Thursday, August 25, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Been Here All Along by Sandy Hall

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. The scheduled publication date for this book is August 30, 2016.

Gideon always has a plan. His plans include running for class president, becoming head of the yearbook committee, and having his choice of colleges. They do NOT include falling head over heels for his best friend and next door neighbor, Kyle. It’s a distraction. It’s pointless, as Kyle is already dating the gorgeous and popular head cheerleader, Ruby. And Gideon doesn’t know what to do. Kyle finally feels like he has a handle on life. He has a wonderful girlfriend, a best friend willing to debate the finer points of Lord of the Rings, and social acceptance as captain of the basketball team. Then, both Ruby and Gideon start acting really weird, just as his spot on the team is threatened, and Kyle can’t quite figure out what he did wrong

Do you know that Taylor Swift song, "You Belong With Me?" This story is basically like that song in book form, except with the twist that it's two guys instead of a guy and girl. That was pretty much the main reason I requested this one. 

There were a few flaws with this one, so let me start with the positives: the friendship between Kyle and Gideon. Their friendship was just so cute and sweet and it was everything I would want in a friendship. Kyle is bisexual and is dating Ruby. Gideon is the boy next door who has known him since he was five or something. Gideon has this sudden realization that he is gay AND that he's attracted to his best friend. Gideon is a list maker (like ME!) so of course his first reaction is to make a pros and cons list. I fell in love with him right then. I don't usually like love triangles, but I didn't mind this one. I felt like it was a bit realistic and I felt for both Kyle and Gideon. I rooted for them and wanted them to get together so badly! The family dynamics of both boys was so great. 

This book is told with four POV's: Kyle, Gideon, Ruby and Ezra. And now we get to a few of the negatives. Kyle and Gideon's chapters sounded way too similar. I could barely tell who was who. Ezra is Gideon's brother and his POV was completely unnecessary. It added NOTHING to the story. There was some kind of drama about why Ezra came back home, but that was never addressed so I didn't get it. The only character that I absolutely hated was Ruby. She did awful things for stupid reasons and I get that she's young, but that doesn't change the fact that I hated her. I could have done without her POV. Actually, some of the drama that she caused was completely unnecessary. 

For the most part, this was a cute story about two friends who may want something more. It was predictable and there were a few flaws, but not a bad read.

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Borrow this one.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: The Pain Eater by Beth Goobie

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. The scheduled publication date for this book is September 13, 2016.

She hadn’t told anyone. Not a single soul. Not one word about that night and what had been done to her had ever passed Maddy Malone’s lips. She’d thought about it at first - had been desperate, even frantic, to tell. But then had come the shame, and the intimidation from the boys who raped her - and the one who held her down. Now it’s the beginning of a new school year and Maddy is hoping that she can continue to hide, making herself as quiet and small as possible. She is consumed with keeping the memories at bay, forcing them down through small cuts and the burn from the end of a cigarette. But when her English class is given the assignment of writing a collaborative novel about a fifteen-year-old girl, The Pain Eater, fact and fiction begin to meet up. When the boys spread rumors about Maddy, she realizes that continuing to hide the truth will only give them more control, and she slowly gains the courage to confront them.

I am going to be the black sheep here. Everyone else seemed to love this book and I'm sorry, but I just didn't.

Maddy is gang raped one night after a school play. Five boys are involved; three boys rape her, one holds her down and one watches from afar. For a book about a girl who is raped, I just didn't feel much in terms of emotion. Maybe the fact that I have read so many books on the subject has ruined me. But I just found it dry. When Maddy was talking about how she had changed, I wish the author had showed me instead of told me. The author kind of wrote a couple of paragraphs about symptoms that a lot of rape victims have and I would have rather Maddy experience those things directly, if that makes any sense. Now Maddy has amazing parents that are very loving and very worried about her because they can tell that something is wrong. I didn't like her sister though. Her sister has once conversation with Maddy about how worried she is and when Maddy doesn't tell her what's wrong, she gets mad and stops speaking to her. Really? So your sister (whom you supposedly love and are supposedly so worried about) is going through something and because she doesn't tell you right away, you decide to pull away and stop talking to her? That annoyed me so much. 

Here's something else that annoyed me: Maddy's view on therapists. Maybe it's my counseling background, but I saw red. Her parents suggested a therapist and Maddy acted like therapy was only for crazy people who were seeing things and hallucinating and acting like zombies. I get why she didn't want to go. She didn't want the therapist to try and get the story out of her. But for Maddy to completely rail against therapy like that made me so mad. Oh and she never changed her opinion on that and never went to therapy. Fabulous. 

I didn't really understand the boys who raped her. I mean, I don't generally get rapists anyway. But these guys were wearing masks the night of the rape and have no idea if she can identify them or not, but they start to bully her and basically reveal themselves SEVEN months later. Really? If they were going to do that, why didn't they do that right after? I guess that part didn't make any sense to me. 

