Wednesday, August 31, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: The Possibility of Somewhere by Julia Day

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

Ash Gupta is having an amazing senior year, hanging out with his tight circle of friends and cranking out the grades his wealthy, immigrant Asian-Indian parents expect. Eden Moore’s biggest goal is to escape the poverty that haunts her family. When she’s not babysitting a special needs boy, managing the high school website, or attending classes, she’s studying her ass off. Her perfect GPA should be enough to win her the class valedictorian title, and with it, an endorsement for the full-ride Peyton Scholarship. Eden’s sure this is her chance to get out of her dead-end town and her trailer-park life for good, until she discovers that the arrogant, rich Ash also wants the title and the scholarship that will come along with it—for the prestige. To both of their surprise, when Eden and Ash are forced to work together on a school project, sparks fly. As they spend more time together, antagonism changes to romance. They start a secret relationship, even though they’re on opposite sides of nearly every social hierarchy their friends and families can imagine—race, class, social status.

This review is a hard one to write, mainly because there were just so many things I didn't like about it. I only gave it one star on Goodreads, for crying out loud. I never do that. And you can take this review with a grain of salt because so many other people loved it. 

This book had so much diversity, which was great. The problem was how they used it. Eden lives in a trailer park. She is poor and everyone teases her because of it and also because her biological mom (who is no longer in the picture) slept around a lot. I know this author is from North Carolina, but it's like she took every stereotype of a Southerner and wrapped it in one main character. It was annoying. 

Let's talk about Eden's friend, Mundy. Mundy has been homeschooled for a while and her family just moved to town and she starts attending public high school. Mundy rubbed me the wrong way right away. She sat with Eden in the cafeteria the first day and when Eden asked why, she basically said it was because Eden was poor and hanging out with someone who lived in a trailer park was a "new experience" for her. Umm, what?? 

So Eden was a token poor person basically?? And then she later said that she admired Eden so much because she didn't complain about her "situation" when she has every reason to and other kids complain too much. It just seemed like Mundy was looking down on Eden. And then Eden kept describing Mundy as "perfect." That seriously irritated me. She looked perfect, she acted perfect, she was basically just a perfect human being with a perfect family and she was a perfect friend. Sounds annoying, right? Trust me, it was even more annoying to read about it.

Now let's talk about the main characters: Eden and Ash. Ash is Indian and wealthy and has totally domineering parents who try to control his life any way they can. First of all, the book started with Eden talking about how she never got along with Ash and I still don't understand why. From what I understand, they rarely spoke to each other and yet they hated each other. That was just an excuse for more drama, really. I didn't buy the hate to love trope because they didn't seem to have a reason to hate each other. 

And do you know what finally made Ash notice Eden? She dressed in something besides baggy skirts and jeans. Yep, a tight tank top and tight jeans made him ask her out. I despite stories where the guy doesn't notice the girl until she changes something stupid about her physical appearance. I didn't sense any chemistry between the two of them when they did start going out and I had NO CLUE why they felt the need to do so. I can kind of understand why they wouldn't want Eden's dad to know (more on him in a second), but why wouldn't they want to tell his parents? And why wouldn't they want the other kids at school to know? I guess his parents didn't like her because she was poor. Ugh, please. And yeah, they kind of became rivals because they were both vying for this really important scholarship. Again, more unnecessary drama. Why is a rich kid like Ash applying for a full ride to college?? That pissed me off. But what made me even madder was that she lost some of her drive for the scholarship while they were dating. There really wasn't any more talk about it until they got in another fight. I added a spoiler about the end in my Goodreads review that you can read here. I didn't want to put it in the blog in case people still wanted to read the book. 

Now we can talk about Eden's family. Eden's stepmom was actually way better than her dad, which was unusual. I did like her relationship with her stepmom, but Eden's dad was a total jerk and emotionally abusive. Oh, and he told Eden numerous times that he didn't want her to go to college at ALL. What kind of dad says that?? Wouldn't a good father actually WANT his daughter to go to college and get a good job?? I can get why he would worry about how to pay for it, but he didn't even want her to apply for the scholarship that would pay for everything. He was also a racist and that is why she didn't want to tell him about Ash. I feel like the racism thing was a plot device too. 

There was just so much about this book that I didn't like and I hate that. There are so many rave reviews of this one and yet I can't think of a single positive. Oh well. Can't win them all, I guess. 

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Skip this one. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday - Required Reading for LGBTQ class

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 a back to school freebie. I decided to list the top books that should be required reading for any class about LGBTQ issues. I tried to include a variety of topics, everything from gay to bisexual to transgender to AIDS issues to issues of diversity. 

Have you read any of the books on this list? Are there any others that you would include?

Monday, August 29, 2016

DISCUSSION: I've lost my reading mojo!

