Book Talk: Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

Book Talk: Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff GarvinSymptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin
Published by Balzer & Bray on February 2, 2016
Genres: Contemporary YA
Format: ARC
Source: For Review
Amazon
Goodreads

I received this book for review consideration from the publisher. This in no way swayed my opinion of the book. Pinky swear!

 

 

 

Want an “at a glance” look at what I thought? Check out my Review On A Post-It or my “Final Thought”

 

A1

Riley identifies as gender fluid — some days Riley identifies as a boy and other days as a girl — but Riley isn’t exactly out or open up being gender fluid. The comments and looks have already started at Riley’s new school plus Riley’s conservative congressman of a father is up for reelection so things have been pretty intense. On the advice of a therapist, Riley starts an anonymous blog to have an outlet to let loose some of those feelings. In addition to writing about school, crushes and family, Riley writes raw posts about what it feels like to be gender fluid and the blog ends up going viral bringing with it an incredible response…. and an anonymous commenter who threatens to share Riley’s identity.

a2Riley is an important character I’m glad to see in YA!

a4

What a unique POV in this novel that I really appreciated for the fact that 1) it might speak to a teen/any person who hasn’t been able to find a label that fits them and 2) it would educate others. Prior to the last year or two, I wouldn’t have had any clue what gender fluid meant. But thanks to Twitter and the YA community I’ve learned a lot outside of what I thought was just straight/gay/lesbian/bi/trans. I’m thankful to learn and to be challenged.

[Keep Reading]

Book Talk: Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Book Talk: Dumplin’ by Julie MurphyDumplin' by Julie Murphy
on September 15, 2015
Genres: Contemporary YA
Also by this author: Side Effects May Vary, Ramona Blue
Format: ARC
Source: For Review
Amazon/Twitter
Goodreads

I received this book for review consideration from the publisher. This in no way swayed my opinion of the book. Pinky swear!

 

 

 

Want an “at a glance” look at what I thought? Check out my Review On A Post-It or my “Final Thought”

 

A1

Willowdean has always been the fat girl and she’s always been pretty okay with that despite the normal teenage insecurities. It’s never been a THING for her. Until she gets a job and crushes on one of her hot co-workers who totally ends up liking her back. And then insecurities and what people think get the best of Willowdean and makes her second guess herself and if Bo could really like her. So she decides to remind herself of how confident she is and enters a beauty pageant (that her mother is the coordinator of) — an act that sparks a little bit of a revolution when a couple of other girls, who are inspired by Willowdean’s bravery, to join with her despite them not looking like the usual beauty pageant contestant.

a2WILLOWDEAN, PLS BE MY FRIEND!

a4

This is definitely one of my most favorite books of 2015 and I want everyone to meet Willowdean! She’s definitely one of those characters you want to wish into existence so that you could be friends with her. There are a whole lot of adjectives I could use to describe her but really you just need to meet her. And the best thing about this book? As much as she is this dazzling star of this novel, she has so many other supporting characters in this book that shine equally as much in different ways. It’s just packed with amazing characters — especially females. I loved the girls who do the beauty pageant with Willowdean and I love how they all learn from each other and find friends they didn’t know they needed in their life. One of my FAVORITE scenes involves these ladies and some Dolly Parton awesomeness.

Sometimes it feels as if it’s hard to find body diversity within YA. It’s rare when I come across a ~fat~ main character and even more rare when that book isn’t solely about that person’s struggle with their weight or is trying to lose weight. Those are super important stories. Stories that need to be heard. But it’s really hard to find a fat main character who is fairly confident about being fat/isn’t really looking to change themselves or at least is no more insecure about being fat than about other things we as ladies get insecure about — which is also important and is a voice that needs to be heard. And the one thing about Willowdean in Dumplin’ is that she’s pretty okay in her skin and her being fat isn’t the biggest deal to her. She’s confident yet, like most girls, still has her insecurities and self consciousness that comes with being a teenager. She doesn’t really have a problem being the fat girl (aside from the crap from other people about it). Being fat is just a part of who she is — just a piece of her. Until she gets a boyfriend. A guy she thinks people will perceive is too good for her based on looks alone. And then nagging insecurities come full force and mess with her head threatening to break that confidence.

It is so, so relatable whether or your ~thing~ is your weight or a stutter or a flat chest (hello, me…I’m almost 30 weren’t my boobs supposed to show up by now lols) or a big nose or whatever. We see this vulnerability within Willowdean that shows just how hard it is to be confident of the things you love about yourself when the world makes it so easy to let those self-conscious feelings or insecurities attach themselves to you like a leech that just sucks your confidence blood supply dry and possibly make you feel like you need to CHANGE (because people say you should) or loathe yourself. And I loved how the beauty pageant was her way of proving to herself and others that you don’t have to be a certain way to deserve to be on the stage of a beauty pageant, to deserve love, to deserve to feel beautiful, etc. etc.

