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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

Review – The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

 

The Geography of You and Me

By Jennifer E. Smith

SummaryLucy and Owen meet somewhere between the tenth and eleventh floors of a New York City apartment building, on an elevator rendered useless by a citywide blackout. After they’re rescued, they spend a single night together, wandering the darkened streets and marveling at the rare appearance of stars above Manhattan. But once the power is restored, so is reality. Lucy soon moves to Edinburgh with her parents, while Owen heads out west with his father.

Lucy and Owen’s relationship plays out across the globe as they stay in touch through postcards, occasional e-mails, and—finally—a reunion in the city where they first met.

A carefully charted map of a long-distance relationship, Jennifer E. Smith’s new novel shows that the center of the world isn’t necessarily a place. It can be a person, too.

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Source: I purchased a paperback.

Review:

I really enjoyed the author’s other book, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, so I figured I’d pick up another promising contemporary romance from her. 

If I’m being perfectly honest, I feel like this book was kind of a waste of time. I loved the beginning and how Lucy and Owen met and explored New York during the black out. It was one of those chance moments. But I expected the book to spend more time on their evening in New York, so I was surprised it was over within just a few pages. So then after I realized both characters were going in separate directions, I thought we’d have this awesome postcard long distance relationship. 

But the book didn’t contain a long distance relationship or even a meaningful sort of correspondence. 

I mean, I suppose the way it ended worked out and the idea that they sent postcards to each other was cute, but it just fell really flat and seemed so anticlimactic. I don’t feel like i really knew the characters or even rooted for them as a couple. I just feel like I wasted my time. Maybe I’m just grumpy but that was not at all what I expected from or wanted from the story. It lacked any sort of depth.

I think it’s best to skip this one.

Star 2

Review – It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

 

It Ends With Us

By Colleen Hoover

SummarySOMETIMES THE ONE WHO LOVES YOU IS THE ONE WHO HURTS YOU THE MOST

Lily hasn’t always had it easy, but that’s never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She’s come a long way from the small town in Maine where she grew up – she graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started her own business. So when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily’s life suddenly seems almost too good to be true.

Ryle is assertive, stubborn, and maybe even a little arrogant. He’s also sensitive, brilliant, and has a total soft spot for Lily, but Ryle’s complete aversion to relationships is disturbing.

As questions about her new relationship overwhelm her, so do thoughts of Atlas Corrigan – her first love and a link to the past she left behind. He was her kindred spirit, her protector. When Atlas suddenly reappears, everything Lily has built with Ryle is threatened.

With this bold and deeply personal novel, Colleen Hoover delivers a heart-wrenching story that breaks exciting new ground for her as a writer. It Ends With Us is an unforgettable tale of love that comes at the ultimate price.

This book contains graphic scenes and very sensitive subject matter.

Source: I purchased a Kindle copy.

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Review:

Most of Colleen Hoover’s books are romances that destroy me in a good way. Some of them do have points to make on top of being amazing romances. It Ends With Us is not the same.

It Ends With Us was really good. I highly recommend it, especially if you’re a fan of her other books. She wrote engaging and deep characters you can’t help but care about, like she does in all her other books. She gave me a romance I wanted to root for and a situation destined to explode in everyone’s face somehow, which is also kind of normal for her books. 

The book is very difficult to read, so if you’re sensitive to abuse of any kind, you should not read this book.

The rest of my review, though kind of vague, is still very much a spoiler for anyone who wants to go into the book expecting a Colleen Hoover book and I think it will be different if you read it and you know more about what will happen. I think the book is best read without knowing what it’s about. 

———-

The book dealt with domestic violence and that has impacted the reviews it has. A lot of the negative reviews seem to be from some people who didn’t see it through to the end OR people who wanted a different end. Both opinions are, to me, why this book needs to exist.. at least for people who haven’t been through it themselves.

Domestic violence is something NO ONE should put up with. It’s clear that someone being abused needs to leave… in theory. It is much murkier for the people involved. It’s easy to sit there and judge someone for not leaving when they are being abused when you’ve never dealt with it. I know that because I’ve felt that way. But you don’t know what you don’t know or haven’t been through and the great thing about literature is that it can take you somewhere you’ve never been and that is what It Ends With Us does. It is hard to read about someone who puts up with bits of abuse and not want to tear your hair out. If you want to put the book down and pretend like you know what it’s about, do that. It’s easier on your emotions. It’s a lot harder to keep reading and really put yourself in the person’s shoes. You don’t know how it will end and the title honestly doesn’t help. I wish everyone who DNFed it because they didn’t want to see a character make excuses would have just given it a few more chapters. This wasn’t a book romanticizing abuse. It was a book about abuse and the strength it takes to walk away.

