Wednesday, September 28, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Someone I Wanted To Be by Aurelia Willis

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Leah Lobermier dreams of becoming a doctor, but it’s hard to stay focused on getting good grades when boys make oinking sounds at her in school and her mother spends every night on the couch with a bottle of wine. Leah’s skinny and popular “friends," Kristy and Corinne, aren’t much better and can hardly be counted on for support. When the girls convince a handsome older man to buy them beer, Leah takes his phone number and calls him, pretending to be Kristy—coy and confident—and they develop a relationship, talking and texting day after day. But as the lie she created grows beyond her control, can Leah put a stop to things before she—or Kristy—is seriously hurt?

Okay, so where do I start with this one? I could kind of relate to the main character with this one and not in a "she is so much like me that I am annoyed by her" way. I did feel for her. Leah is overweight and deals with insults from everyone at school (including her so-called friends) and she has to deal with being poor and having an alcoholic mother. She dreams of being as pretty and as thin as her "friend," Kristy (notice my quotations around the word friend, we'll get to that in a minute). When her and her friends meet this creepy looking guy in his late twenties, they all thought he was so cute (gag me) and Leah gets his number and calls him, pretending to be Kristy. That is supposed to be the main premise, but the author kind of danced around those conversations. I have no idea what they talked about; the author kind of skipped around those parts. 

Let's talk about Kristy. God, Kristy is such a mean girl and she just sucks. She calls Leah names and Leah hates her, but she still insists on being friends with her. I just didn't get it. And when she meets a new girl (Anita) who is super interesting and actually a good person, Leah abandons her pretty quickly when Kristy is around. Oh, and Kristy's mom is dying of cancer so it's totally cool that she treats everyone like crap. And everyone has to put up with it because if you abandon your friend whose mom is dying, you are evil. I don't even care. If that were me, there is NO WAY I would ever be friends with Kristy, regardless of what's going on with her mom. Kristy is just not a good person.

The whole book was just boring and annoying because of all the mean people. And Leah didn't help matters because she just made all the wrong decisions. I know I shouldn't totally hate her for that because she's young and all that, but I do. And I'm not even sure what the point of the book was or what the message was supposed to be. Was Leah supposed to realize she was great regardless of her weight? Was she supposed to stand up for herself and realize who her real friends were? Was she supposed to stand up to her mother? Or learn to deal with her mother? None of those things actually happened so what was the point. I didn't like any of the characters or their decisions. Actually, I did like the secondary characters, Anita and Carl, but they weren't shown nearly enough. And towards the end of the book, I skimmed certain sections and I was ready to be done with it. After the book, I felt very unsatisfied and I'm not even sure I can say why. Maybe it was because there were so many storylines and so many issues that were talked about and I didn't feel great about the resolution to any of them. I would not recommend this book.

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Skip this one!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday - Books I Really Want To Read This Fall

This is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. They feature a different top ten list every week. This week's topic is my TBR for the Fall.

Ahhh . . . . so many books!! Seriously, I am way behind in books on my TBR. Between ARCs and beta reading, I feel like all the unread books that I own are giving me the stink eye for ignoring them. The good news is that I have gotten my reading mojo back or whatever so I actually feel like reading again. For this list, I am not really counting my ARCs or all the many, many books coming out in the next few months that I really want to read. No, all of the books on this list are ones I already own and hope to get to at some point in the distant future.
1. 1. The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

2. Little Cyclone: The Girl who started the Comet Line by Airey Neave

3. Raging Sea (Undertow #2) by Michael Buckley

4. Shiny, Broken Pieces (Tiny, Pretty Things #2) by Sona Charaipotra

5. How It Went Down by Kekia Magoon

6. The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

7. The Lies About Truth by Courtney C. Stevens

8. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

9. Don't Touch by Rachel M. Wilson

10. Down With The Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn

11. The Year of the Flood (MaddAddam #2) by Margaret Atwood

12. MaddAdam (MaddAdam #3) by Margaret Atwood 

What books are on your TBR for this Fall? Have any of you been neglecting to read books you own . . . or is it just me?

Thursday, September 22, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. The scheduled publication date for this book is October 4, 2016. 