God it was just such a great coming of age story that seamlessly delved into so many things in addition to the body positivity and self-acceptance. Willowdean is dealing with the first real loss of her life — her aunt who meant a lot to her and was someone she was closest to. I loved how Julie Murphy portrays a lot of common teen experiences — crushing on someone, falling in love, heartbreaks, shifting best friend dynamics, feeling like your mom just doesn’t GET you etc. It’s just such a delightful and REAL story with strong messages that never feel like they are hitting you over the head. Just straight up REAL TALK through the plot and dialogue that is thought-provoking and I still have a few passages that have stuck with me.

 

a6RATING-loved-it

factors(+ )characters, writing, storyline, lols, overall message
(– ) Nothing really that I can think of.


a5contemporary YA/realistic fiction fans, readers looking for body diversity & body positivity, readers who want a book that brings the lols and the sentimental feels, readers looking for strong female friendships

a8Dumplin’ was just an altogether delightful read that made me laugh out loud at times and put my hand to my heart and sigh. I enjoyed the ~message~ about loving your body and recognizing how worthy you are of love and feeling beautiful and other good things — no matter what your body looks like. I loved Willowdean and think she’s truly something special!

review-on-post-it

Dumplin' Julie Murphy

a8j* Have you read this one? What did you think? Similar or different from me? I would LOVE to hear regardless!
*If you haven’t read it, does it feel like something you’d be into?
I’m really looking for more books with diversity when it comes to body type! Any suggestions?

 

 


The Perpetual Page-Turner

Book Talk: 99 Days by Katie Cotugno

Book Talk: 99 Days by Katie Cotugno99 Days by Katie Cotugno
Published by Balzer & Bray on April 2015
Genres: Contemporary YA
Also by this author: How To Love, Done Dirt Cheap, Fireworks
Format: ARC
Source: For Review
Amazon/Twitter
Goodreads

I received this book for review consideration from the publisher. This in no way swayed my opinion of the book. Pinky swear!

 

 

 

Want an “at a glance” look at what I thought? Check out my Review On A Post-It or my “Final Thought”

 

A1

Molly has just returned from boarding school after she just up and left after her bad decision to cheat on her boyfriend — with his brother — is exposed. She plans on spending the summer holed up in her house biding her time until she leaves for college but when she runs into Gabe, the brother she cheated with, she finds herself spending some time with him and eventually runs into Patrick, the brother she cheated on. Having the two boys and all the unresolved feelings in her radius all summer makes for an interesting summer.

a2Well that was quite the messy ride!

a4

Oh this is going to be a book that divides people and I cannot wait to discuss it with you all. I’m just putting this out here — if love triangles or cheating are absolute deal-breakers for you in a book…you might have trouble with this one. Do I particularly enjoy those things (in fiction or real life)? No. But, when well done, they work for me in fiction. And I’ll tell you this…Katie Cotugno is the QUEEN of writing really messy and complicated things well. (You should also check out her book How to Love which I adored). I could NOT put this one down because I just HAD to know what was going to happen.

It’s a premise that, from the beginning, let’s you know there is going to be a bit of drama — a girl cheats on her boyfriend with his brother. YIKES RIGHT? She comes home for the summer, after up and leaving for boarding school after everything happens, and is biding her time quietly with her Netflix and Red Vines before college starts — until she is reunited with Gabe (the brother she cheated with). It’s very very sticky already and let me just tell you IT GETS STICKIER. As she hangs out with Gabe, she sees Patrick a lot. The two boys being in her radius all summer brings up a LOT of feelings. All those angry feelings. All the guilt and regret. All the confusing romancey feelings. It all spills over.

I am not a person who would cheat or would condone cheating. EVEN IN A BOOK. But the way Katie writes the story I found myself torn on Molly’s behalf. There’s the old boyfriend who was sweet and she loved but they weren’t without their problems. They have a long history and were everything to each other. She feels so guilty that she made a mistake with the brother  but she doubts he would ever take her back and she isn’t altogether sure if that’s what she wants completely. And then there is the brother she cheated with, Gabe. She’s attracted to him and he takes her mind off a lot of the hate she gets. She grows to really have feelings for him. She knows it feels weird to be shoving it in Patrick’s face for them to have a relationship but she can’t deny her feelings. I could FEEL the tension — history vs. something new, the person you betrayed vs. the person you betrayed him with. It’s not a position I would want to be in ever but I understood the confusing feelings that even logic or your conscience can’t keep at bay.