There were times when I was reading it where I thought about how much I wanted to go back to the previous page and just change what happened. I wanted to also give excuses or reasoning. If I wanted to do that for a couple of fictional characters, I can’t even imagine how badly I’d want to do that in real life and THAT is the point of the book. It’s hard to do what needs to be done.

On other hand, there are also negative reviews from people who didn’t like seeing a character walk away from her abusive partner when he was so willing to change. The book exists for those people, too, even if they maybe missed the point a bit. It’s hard to do what needs to be done. It’s easy to just keep seeing something through, hope for change, and believe that love will all work out. Maybe he would change. But what if he didn’t? What happens if/when your child watches you just see it through, just deal with this incident, just clean up the pieces of the glass Dad broke before he he gets mad again, just hope for a better future? People can change… but sometimes they stay the same. What are you willing to risk? What will you put up with?

I really don’t mean to go into this review trashing any opinions if they didn’t like the book because they are completely entitled to hate it, but I feel passionate about this book and why it’s so good because it actually impacted my opinion. I am one of those tough no-one-will-ever-put-their-hands-on-me type of people. OF COURSE you should leave. But the author manipulated the situation for me. I didn’t read the synopsis or anything. I thought I was reading a romance and I wanted so badly to pretend like he wasn’t displaying signs of someone who might snap at any moment. I wasn’t sure what awful thing would happen and then it happened and it crushed me. I wanted to make excuses with the main character after the minor incidents. It was just an accident. Right? It put me into a situation I’ve never been in and it was really easy to see why someone might stay when everything else was so good. It was a constant test of willpower to leave someone you love who loves you. I get it now. I did not quite get it before because I’ve just never been able to put myself in those shoes. Now I have. 

It Ends With Us was a powerful book. I definitely recommend it for anyone who thinks it’s easy to walk away from domestic violence. For people like me (the me I was before this book), who hear about how hard it is to leave, but can’t really empathize and can’t really understand why anyone would stay in an awful situation or even let themselves get into in the first place. People display tendencies well before you’re stuck with them, right? This book is for them. If you’ve dealt with domestic violence, it might not be so good because you might view her as being really weak and it might anger you. I can totally see that. This book is much better for anyone who maybe just never really got domestic violence and thinks leaving would be easy or thinks it’s worth seeing it through because people can change. 

Star 5 

Review – The FIll-In Boyfriend by Kasie West

 

The Fill-In Boyfriend

By Kasie West

SummaryWhen Gia Montgomery’s boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she has to think fast. After all, she’d been telling her friends about him for months now. This was supposed to be the night she proved he existed. So when she sees a cute guy waiting to pick up his sister, she enlists his help. The task is simple: be her fill-in boyfriend— two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies. After that, she can win back the real Bradley.

The problem is that days after prom, it’s not the real Bradley she’s thinking about, but the stand-in. The one whose name she doesn’t even know. But tracking him down doesn’t mean they’re done faking a relationship. Gia owes him a favor and his sister intends to see that he collects: his ex-girlfriend’s graduation party — three hours, zero commitment, a few white lies.

Just when Gia begins to wonder if she could turn her fake boyfriend into a real one, Bradley comes waltzing back into her life, exposing her lie, and threatening to destroy her friendships and her new-found relationship.

Source: I purchased a Kindle copy.

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Review:

I absolutely love Kasie West novels, especially her contemporary books. She always delivers a story that immediately hooks me and gives me characters I just can’t get enough of. While her books are quite short and I fly through them within a day or so, I still feel like the character building is well done. I always care about her characters, even the side ones, and I am fully invested in the story. This book was just as good as her other contemporaries that I love so much. 

In The Fill-In Boyfriend, Gia’s boyfriend broke up with her before walking into her prom with her. Her group of friends had another girl vying for alpha position and constantly grilled Gia about her boyfriend, making her feel like she made him up. So how could she face prom without him? When she spotted a cute boy sitting in a car in the same parking lot, she struck a deal and he became Bradley for the night. Good thing he was super good at acting.