Sloane isn't expecting to fall in with a group of friends when she moves from New York to Florida—especially not a group of friends so intense, so in love, so all-consuming. Yet that's exactly what happens. Sloane becomes closest to Vera, a social-media star who lights up any room, and Gabe, Vera's twin brother and the most serious person Sloane's ever met. When a beloved painting by the twins' late mother goes missing, Sloane takes on the responsibility of tracking it down, a journey that takes her across state lines—and ever deeper into the twins' lives.

I had never read this author before, but apparently I am missing out. If this book is any indication of this author's talent, then I must read her other books ASAP. 

Emma created some amazing characters with some awesome friendships. Sloane's family just moved to Florida because of her dad's writing block. She has always been a bit of a loner so it is a but of a surprise when she becomes friends with Vera and Vera's brother Gabe and Remy. All of the characters were so well developed and so relatable. There is some flirtation going on between Sloane and Gabe, but it is slow burn and I loved it. Another thing I loved was all the witty banter and all the humor. Sloane is sarcastic, which I love. Some of the conversations actually made me laugh out loud and it's not often that a book does that. One of the best things was how they handled Vera's sexuality. She was gay and had a girlfriend, but guess what? NO ONE CARED! Yep, that's right. Not a single person cared at all. There was no drama over her being gay, no bullies, nothing. Just a girl and her girlfriend. 

But the best, and I mean absolute BEST things about this book was the focus on FRIENDSHIP and FAMILY! Yes, there was a little romance between Sloane and Gabe but the main storyline was about friends and family. And everyone had a normal and loving and supportive family. Sloane's family was going through stuff with her dad's writer's block and it was obviously starting to affect Sloane's parent's marriage, but there was no neglect or anything. Sloane's dad was right there helping her and spending time with her and I loved it. And can I say how adorable Sloane's sister was? Their relationship was pretty special too.

The only thing that maybe prevented this book from being totally awesome was that the author tried to do too much, I think. There were a lot of storylines. There was Sloane and Remy trying to track down the painting, Vera and Gabe still grieving over the death of their mother, Sloane and Gabe's romance, Remy feeling lovesick over his ex girlfriend and trying to figure out why she broke it off, her dad's writer's block and then of course, there was Sloane's problem of not really letting people get too close to her. It was all too much and I think a few of the issues maybe got resolved too quickly because there wasn't enough time for the author to give all the issues enough attention.

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Buy this one. This was a great book and I would highly recommend it!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Wrecked by Maria Padian

I received an ARC from both NetGalley and Edelweiss in exchange for my honest review. The scheduled publication date for this book is October 4, 2016.

Everyone has heard a different version of what happened that night at MacCallum College. Haley was already in bed when her roommate, Jenny, arrived home shell-shocked from the wild Conundrum House party. Richard heard his housemate Jordan brag about the cute freshman he hooked up with. When Jenny formally accuses Jordan of rape, Haley and Richard find themselves pushed onto opposite sides of the school’s investigation. But conflicting interests fueling conflicting versions of the story may make bringing the truth to light nearly impossible--especially when reputations, relationships, and whole futures are riding on the verdict.

I have read a lot of books on sexual assault. I think each one is important in its own way. While this one may not be one of my favorites, I still thought it was powerful and a very important read. What made this book a bit more interesting is that we never get the POV of the rape victim. No, this is about the people surrounding both the victim and the rapist and how muddled the truth can get and how there can be more than two sides to a story.

First, we meet Haley. Haley has just been removed from the college soccer team because she suffered her third concussion and it's too risky for her to play anymore. She is also roommates with Jenny, the rape victim. Haley and Jenny really don't interact much prior to the rape. Haley spent most her time with her teammates and Jenny is a premed student, so she is always at the library. Haley doesn't hesitate to offer her support when she finds out what happened to Jenny and she quickly gets sucked in, maybe more than she wanted to. 

Then there is Richard. Richard was not even at the party where Jenny was raped, but he is housemates with Jordan, the guy accused. Okay, Richard was a hard guy to like at times, but I think I sympathized with him. Jordan tells him that he and Jenny had consensual sex and I can see why it would be hard to believe that someone you think you know is a rapist. Richard makes some off color jokes at times, but he said something once that really made me think. He said that since he wasn't at the party or in the room with Jenny and Jordan, no one except the two of them can say for certain what happened. Richard says that it's hard to determine whether Jordan is lying to him or himself or whether he's telling the truth, but that's what the investigation is for and he's not a bad guy because he doesn't necessarily want to take sides and because he wants to let them do their job. I kind of get where he is coming from with that. I mean, I am all for believing the victim 100%. I just think that if a male friend of mine were accused of something so heinous, it would be hard for me to automatically think he's a rapist. Does that even make sense? 