I did like a few things about this book (besides the amazingly supportive parents). First, the title of this comes from a collective novel in Maddy's English class where each student took turns writing a chapter. I thought that was a pretty cool assignment and the story was interesting, especially the twists that the students put on it. Of course it became a huge metaphor for Maddy's life. What I really liked . . . no, LOVED . . . about this book was that there was NO ROMANCE!! In other books where a girl has been raped, there is usually guy involved who tries to make the girl get over her rape and all that. But not this time. Instead, there was friendship. Maddy developed a great friendship with a couple of girls and THAT was what helped her move on. I loved that.

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Skip this one. All in all, while there were a few good things about this one, I just had more issues with it than I would have liked. I wouldn't recommend this one.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Books Still On My TBR After Two Years

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 books that have been on my TBR since before I started blogging. I started blogging almost two years and I can't believe I still haven't read these yet. I blame blogging and all those pesky ARCs. I will get to these books . . . eventually.

I noticed that most of the books on this list are adult fiction. Before I started blogging, I read a lot more adult fiction. 
1. Angel Falls by Kristin Hannah

2. The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood

3. The Good Father by Diane Chamberlain

4. The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough

5. The Book of Unknown Americans bCristina Henriquez

6. Silver Bay by Jojo Moyes

7. The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson

8. The F-It List by Julie Halpern

9. The Women's Room by Marilyn French

10. Forget Me by K.A. Harrington

What are some books that are still on your TBR? Are there any on my list that you recommend I read immediately?

Monday, August 22, 2016

DISCUSSION: Bring On The Tears!

I love to cry.

No, really. I do.

Naturally, I love books that make me cry. If you tell me that a book involves a tough subject or death or a lot of emotion, I'm all over it. If you tell me a book is heartbreaking, I'm in. If you tell me that a book will destroy me, I rush to get it.

Maybe it's because it feels cathartic or something. Nothing feels better than a good cry. Nothing. (Okay, maybe my bed feels better than a good cry, but you know what I mean.)

Maybe it's because books that make me cry just make me feel so much more than other books.
Because of my love of books that make me ugly cry, on the very rare occasion in which I desire a book that is light or fluffy, I have almost no books on my Kindle that fit that description. And really, just about the only occasion that makes me seek lighter books out is when I will be reading in public, like an airplane (I have cried over a book on an airplane before. Not pretty.)

Here are just a few of the books that have made me ugly cry.
Note: I have a Goodreads shelf for books that made me cry and one for books that made me laugh. I probably don't have to tell you which one is longer.

Tell me: do you like books that make you cry? What is your favorite "must read because it's so heartbreaking" book?

Friday, August 19, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Girl In Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. The scheduled publication date for this book is August 30, 2016.

Charlotte Davis is in pieces. At seventeen she’s already lost more than most people lose in a lifetime. But she’s learned how to forget. The thick glass of a mason jar cuts deep, and the pain washes away the sorrow until there is nothing but calm. You don’t have to think about your father and the river. Your best friend, who is gone forever. Or your mother, who has nothing left to give you. Every new scar hardens Charlie’s heart just a little more, yet it still hurts so much. It hurts enough to not care anymore, which is sometimes what has to happen before you can find your way back from the edge

Charlie is one of those characters that I just wanted to wrap my arms around and give a big hug, you know? This book was so incredibly powerful and dark. There were times when I wanted to just shut my eyes because everything was too much.

The story begins after Charlie's friends dump her at a mental institution and take off. She is hurt and bloody and she doesn't speak at all. Charlie is a cutter. Charlie has been through so much. Her mom kicked her out, her best friend almost died from cutting and she spent some time on the streets, where she was barely able to survive. There aren't many authors that would just talk about the concept of cutting in such a gripping way. The author's note did indicate this was a very personal book for the author and I could tell. The author obviously knew what she was doing because I felt like I was in Charlie's head and I was able to feel her pain so clearly.

This book goes through Charlie's therapy and her time in the institution, followed by her release and her very long way to recovery. The book is told in first person and the narrative style of this story is very fitting for the character and it kind of evolves as Charlie does. In the beginning of the story, Charlie's thoughts are rambling and dark. Throughout the book, the thoughts become slightly less dark and a lot more focused. Charlie's recovery is long and I am so glad the author wrote about this subject. There is no quick fix here. Charlie makes stupid decisions and she struggles with whether to cut every single day, much like an alcoholic still struggles with the urge to drink. The romance part of this book kind of broke my heart. I wanted to root for Charlie and Riley, but they were two very broken people. There were parts of this story that made me hopeful and parts that were heartbreaking. This was a roller coaster of a book and if you can handle the subject matter, it is a must read.