Lately. I have not been in the mood for my most favorite of activities: READING!
I wouldn't really call it a reading slump because I have enjoyed the books that I have read (some more than others). I think I just lost my reading mojo or something. Last week, it took me four days to finish a book. It was a good book, but I just wasn't in the mood to read it. Maybe it's because I have been beta reading for other people. I have mentioned that I am getting paid to read people's unpublished manuscripts and provide feedback. Reading for payment requires way more mental energy than the reviews I write for my blog. Normally, I would be panicking at the thought that I have SO MANY unread books just begging for my attention. But right now, I just don't care that much. I'll get my reading mojo back eventually.

I usually spend a lot of my free time with a book on my hand. So what have I been doing instead?

1. Planning the itinerary for my parents' visit

My parents are coming this Friday to visit me and my husband in Italy! I am so excited. They have never been to Italy before and even though there is NO WAY I can show them everything in the week they will be here, I am looking forward to showing them around this beautiful country. (And yes, my husband will tell you that I am always that detailed when my husband and I go on a trip. I am crazy organized.)

2. Catching up on my TV
3. Cleaning
Okay, this is kind of a necessity and usually I am ECSTATIC to read instead of clean. But with my parents coming soon, I feel the need to make sure our house is as clean as possible. FYI: My husband is actually the messy one, but since my parents love him so much more than me, I just know they will put the blame on me. Ha.

4. Catching up on blog stuff
Yes, I have scheduled some advance discussion posts, I have been catching up on responding to blog comments and I have actually had time to read some of the other blogs that I love! Yay!

5. Mondly language app
I just discovered a new app for learning Italian and I LOVE it. They have daily lessons that are slightly more advanced than your typical app. I am not fluent in Italian by any means, but it's nice to be able to read a menu or converse with someone. Last week, I managed to make a restaurant reservation over the phone in Italian. Most of the time, when I try to converse in Italian, the person responds back in English, which makes it tough to practice. But this woman spoke to me in Italian and I knew enough to answer her questions. I was so proud!

6.  Surfing the Internet
I can't possibly be around the computer without checking Facebook every five minutes. Seriously, what do I expect to change??

Have you ever lost your reading mojo? What do you do when you aren't in the mood to read?

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.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday - The one with the mixed bag

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 supposed to be favorite books in a specific setting. Well, my settings are kind of all over the place. I decided to do a mixture: these are my favorite books set in a dystopian environment and top books set in outer space. How's that for variety?

1. The Cage by Megan Shepherd

2. The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Ellison

3. On The Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis

4. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

5. Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

6. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff 

7. The Last One by Alexandra Oliva

8. The entire Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer 

9. Until the End by Tracey Ward

10. Return Once More by Trisha Leigh

What are some of your favorite dystopian books? Have you read many books set in outer space?

Thursday, August 11, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: The Form of Things Unknown by Robin Bridges

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

Natalie Roman isn’t much for the spotlight. But performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a stately old theatre in Savannah, Georgia, beats sitting alone replaying mistakes made in Athens. Fairy queens and magic on stage, maybe a few scary stories backstage. And no one in the cast knows her backstory. Except for Lucas—he was in the psych ward, too. He won’t even meet her eye. But Nat doesn’t need him. She’s making friends with girls, girls who like horror movies and Ouija boards, who can hide their liquor in Coke bottles and laugh at the theater’s ghosts. Natalie can keep up. She can adapt. And if she skips her meds once or twice so they don’t interfere with her partying, it won’t be a problem. She just needs to keep her wits about her.

This book was not what I thought it would be. I thought I was getting a book about a girl struggling with mental illness and struggling with whether to reveal that information to her friends, especially after she meets a guy (Lucas) who was in the same psych ward. First of all, Natalie takes medication for schizophrenia despite the fact that she doesn't actually seem to have it. This is NOT a spoiler because it's revealed within the first 10% of the book, but Natalie started hallucinating after she took some ecstasy. That's it. She took some drugs and flipped out. There were no hallucinations before that and none after, but sure, let's give her some drugs. Did Natalie have to go to any kind of therapy. Nope, of course not. And people with schizophrenia generally see a therapist as well. 

Now Natalie's grandmother is suffering from the disease. I can understand why they would be concerned about Natalie having it, BUT SHE DIDN'T. Her grandmother also refused to take her medication and she was a handful. She would insult the family and accuse Natalie's mom of trying to poison her, etc. This would have been a MUCH BETTER book if the author had focused on her grandmother's illness and Natalie's worries that she was going to get it. So Natalie's grandmother definitely has the disease and she never takes her meds. What does everyone do about that? Not a damn thing. They don't try to get her to take her meds AT ALL and they never try to make her see any kind of doctor. Natalie's parents basically acted as if her grandmother was just old and there was nothing they could do. To make it worse, Natalie's dad worked all the time so Natalie's mom had to stay home and take care of her by herself. She couldn't even work because someone needed to be home with her. That was irritating.