Richard and Haley meet and start up a romance. I probably could have done without that part, but I guess it did make for an added level of drama. And they did have nice chemistry together. But they are on opposite sides of this whole thing. This book did a great job of talking about consent and what it means and they showed the ugly side that can come from rape accusations, manly victim blaming. There was a lot of victim blaming here and it turns my stomach. Richard even made a couple of comments like that and I was glad that Haley put him in his place. I do think there was some character development there though so that was good. 

Now in between the Haley and Richard chapters, there were also snippets of what happened the night of the party. It was kind of an objective, third party account as opposed to being told from the POV of the victim or the rapist. These snippets give us the truth, a little bit at a time. 

I loved the main characters and all the secondary characters as well. There were so many viewpoints in this book and I could see everyone's side in this. This author did a great job of showing the emotions that come about after a rape, not just with the victim, but with the people surrounding both the victim and the rapist. This book will make you think and it will make you angry, but it is such an important one to read. 

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Buy this one.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Lost Stars by Lisa Selin Davis

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. The scheduled publication date for this book is October 4, 2016. 

Before her older sister, Ginny, died, Carrie was a science nerd, obsessively tracking her beloved Vira comet. But now that Ginny is gone, sixteen-year-old Carrie finds herself within the orbit of Ginny’s friends, a close-knit group of seniors who skip school, obsess over bands (not science), and party hard. Fed up with Carrie’s behavior, her father enrolls her in a summer work camp at a local state park. Carrie actually likes the days spent in nature. And when she meets Dean, a guy who likes the real Carrie—astrophysics obsessions and all—she starts to get to the heart of who she is and who she wants to be.

Okay, I kind of tolerated this book for most of it and then it just went downhill. I swear this book was average for most of it and then towards the end, I just became annoyed. So Carrie is upset at the death of her older sister, Ginny. Ginny drank and did drugs and of course, Carrie picked up the role of "rebellious child" after her death. Carrie uses Ginny's death as an excuse to push people away and act selfish and generally just act mean towards everyone. But I guess it's okay that she does that because she's grieving, right? She doesn't even acknowledge the feelings of Ginny's two friends who were actually in the car with her when she died. Nope, Carrie is the only one hurting. 

Carrie's mom left soon after Ginny's death because that's apparently what you do: one kid dies and instead of dealing with it, you leave your other two children alone. Makes sense. Carrie's dad was a hard one. I alternated between liking him and hating him, but then I realized that he was kind of realistic. He stuck around, unlike Carrie's mom and he did the best he could to take care of both Carrie and Rosie (Carrie's sister). He got frustrated with Carrie because she stayed out all night and did drugs and made everyone around her miserable. There were times when I thought he could have reached out a little bit more, but he was doing the best he could. The problem was that Carrie did NOT make it easy. I did like that her father was not willing to give up on her and he was willing to set boundaries with her and he tried his best to discipline her. 

Okay, so there is a reason why I thought this book was a bit better than it was for a majority of the book: there was an interesting twist on the whole "acting like a bitch because I'm sad" thing. The author alluded to the fact that Carrie had been diagnosed by a therapist as having impulse control disorder. That got my attention. How often is THAT mental illness talked about? Never. The way Carrie was out of control and the way she would totally overreact to stuff emotionally seemed to fit with that. And I got the feeling that her issues started before Ginny's death, but they just became so much worse after the fact. I was so interested in how that part of the storyline would play out. 

The problem though was that, aside from that one mention by the shrink, there was no other mention of it. With impulse control disorder, the patient needs therapy and medication. Well Carrie had stopped her therapy and there was no talk of medication. There were times when I wasn't sure if the author was trying to portray Carrie as mentally ill or if she was just throwing a temper tantrum. But the worst part, the absolute worst, was that the author made it seem as if Carrie's relationship with Dean was the answer to her problems. Carrie was desperate for a boyfriend; she got one. And once, Carrie felt herself start to overreact and have a "fit," as she called it. But guess what happened? One conversation with Dean and it was gone. Poof. Just like that. So freaking annoying. And she never had another episode again. Okay, I don't know that for sure, but that's definitely the direction the author was going with it. Sorry, but people who actually have impulse control disorder need a bit more help than a boyfriend can provide. 

