date. She couldn’t seem to talk to her crush at all. Her family life was a whir of chaos. And she had weird taste in music that no one in her immediate circle seemed to identify with.

In chemistry class, she somehow bonded with a stranger over desk graffiti and started passing letters. She knew the person had chemistry before her and sat at the same desk, but she didn’t know anything else. She thought it was a girl and it was revealed later that her mysterious pen pal was a guy. They had the same taste in music and Lily started to think maybe she was falling for the stranger. But who was he? Was he the guy her best friend kept setting her up with on double dates? Was he Lucas, the hunky boy she kept her eye on and had a massive crush on? Or someone else? 

I loved not knowing and I loved watching the whole thing unfold. 

I figured out who the letter writer was long before Lily and I was right, but that didn’t diminish my enjoyment at all, in fact, I think it might have been more entertaining because I wanted to know if I was right and what Lily would do when the truth came out. 

Kasie West writes adorable contemporary novels I can’t help but love. Most of my go-to contemporary authors are deep and dark and make me cry, but Kasie’s like a breath of fresh air and I know I’m going to sink into a well written and cute romance instead of something designed to torture my soul. I highly recommend the book and if you haven’t read her other books, just grab them all. I have yet to be disappointed!

Star 4

Review – All the Rage by Courtney Summers

 

All the Rage

By Courtney Summers

Summary: The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything—friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time—and they certainly won’t now — but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear.

With a shocking conclusion and writing that will absolutely knock you out, All the Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women after an act of sexual violence, forcing us to ask ourselves: In a culture that refuses to protect its young girls, how can they survive?

Source:I purchased a paperback.

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Review:

Warning: All the Rage contains rape, violence, and emotional turbulence. It’s not graphic about the rape, but I imagine it’s difficult to read for anyone sensitive to the content.

All the Rage was very well done. I think it will be compared to Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson and I don’t really think it’s the same, even if the content was similar. I think Speak is wonderful, but it doesn’t do the same thing that All the Rage does. Basically, even though they both deal with similar things, they do it in different ways and I think society needs both of these books for different reasons. 

I’ve never been a victim of sexual assault, so I can’t speak for how that feels or how much I can relate to the main character or if the events are realistic. But I am a woman and there is so much about All the Rage that made me just feel so raw and angry. I can’t imagine not being believed by people that are my friends. Because what? My family isn’t perfect? Because there’s no way a guy like that could hurt a girl like me? I don’t need to have experienced it to feel some of the outrage and the pain of that situation. What makes it even worse is that it was a guy she liked. A guy she wanted. A guy she could even be accused of chasing. But just because you like someone and dream about having a moment with them doesn’t mean you want to be forced into sex and I think that whole situation is just awful. I mean, I remember being into a guy or something in school and I wanted to catch their eye, get their attention, have them like me back, but not… that. I never wanted to actually get physical with anyone. And what if something like that happened and no one believed me? It would’ve been my worst nightmare. (Since I’m a married adult, I worry about this less and my fears have more to do with walking by myself in dark areas and that kind of thing, but not being believed is still one of my worst nightmares.) I actually did have rumors spread in high school that I could not stop, couldn’t refute, and I think people still think they are true to this day, so I get it. Everything that happened in the book is just so.. real. Rumors, bullying, family issues, small town grudges, cliques, rape culture… it was all there. 

Romy was a difficult character and I think a lot of people may find her frustrating and off putting. But I loved that she was so imperfect, still trying to move on and deal with her feelings. She felt like something inside of her was dead and she kind of acted accordingly. She just went through the motions, tried to get through school, and this layer of anger just seethed inside of her and exploded a couple of times. The dynamics at her school were awful, and that’s even after her rapist was gone and no longer a part of her social circle or school at all. Still, she was the liar, the girl who was always making stuff up, the girl who couldn’t say anything and be believed. 

I think the synopsis is a little misleading and I think some people expected Romy’s rapist to have more of a part in the book and for there to be more of a plot. I know I assumed someone else would be raped and then Romy would have to report hers or something to that effect and the book didn’t really go in that direction. I think for some, it could be disappointing, but I think I actually like the fact that the book was the way it was. It felt real, like the author wasn’t writing just to tug at my emotions or make grand points about rape or rape culture or anything like that. She did do all of those things, but in a way that felt honest and less contrived. It didn’t feel like she included this neat little plot wrapped in a bow like a lot of books involving issues. 