The whole relationship thing with Lucas was ridiculous. It came out of nowhere and they had no chemistry. Then Natalie starts seeing ghosts or something and of course no one believes her and no one sees what she does. But I was confused because some people did believe in ghosts and no one thought they were crazy. And the ending was just . . . it was just wrong, that's what it was. I have the spoiler in my Goodreads review (it is hidden just in case you don't want to see it), so if you're interested you can check it out here.

It just bugged me that Natalie's family was super concerned about her and kept track of her meds and lectured her when she didn't pay attention to possible side effects and yet they did NOTHING about the grandmother. That was all kinds of wrong. It really just seemed like the schizophrenia diagnosis was a convenient plot device that was brought out because the author needed more conflict. I don't like that. I was not a fan of this one.

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Skip it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday - Favorite Books This Year

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 was kind of a freebie, so I thought I would make a list of my favorite books that I have read so far this year.

Are there any books on this list that would make your favorites list? What are a few of your favorite books this year?

Monday, August 8, 2016

Olympics Book Tag

I saw Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight do this tag and I knew I had to do it. I absolutely love the Olympics. My favorite events are gymnastics and swimming, but I also like watching beach volleyball and track and field. I am able to watch them even though I live in Italy. The only problem is avoiding spoilers since I watch the events the next day. Go Team USA!

Opening Ceremony: A Book You Loved From The Very First Page
The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay is one of my favorite books ever.

Cycling: Favorite Road Trip Book
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is a dystopian kind of road trip book. The road trip is actually a group of actors who travel from town to town performing Shakespeare. Cool, right? This is an excellent book.

Triathlon: A Book with a Good Love Triangle
Okay, I am not usually a fan of love triangles. But Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is one of my favorite book series and I thought the love triangle was handled well.

Handball: A Book You Didn't Really Get
Sorry, I know The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold gets a lot of rave reviews. I just thought it was boring.

Beach Volleyball: A Book Set In The Summer
Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson is such a great summer read. It's also very sad. Consider yourself warned.

Fencing: A Book with a lot of Fighting/Bloodshed
The final battle in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling was pretty epic . . . and bloody.

Gymnastics: A Book with a lot of Plot Twists
I swear the twist at the end of The Uninvited by Cat Winters gave me chills.

Swimming: A Book that made You Sob
There are so many! The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah made me sob so hard.

Golf: A Slow Paced Book
I am one of the few people who didn't adore Red Rising by Pierce Brown. It moved way too slowly and I just didn't like it very much.

Trampoline: A Childhood Favorite
The entire Ramona series by Beverly Cleary. I still have such fond memories of those books. 

Equestrian: A Book Featuring Animals
Told from the POV of a dog, The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein is so moving.

Hurdles: A Book You Struggled To Finish
Who spread the crazy rumor that Withering Heights by Emily Bronte was a love story? It's not. I really disliked this book.

Synchronized Swimming: A Book with a Great Friendship 
In Denton Little's Deathdate by Lance Rubin, Denton's friends were hilarious. And also pretty awesome.

Bonus: Books That Actually Feature Olympic Sports

Anyone who loves the Olympics should feel free to do this tag!! Do you watch the Olympics? What are your favorite sports to watch?

Thursday, August 4, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: You Before Anyone Else by Julie Cross and Mark Perini

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

The supportive friend, the reliable daughter, the doting big-sister: Finley is used to being the glue that holds everyone together. But while her sweet demeanor makes her the perfect confidant, her wholesome look isn't landing her the high paying modeling jobs, which are what Finley needs if she is going to reopen her mother's dance studio. Enter Eddie. He's intense and driven, not to mention the life of every party, and he completely charms Finley. The last thing she wants is another commitment to stand in the way of her dreams, but when she's with Eddie, their chemistry takes over and she can let go of her responsibilities and just be. After all, what's so wrong about putting herself first once and a while? Except Eddie is hiding a secret. A big secret. And when it surfaces, he and Finley are going to have to choose between their love for each other and everything else.

It's hard to review this one because I kind of felt blech about it. Is blech even a word? I'm going to say yes. I liked the book at first. Finley and Eddie are both models living in New York City (I'm trying to ignore the fact that modeling jobs seemed to come so easy to these people). They meet at a party and there is instant chemistry. Finley is trying to shed her cute girl image and Eddie is hiding something. I loved their rapport and it was kind of cute that Finley was so determined to not hook up with Eddie again because she is determined to "succeed" at a one night stand. I had no idea what that even meant, but I thought it was amusing. Of course, they see each other at modeling jobs and he moves into her same building, so they run into each other a lot, blah, blah, blah. The more the book went on though, the more I wondered what the heck was wrong with Finley. She was do adamant that she didn't want a relationship with Eddie and I had no clue why. They were both single, there was chemistry, they got along . . . I didn't get it. She kept saying she didn't want anyone she had to rescue, but Eddie seemed pretty self-sufficient to me.