Buy/Borrow/Skip: I would just recommend skipping this one.

Monday, September 19, 2016

DISCUSSION: At What Point Do You DNF A Book?

I have zero problem DNF'ing a book. I used to be a hardcover book finisher . . . that is, until my TBR yelled at me for wasting time on books I hated while there are so many other amazing books to be read.

Why yes, my TBR does yell at me periodically. Doesn't yours?
But my question for you DNF-ers (that's a word because I said so): at what point do you give up on a book?
For me, it's usually around the 10% or 15% mark . . . or fifty pages, whatever comes first. But I was recently reading this book and it was so boring. I just wanted to go to sleep every time I picked it up. I thing the only thing that kept me reading was the fact that I thought it would get better. Before I knew it, I was at 70% and my Kindle told me I had a little over an hour of reading time left on it.
Longest. Hour. Ever.
I wanted to DNF it so badly. I went back and forth with myself.

So why did I keep reading? Because I felt like it was way too late to turn back. I was already invested. This was a three hour book (that took me two weeks to read, by the way) and I was at the hour mark. That would be like me running a marathon and then just quitting at the 24 mile marker. (FYI, if you ever see me running then you should run too because someone is probably chasing me.) 
I don't usually feel like a quitter just because I DNF a book, but I would have felt like a quitter with this one because of how much time I had already spent reading it.

So my question is this: at what point do you decide to DNF a book? Is there a "point of no return" when you feel like you have to finish it, no matter what?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: When The Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. The scheduled publication date for this book is October 4, 2016.

To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

This book . . . oh this book. It was beautiful and enchanting and a little confusing and oh, I just loved it so, so much. I was in a bit of a reading slump when I started it so I didn't have very high expectations that it would be able to capture my attention. But I was just sucked in right away with the characters and the writing.

The diversity in this one was awesome. Sam is Pakistani and he is transgender. He was born as a girl and he is trying so hard to live the life he feels he is meant to, as a boy. The problem is that he is in a bit of denial about his gender identity. I guess in Pakistani culture, there is something called bacha posh. Basically, this is when the daughter in a family with no sons decides to live their life as a boy. I looked it up and it's a real thing. Girls do this so they can live their lives with the freedoms that boys have, but then they go back to living life as women once they pass puberty and are approaching marriage. Sam lives his life as a boy and tells himself that he will grow out of it, that it's a phase, that he will feel more like a girl as he grows up. It's so heartbreaking because he is so confused and so lost. I loved his mom in this. His mom was so supportive and she gave him so much freedom and space to determine what it was that Sam wanted. I loved that. There were so many rich elements about Sam's culture and his identity and how his culture helped shape who he was. 

Then there was Miel. Miel suffered a tragedy and was found in the town's water tower. A local woman, Aracely, takes her in and raises her. There are rumors and stories floating around about both Aracely and Miel. Miel has roses growing out of her arm and there are stories about what those roses can supposedly do. Aracely works to remove love sickness from the brokenhearted people of the town. There is something so freeing about the idea that a spell could remove those feelings of love you have for someone who doesn't feel the same way. That spell could have come in handy a lot when I was younger. 

Miel is the only one who knows Sam's secret. They have been best friends since they were little and Miel tumbled out of that tower. They also love each other. Their relationship is so beautiful and there is so much acceptance there on both sides and it just made my heart happy. They protected each other and accepted each other completely for who they were. The romance and the chemistry and the friendship were all so captivating. 

I will say that the Bonner sisters confused me a bit and there were a few times when the prose confused me a bit. There were also times when I couldn't tell whether something was real or magic. But that did not stop me from loving this book and loving the world that the author created. At the end, the author's note said that the author married a transgender man and she knew him and loved him even before they knew what transgender meant. You can really tell the author respected that struggle and there was so much heart to Sam's story so it didn't surprise me that some of it was based on the author's own life. This book was just so incredibly beautiful and I can't rave about it enough. Just read it already.

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Obviously, I am saying that you need to buy this one.