Romy felt so haunted in a lot of ways, but sometimes she’d make this remark that would sound awful, but it was kind of true at the same time. When her coworker’s sister was pregnant and didn’t know the sex of the baby, Romy’s immediate thought was I hope it’s not a girl. Which seems so awful and pessimistic, but it’s a valid thought. There was also this quote about how you can’t put a perfect golden girl in front of guys and expect them to behave and that really hit me hard, too. In a place where the sheriff’s son is untouchable, him and his buddies can get away with anything. She even mentioned how awful it was that we live in a world where we can’t accept a drink when we don’t know where it came from. It was those types of moments that made me stop and realize that even though Romy was being overly dark or pessimistic, she wasn’t really wrong and that’s the problem. 

I highly recommend All the Rage. My only advice is to expect less of a linear story that has a direct conflict or plot the way the synopsis describes and expect more of a book that deals with the aftermath internally.

Star 4

Review – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

By Mark Haddon

SummaryChristopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow.


Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, for fifteen-year-old Christopher everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning. He lives on patterns, rules, and a diagram kept in his pocket. Then one day, a neighbor’s dog, Wellington, is killed and his carefully constructive universe is threatened. Christopher sets out to solve the murder in the style of his favourite (logical) detective, Sherlock Holmes. What follows makes for a novel that is funny, poignant and fascinating in its portrayal of a person whose curse and blessing are a mind that perceives the world entirely literally.

Source: My grandmother mailed me a paperback

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Review:

This book was on my TBR to complete a prompt for the 2017 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge for a character with a disability. I don’t know that I would have picked it up so early in the year had my grandmother, an avid reader herself, happened to mention that she read it and mailed me a copy to read so we could talk about it. 

I really enjoyed the book. It was written from the point of view of Christopher, a boy with some form of autism, who discovered a neighbor’s dead dog and proceeded to write a book for school about it because he liked solving mysteries. The premise was simple, but I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was all the rage at one point, which often makes me avoid a book, especially if I’m concerned it will be overly emotional or something. I’m weird in that regard, but I’m glad I finally picked it up.

The book has a lot of mixed reviews and I think that’s largely due to expectations and the strange narration. Christopher, being a unique person with quirks and very literal thinking, was a different sort of narrator. It was like being in the head of Rain Man or something similar, because he didn’t understand facial expressions or figures of speech and avoided yellow and determined good days based on seeing so many red cars in row on the way to school. Some readers will find the narration difficult to get through because it feels childish at times, but I enjoyed the effort and it felt like I was really seeing things from an autistic boy’s point of view and not like an awful attempt at being unique on the author’s part. 

I won’t give anything away because I enjoyed having no idea where the story would go, but it was well worth the read. It was rather quick to get through because the writing was so straightforward and the book itself was short. I liked the perspective, I felt for Christopher and better understood his parents as the story went on. I definitely recommend the book if you’re looking for something different. 

Star 4

Review – The Problem With Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout

 

The Problem With Forever

By Jennifer L. Armentrout

SummaryHeartbreakingly real…a remarkable novel about the power of first love and the courage it takes to face your fears.” —Kami Garcia, #1 New York Times bestselling author

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout comes a riveting story about friendship, survival and finding your voice.

Growing up, Mallory Dodge learned that the best way to survive was to say nothing. And even though it’s been four years since her nightmare ended, she’s beginning to worry that the fear that holds her back will last a lifetime. Now, after years of homeschooling, Mallory must face a new milestone—spending her senior year at a public high school. But she never imagined she’d run into Rider Stark, the friend and protector she hasn’t seen since childhood, on her very first day.It doesn’t take long for Mallory to realize that the connection she shared with Rider never really faded. Yet soon it becomes apparent that she’s not the only one grappling with lingering scars from the past. And as she watches Rider’s life spiral out of control, Mallory must make a choice between staying silent and speaking out—for the people she loves, the life she wants and the truths that need to be heard.