I loved the set up. Gia was a kind of aloof and somewhat selfish person, worried about what everyone thought, which was exactly what got her in to the mess in the first place. But her spontaneous team up with Fill-In Bradley opened her eyes to a lot of things and made her take a second look at how she treated people. I love when books tackle the subject because it’s so relevant to a lot of teen girls, but even to people in general. I focus so much on how I feel about a situation that I often fail to realize that my nervousness looks like resting bitch face and maybe the vibe I’m throwing out is alienating people. Do I take the time to appreciate people around me or do something nice for people? We all need the reminder and Gia definitely did.

The interesting fake dating turned friendship between Gia and Fill-In Bradley was so much fun. I loved watching it unfold. He was cute in a quirky and charming sort of way and he made Gia so much more real as a result. His sister, though difficult at first, ended up being one of my favorite characters in the book! I enjoyed the interactions between the characters and their families and I was sad to finish the book so quickly, but it was exactly what I needed to get me out of this weird “I don’t feel like reading anything on my shelf” rut that I was in. Kasie West is my go-to for YA contemporary novels and I just can’t get enough.

Star 4

Review – The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

The Rest of Us Just Live Here

By Patrick Ness

SummaryA new YA novel from novelist Patrick Ness, author of the Carnegie Medal- and Kate Greenaway Medal-winning A Monster Calls and the critically acclaimed Chaos Walking trilogy, The Rest of Us Just Live Here is a bold and irreverent novel that powerfully reminds us that there are many different types of remarkable.

What if you aren’t the Chosen One? The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.
Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

I have mixed feelings about this book. It was such a great idea and I loved so many aspects of the story, but the actual reading of it was kind of dull and I didn’t truly connect with the characters. 

The book is a weird contemporary that includes the existence of the supernatural in order to make a point. The book is titled The Rest of Us Just Live Here and it’s about being just a normal person who isn’t the next hero in any tale, who doesn’t care to be, and just wants to get through life as easily and normally as he can. The chapter headings contain the supernatural tales of the “indie kids” who battle the supernatural forces to save the day, while the rest of the chapters focus on Mikey and his merry band of friends as they struggle to survive the normal battles, like awful parents, disorders, hormones, and car accidents.

It’s so hard to rate the book because it’s so freaking brilliant. The author makes such great points about what it’s like being an average person in a world full of superheroes, whether it’s just the movies or books we read or the people we look up to or in the case of the character in the book, the indie kids actually saving the day every time you turn around. And it pokes fun at the heroes in today’s books with their weird names and how teenagers saving the world is so normal (because it totally is in all the YA novels, where the fate of the world is in the hands of one girl named Satchel or something). I loved how brilliantly funny it was, while also talking about something real at the same time.

While I appreciated those aspects, the actual plot wasn’t as awesome as I’d hoped. Honestly, and I hate to say this, it felt like Mikey was just another Charlie from The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Jared was Patrick and the rest of the group could totally be matched with other Perks characters and it would’ve fit just perfectly. And while I love The Perks of Being a Wallflower and similar books, The Rest of Us Just Live Here didn’t really bring a whole lot more to the contemporary YA table aside from some nice points about the rest of YA and a message some of us need to hear sometimes. And I think the book didn’t put as much effort into building the actual characters like some of it’s YA counterparts and that’s where it ultimately failed. I cared about Charlie in Perks more than I ever did about Mikey. 

Your enjoyment of the book mostly relies on how much you need a book like this and how closely it relates to your life. If you need the reminder that you don’t have to be the Chosen One to live a fulfilling life, your friends will pick you up and they care about you as much as you care about them, and you have a lot to offer the world, then please read this book. Because you’ll love it and you’ll really walk away from it feeling like you should. You do matter. But if you picked up the book without necessarily needing to hear that, it likely won’t really resonate with you because you can’t escape into the characters like other amazing YA type of message/coming of age novels. The world and character building are lacking in this book, so unless you personally relate or need the message and will find ways to relate because of that, it falls flat. 

The Rest of Us Just Live Here was short enough to be enjoyable, but it was kind of disappointing despite the genius of the whole book. I appreciate it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not without its flaws. I’m rating it three stars. As I said before, if you need a book like this to remind you that you matter, it’s a must read. But if you’re not in that kind of place right now, as a story itself, it’s just not all that great aside from the brilliant parts. The chapter headers will totally make you laugh out loud if you’ve been exposed to much YA fantasy, though, so it’s worth it just to read through that and how much the author totally pokes fun at it all. 

Star 3

 

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