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Buy this one.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

DISCUSSION: Can a character be too relatable?

We all talk about how we want our characters to be relatable. 

But is there such a thing as too relatable?

I have noticed that if a character is too much like me, I can find it annoying. Especially when some of these character traits are flawed ones (sorry to spoil the fun but no, I am not perfect).
I recently read a book where the girl constantly complained about her weight. It was mostly to herself, but it was still so annoying. The funny part is that I do that ALL THE TIME. Sometimes, I complain aloud to my husband but mostly it's this constant inner monologue that I have with myself. And yet, with faced with a character who does the exact same thing, I didn't empathize with her. I should have, I know. But it just annoyed me. 

I should have adored this character. 
She had issues with her weight, she hated her body, she was socially awkward and lonely . . . that was basically ME in high school. And yet, I found myself annoyed by her for the first half of the book. 

P.S. I did end up enjoying the book, despite this character flaw. 

I'll admit that most of the time, if I get annoyed by a character that is too much like me, it has to do with weight. I can relate to characters who are socially awkward or nerds or whatever and they don't annoy me. But this one did. 
It made me think that maybe having a character that you can relate to isn't necessarily a good thing, at least when it comes to things we hate about ourselves. Maybe that's the bigger issue: I know that constantly complaining about my weight (even just to myself) is something I need to work on, so the last thing I need is to read about characters who do the exact same thing. I have no patience to read about a character going through something that hits way too close to home. And maybe I just expect more from fictional characters than I do of myself.

Do you think a character can be too relatable? Have you ever found a character really annoying, despite the fact that you are just like them?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: The Hawkweed Prophecy by Irena Brignull

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. The scheduled release date for this book is September 6, 2016.

Poppy Hooper has managed to deceive her father into believing that there is nothing mysterious or unnatural about her. He ignores the cats that find her wherever she goes, the spiders that weave beautiful lacy patterns for her, even her eyes - one blue, one green with an extra black dot orbiting the pupil. Ember Hawkweed is a pitiful excuse for a witch. When the other girls in her coven brew vile potions, Ember makes soap and perfume. Fair and pretty, Ember is more like a chaff than a witch. When the two girls meet, Poppy discovers her powers, and finds out the truth. Bound by their unlikely friendship and the boy they both love, the girls try and find their place in the world. But the time of the prophecy draws nearer - and the witches won't give up the throne without a fight.

This review might seem all over the place, but that's because the book was kind of all over the place. The beginning of this book was beautiful. I loved the writing and I absolutely loved all the talk of magic and two mothers loving the wrong baby. It started off amazing. I just wish the book had kept up that momentum.

So Poppy is a witch, but Emma's not. But since they are switched at birth (this is revealed on the very FIRST page, so that isn't a spoiler), Poppy is raised by "chaffs" (witches' term for non witches) and Emma is raised by witches. Neither girl feels like they fit in. Poppy's mom is in an asylum because she had a breakdown or something and part of that was due to all the weird things that would happen around Poppy and she always knew something was different about her. Poppy goes from school to school because of all these weird things and her dad basically ignores her. I hated him a lot. Meanwhile, Emma doesn't have any of the powers that the witches around her have, so she gets bullied a lot. Her aunt Raven is the queen of the witches and the prophecy says either her daughter or her sister's daughter will be the next queen. Naturally, Raven wants it to be her daughter, Sorrel.

When Poppy and Emma met, I liked the friendship. I wanted to see Poppy learn about her powers and about magic from Emma. I wanted Emma to learn how to fit in from Poppy. Their friendship was sweet, but at some point it stopped being about the friendship and the magic and it started being about some guy, Leo. That's where the author lost me. First, Poppy liked him. Then Emma liked him. Leo liked Poppy, then he liked Emma. Then Poppy was going to "let" Emma have him because they're friends, then she was mad. Then Leo was using Emma to make Poppy jealous, then he actually liked her. Okay, you get how confusing that is right? In the meantime, all the magic and the world building with the coven that Emma lived with just got lost. Poppy borrowed magic books and learned about her powers away from Emma and they stopped spending time together. It was frustrating, especially with all the questions I had about the witches and their coven. One question was who were these witches procreating with? There were NO men in the village and women were given poison to get rid of the baby when it was a boy. Weird, right? So I just had no clue who fathered whom.

The whole "switched at birth" thing wasn't even very suspenseful because I knew that from the first chapter so it's really just a matter of waiting for the big reveal. Poppy's family was ridiculously neglectful so there was no emotion about potentially leaving them. And the ending for Emma was just anticlimactic. There was a struggle for power and some random clan trying to assassinate the real queen, but there was no suspense there either.

I did warn you about this review being all over the place. So basically a book that started about witches and magic and ended up being a love triangle with some cliche versions of witches thrown in every once in a while. 

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Skip this one.