Source: I purchased a kindle copy.

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Review:

The Problem with Forever was another gem from Jennifer L. Armentrout! I typically love most of her books with the exception of a few, so I grabbed this when it went on sale on Amazon. I picked it up when I was in the mood for a nice contemporary romance with a little bit of grit and it did not disappoint.

The book was similar to the Pushing the Limits series by Katie McGarry as far as dealing with damaged youth, broken homes, and characters a little more rough around the edges. Like McGarry, Armentrout handled it well, made the characters believable, and did not rely on tropes and stereotypes to get her points across. I really felt like I knew Mallory and Rider and that they were realistic characters. It also felt original, despite McGarry having a few stories in her series involving the same kind of characters. This story felt similar in theme, but I didn’t feel like I was reading something that had “been done before” or anything. 

I loved seeing Mallory grow as a character from the meek Mouse stuck in the past to someone who could argue an entire paragraph when she felt confident or passionate enough. I loved that the love interest, while still maintaining the whole tough and brooding persona was genuinely caring. I sometimes think we don’t see the softer side of guys in YA romance without losing the whole alpha male protector aspect. Armentrout gave us a character who was both in a way that really worked. 

I flew through the book in just a matter of hours over a snowy Saturday! I highly recommend it. I don’t know that I’ve read any similar books by the same author. She writes YA and paranormal/fantasy romance under Jennifer, but also New Adult contemporary romance under J. Lynn. This book, while contemporary, felt completely different from her J. Lynn books. I don’t know how she does it, but she keeps pumping out some quality stuff!

Star 4

Review – What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick

What I Thought Was True

By Huntley Fitzpatrick

SummaryFrom the acclaimed author of My Life Next Door comes a swoony summertime romance full of expectation and regret, humor and hard questions.

Gwen Castle has never so badly wanted to say good-bye to her island home till now: the summer her Biggest Mistake Ever, Cassidy Somers, takes a job there as the local yard boy. He’s a rich kid from across the bridge in Stony Bay, and she hails from a family of fishermen and housecleaners who keep the island’s summer people happy. Gwen worries a life of cleaning houses will be her fate too, but just when it looks like she’ll never escape her past—or the island—Gwen’s dad gives her some shocking advice. Sparks fly and secret histories unspool as Gwen spends a gorgeous, restless summer struggling to resolve what she thought was true—about the place she lives, the people she loves, and even herself—with what really is.

A magnetic, push-you-pull-me romance with depth, this is for fans of Sarah Dessen, Jenny Han, and Deb Caletti.

Source: I received a paperback in a Yureka Book box

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Review:

I never reviewed this book when I read it last year, so this review is based on memory and I’m not writing it immediately after finishing the book like I normally do. 

 What I Thought Was True was a contemporary romance set in New England on an island where class and income level separate people. Gwen wasn’t wealthy and took on various jobs over the summer. Cassidy, a rich guy she knew, seemed to be taking on odd jobs on the island, too, and their paths kept crossing.

It was your typically rich guy and poor girl contemporary romance, but I really enjoyed it. I loved the push and pull and I liked getting to know Gwen. She was a character that I remember, even though it’s been months since I read the book. She was strong and sassy. She cared about her family. She protected those she loved. And I really liked Cassidy, the uber rich boy who maybe wasn’t as stuck up as she thought, who wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty, and didn’t care if she was from the “other side of the tracks’ or anything.

This was a warm and fuzzy contemporary romance I recommend. 

Star 4

Review – Sad Perfect by Stephanie Elliot

 

Sad Perfect

By Stephanie Elliot

Summary: For sixteen-year-old Pea, eating has always been difficult. Some people might call her a picky eater, but she knows it’s more than that, and it’s getting worse. And now there’s a monster raging inside of her, one that controls more than just her eating disorder. The monster is growing, and causing anxiety, depression, and dangerous thoughts. When Pea meets Ben and they fall crazy-mad in love, she tries to keep the monster hidden. But the monster wants out, and as much as she tries, she can’t pretend that the bad in her doesn’t exist. Unable to control herself, a chain of events thrusts Pea into a situation she never imagined she’d find herself in. With the help of Ben, her family, and her best friend, Pea must find the inner strength to understand that her eating disorder doesn’t have to control her.