I think I started to lose interest around the 60% mark, which is one Eddie's secret was revealed. I don't want to spoil anything, but the secret was almost too much. At that point, I stopped rooting for Eddie and Finley to be together because I didn't really think Finley needed that kind of drama in her life. I thought the conflict with Eddie was too much and I didn't think there was enough conflict with Finley, if that makes any sense. When it came to the ending for Eddie, it was more realistic than I thought it would be. The ending for Finley was wrapped up a little too neatly, in my opinion. This was an okay book. It just didn't evoke any really strong feelings on my end. 

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Skip this one.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: The Last One by Alexandra Oliva

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

It begins with a reality TV show. Twelve contestants are sent into the woods to face challenges that will test the limits of their endurance. While they are out there, something terrible happens—but how widespread is the destruction, and has it occurred naturally or is it man-made? Cut off from society, the contestants know nothing of it. When one of them—a young woman the show’s producers call Zoo—stumbles across the devastation, she can imagine only that it is part of the game. Alone and disoriented, Zoo is heavy with doubt regarding the life—and husband—she left behind, but she refuses to quit. Staggering countless miles across unfamiliar territory, Zoo must summon all her survival skills—and learn new ones as she goes. But as her emotional and physical reserves dwindle, she grasps that the real world might have been altered in terrifying ways—and her ability to parse the charade will be either her triumph or her undoing.

I think the key to finding a great ARC on NetGalley is to lower my expectations. It does seem like every time I read an ARC that I am not super thrilled about, I end up loving it. That was the case for this one.

This book is about twelve contestants on a reality show. The reality show is basically like am extreme version of Survivor. The contestants face both team and solo challenges in the woods and the goal is to be the last one standing. The winner gets a million dollars and the only way out of the game is to say this latin phrase to the cameras. First of all, the people in this book are not given names. At first it bugged me, but then I liked it. Even the people working on the show were just called "the host" and "the editor" and "the camera man." The contestants are all given nicknames: Zoo, Black Doctor, Air Force, Waitress, Cheerleader Boy, Tracker. I can't remember all the nicknames. Occasionally, Zoo would mention the actual names of a couple of the contestants. But even though most of the book is told from Zoo's POV, we don't learn her name until the end. The chapters go back and forth between two time periods: the past when Zoo and the others first started the show and the present where Zoo is alone and trying to make her way through what she thinks is still part of the reality show. The chapters talking about the reality show are in third person, while the ones from Zoo's POV is told in first person. That is an interesting decision on the author's part. Reading the reality show sections, it was almost like we were watching everything from afar, like we were the viewers of this show. We saw what they wanted us to see and we found out things when the contestants did. But when Zoo is making her way through this destruction that she sees, we are able to tell exactly what she is thinking and why she is so determined to believe everything is still part of the game. 

I loved the commentary with this book on how much reality TV can alter our perception of things. We were also able to see a little behind the scenes stuff with how certain characters were portrayed and how certain things were edited out to create the story that the producers wanted to tell. Throughout most of the book, you know something is wrong and that Zoo's perceptions are way off. And it isn't until the full picture of the reality show is told that we can understand just why Zoo thinks the way she thinks. And there is also the whole psychological aspect that Zoo doesn't want to realize that what she is going through is real. Honestly, there were times when even I wasn't sure what was real and what wasn't. This whole book was so suspenseful and dark and so good. I do think the ending could have been handled just a little bit better. I feel like there were still a few unanswered questions. All in all though, this was a very impressive debut. 

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Buy this one. Worth the read!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday - Gift Card Wish List

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 top books I would buy with a fully loaded gift card. If I were to get a gift card, my first choices would be to buy the books that are the most expensive. Those are the ones I am least likely to buy with my own money. And apparently, I have more nonfiction on my wish list than I realized.
1. Before The Fall by Noah Hawley

2. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (I was FINALLY able to purchase this one yesterday because the price dropped from $12.99 to $4.99. YAY!!)

3. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab 

4. The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

5. I Am An Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around The World by Eve Ensler

6. Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

7. Love Wins: The Lovers And Lawyers Who Fought The Landmark Case For Marriage Equality by Debbie Cenziper and Jim Obergefell

8. In Order To Live: A North Korean Girl's Journey To Freedom by Yeonmi Park

9. My Mother's Secret: A Novel Based On A True Holocaust Story by J.L. Witterick

10. The Siren by Kiera Cass

11. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

12. The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade by Ann Fessler

13. She's Not There: A Life In Two Genders by Jennifer Finney Boylan

Have you guys read any of these books? Are there any that I should read ASAP? What books would you buy with a fully loaded gift card?