Source: I received a hardcover in exchange for an honest review as part of a blog tour.

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Review:

Sad Perfect was spectacular, emotional, and completely addicting. 

I sat down to read it one evening, fretting a little about the deadline because the book came later than expected due to some snow in my area and I don’t like deadlines. However, I didn’t need to worry because I devoured the whole thing in one sitting. I didn’t even have time to grab a bookmark. Everything I needed to do I was going to do “after this chapter” and I just kept going until the book was over. It was that engrossing.

My favorite thing about the book was that it was a contemporary romance and a contemporary “issue” novel at the same time without being too much of either one. It was perfectly balanced. It was hard hitting in terms of the issue it dealt with, but it wasn’t a dark and torture-filled novel that makes you want to either crawl into ball of negativity or roll your eyes at the dramatics. And it was definitely a romance between Pea and Ben, full of the sweet moments I love in a good YA contemporary romance, but it wasn’t just a fluffy and cute contemporary romance, either. I loved the balance and how the book wasn’t inherently dark or, the opposite: light with the main issue totally glossed over. Ben didn’t waltz in and save her from her demons magically, but he wasn’t a dark and negative influence either, and I feel like either situation could’ve happened in an “issue” book. Sad Perfect was balanced in a great way, as the title kind of makes it seem.

The book was written in second person, which could be off putting to some but I think it worked very well. Second person is not a popular POV, nor one that you’d typically expect. It made me a bit apprehensive at first, but I think it only took a couple of paragraphs to get into the groove. I think second person narration works when it’s executed well and the author certainly did a wonderful job. The POV sucked me in and might even have had something to do with how compelling the story ended up being in the end. In some ways, it was even more engrossing than first person POV. The book was tough to put down: so tough that I didn’t even actually successfully put it down. I tried once to go do the dishes and then decided I could just read another chapter and we all know how that went… I read all of the chapters!

I highly recommend Sad Perfect

For contemporary romance fans, it’s satisfying and full of those amazing moments and interactions between two people who are so connected and in sync with one another. 

For fans of books dealing with major disorders or teen struggles, the book does a great job of taking you through what it’s like to deal with a disorder. 

It was educational. I didn’t know that there was an eating disorder that wasn’t somehow connected to body image. I also admit that I totally judge people for being picky eaters and I got schooled about a real problem I never knew about. I’d heard of people not liking textures, especially in the autism spectrum, but this disorder, ARFID, was something I’d never heard of. I felt that it was introduced and described in a way that was easy to understand and I felt like I was getting a firsthand account of what it was like to live with it through Pea. 

On top of the actual disorder, Pea also dealt with a couple other issues, some related to the disorder and some just a part of being a normal teen. Because of her weird eating habits, the family dynamics were also impacted. I enjoyed exploring all of that through the book. Even if you aren’t struggling with anything in particular or looking for a book to explore a specific topic, it was also a book about a teenager dealing with parents and siblings, rumors, social media, friends, and new love. 

Sad Perfect is the kind of YA contemporary that works for everyone, no matter what aspect of contemporary novels draw you in. 

I cannot gush enough about how much I enjoyed Sad Perfect. I sat down and opened the book just expecting to get a feel for what the book would be like and figure out if I could meet my reading deadline and if it was something I’d like and.. next thing I knew I was finished reading and totally amazed. I love when a book makes me lose myself a little bit and get sucked into the pages. 

I feel lucky and honored to have gotten an early copy (in hardcover, even!) because I would’ve bought the book (it was on my radar already) and then probably let it sit for ages because that’s who I am as a person these days with a never ending TBR. The blog tour forced me to pick it up the day it arrived in the mail and I loved it. I needed a book to sweep me out of my life for a few hours. It came at the perfect time and it was so good. Buy this book! Do not let it sit on your bookshelf. It’s a quick and engrossing book that you won’t regret picking up.

 

Star 5 

———————-

 

About Stephanie Elliot

A Florida native, Stephanie has lived near Chicago and Philadelphia and currently calls Scottsdale, Arizona home. She graduated from Northern Illinois University, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. Stephanie and her husband Scott have three children: AJ, McKaelen and Luke. They are all her favorites.

A Note From the Author

I wrote SAD PERFECT when my daughter was going through a 20-week intensive outpatient therapy program for her eating disorder ARFID, Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder. This disorder greatly affected every member in our family and caused my daughter to have extreme anxiety and depression. It is our hope that if you are struggling with an eating disorder, anxiety, or depression, that you know you are not alone, that there is help out there, that all you need to do is ask. We have set up a website for those who think they might have ARFID, and my daughter has a YouTube channel where she talks openly about her experience. While SAD PERFECT is fiction, all of the ARFID pieces in the novel are true. Please visit my website, stephanieelliot.com or stephanieelliot.wixsite.com/ARFID for more information on ARFID. Thank you, and be well.


Review – Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

 

Dumplin’

By Julie Murphy

SummarySelf-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.

Source: I received this book in the September 2015 Owlcrate

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Review:

This book has sat on my shelf for a year and a half. I participated in the Owlcrate-athon last month and one of the mini challenges was to read the Owlcrate book you’ve had on your shelf the longest. I received Dumplin in my very first Owlcrate and it has sat on my shelf ever since.

Let me start by saying that I think there should be way more body positivity in literature. I think it’s important for readers to connect with characters and that means there should be a variety of main characters and I support diversity in all aspects. I cannot emphasize that enough. With that being said, the few books that have been hyped as having a “fat” heroine have not worked for me. I feel like a lot of times when I’m reading, I have no idea whether the main character in a story is fat or skinny in most books. Seriously. And I think maybe it’s assumed that they are skinny if the author doesn’t specifically mention they are fat. But I read a lot of books and many of them have main characters who are not confident in their own skin and I think any person who feels like that can identify no matter what the specific issue is and I like that about books. When I read books with specific fat girls who are supposed to be a breath of fresh air in a world of skinny literature, I typically pick up a book riddled with the opposite of body positivity. It’s more about their looks than it is about anything else and I just don’t get it. If there ARE going to be books about growing some confidence, I certainly hope they take a specific issue and make it positive instead of being more awful than the stereotype they are trying to fight against.

So I went into Dumplin with a ton of reservations and wariness.

I’m on the fence about whether I liked it. I don’t feel like Dumplin was all that amazing in terms of making readers feel confident or promoting body positivity in general. I felt like everything came down to weight and the confident heroine wasn’t at all confident. I honestly think I would’ve rather read the same book from Millie’s point of view because she didn’t seem to be as negative or judgmental about the way other people looked. Willowdean was just as bad as the rest of society because she judged people all of the time for everything. It was almost as if she felt that, as a fat person, she had the upper hand and could look down on the rest of the world AND also judge her fellow ugly people because she was one of them. It was kind of awful. I think her feelings about herself could have been conveyed in a way that didn’t put other people down. We all feel self conscious, that doesn’t give us a right to judge other people more harshly in return.

At the same time, I think it’s unrealistic to expect a contemporary book about the issue of weight to ignore the fact that teenagers are awful and judgmental. Of course, as a teen girl, Will was going to be hyper aware of looks and social status and judge people. It’s what teen girls and boys do. And of course, while being judgmental, she would simultaneously be insecure while projecting false confidence. That is also what teenagers do. So I applaud the book for not trying to be some rainbow and fairy dust covered contemporary that makes us all better. Also, I think it did hit the point that we are our own worst critics and whatever we are worried about, we judge and notice in others as well. I know that as an awkward person, sometimes I get snotty about people who seem really comfortable in a new place and I realize that it’s not fair to the person I’m judging or to myself to do that. So Will’s awfulness has a point and it certainly does add to story, even if having that takes away from the whole positive message.

I can’t help but be torn. I liked the book and I felt like it did a good job of being realistic while attempting to be about learning to be comfortable in your own skin. By the end of the book, Will was better. She learned her lesson, stopped being so concerned about looks and how other people looked/were in comparison and I think that’s the point. It’s just that we had to watch Willowdean learn that lesson and she was quite awful about it. I’m just not sure if it helps or hurts the issue. 

Star 3