I didn’t agree with Molly for MOST of this book. If you are a person who needs to agree with a character’s actions to make or break you liking a book, you will struggle. I constantly was like, even though I understood her messy dilemma, NO STOP NO. BAD DECISION. BAD DECISION. But, I don’t know, in my life especially as a teenager I know that sometimes you WILL make bad decisions — logic and reason and your values mixed with feelings/confusion/uncertainty/feeling in the moment/hormones make for some stupid decisions sometimes. Molly was definitely following her heart/hormones and, even though she knew how wrong she was, she still did it anyways. It’s frustrating as a reader but it didn’t make me NOT like the book and I really enjoyed getting to know Molly in this tumultuous time of her life. She’s flawed and it takes her a long time to learn from her mistakes and I liked that. It felt real. She doesn’t back down and owns up to her crap eventually. I think some interactions with other females in this book, Tess and Imogen, are definitely things that make her grow. She does some shitty things but I found myself rooting for her to sort out all her business and accept her consequences. It reminded me that you can come back from things, albeit they won’t be all sunshine and roses, even from some crappy mistakes/actions.

One thing I love that this book explored was the double standards involved when a girl and a guy cheat. Molly is called a slut and gets bullied and her house egged. The dudes get none of that crap. It took two people to make that happen and I’m glad it was explored in this book! Molly gets all the crap yet there are way more than one person in the wrong in this book!!

 

a6RATING-loved-it

factors+ addictive, character with such a raw and emotional arc, writing
–  maybe the ending? I’m still sorting how I felt about it.

Re-readability: Maybe!
Would I buy a copy for my collection? I have one and it’s beautiful!

a5readers of contemporary YA, readers who like messy and complicated subjects, readers who aren’t completely dissuaded by love triangles/cheating/characters who aren’t easy to like

a8While on the surface this book might just seem like a romance with a love triangle between two brothers but it is SO much more than that. It’s about making mistakes (repeatedly) and growing from it the hard way — realizing you CAN come back from it and take control over your life again. It’s messy and complicated but felt so true to life. I could NOT put this down and was frantically racing through the pages because it had my nerves all a mess. I’ll repeat it again — Katie Cotugno is the queen of writing messy/complicated/flawed REALLY REALLY well.

review-on-post-it99 Days Katie Cotugno

 

a8j* Have you read this one? What did you think? Similar or different from me? I would LOVE to hear regardless!
*If you haven’t read it, does it feel like something you’d be into?
Did you like Molly or did her actions make it hard for you to?
How did you feel about the ending? (mark spoilers please!)

 

 


The Perpetual Page-Turner

Book Talk: None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio

Book Talk: None of the Above by I.W. GregorioNone of the Above by I.W. Gregorio
Published by Balzer & Bray on April 2015
Genres: Contemporary YA
Format: ARC
Source: For Review
Amazon/Twitter
Goodreads

I received this book for review consideration from the publisher. This in no way swayed my opinion of the book. Pinky swear!

 

 

 

Want an “at a glance” look at what I thought? Check out my Review On A Post-It or my “Final Thought”

 

A1

Kristin is pretty much your normal high school girl — well-liked and popular (even got crowned homecoming queen), has lots of friends, has a scholarship to college all lined up and has a boyfriend she’s pretty serious with. She decides to have sex with her boyfriend but it doesn’t go as planned so she makes an appointment with the lady doctor just to make sure everything is okay. She finds out that she’s intersex, a revelation that she can’t even begin to grasp, and before she has time to really come to terms with it herself, the news gets out and everyone at school knows.

a2*contemplates tweeting the author to ask what happens for the rest of Kristin’s life because I’m WAY TOO INVESTED*

a4

I love reading for a bajillion and one reasons but two of those reasons are to feel things and also to learn something and/or challenge my thinking. None of the Above ticked both of those boxes.

1. I was glad to learn about what being intersex means and was appreciative for a diverse read that featured it: Truthfully, I had no idea what intersex was before I started this book. Once I learned, from the book, what intersex was I realized I knew what it meant but I had known it by another name, a derogatory one. I was grateful already to be clear on what intersex is and what it isn’t. I.W Gregorio did a great job explaining it as we watch Kristin herself learn exactly what it means and what it means for her life.

2. I loved the exploration of identity in it: I appreciated so much this story of self-identity and how movingly written it was. Kristin had a sense of self identity before she’s told she’s intersex and afterwards she really struggles to know who she is. Is she a girl like she feels she is? Is she a boy because she does have male parts? She lives 17 years of her life and in one instant she feels like she no longer knows herself as a very basic, to most, component of her identity is no longer what she thought. I mean, you could FEEL the kind of confusion and upheaval this created for her  — even when people tried to explain to her she’s still the same person. And it went beyond just the identity of male/female — she can no longer, at her core, be the same person she was but it was moving how she discovered and rediscovered herself in many ways with an admirable strength and the support of people in her life.

3. THIS BOOK MADE ME FEEL THINGS SO HARD: Okay, so I physically could feel the shock and the confusion and the anguish through the initial doctor’s appointment where she found out and then after when she was trying to process it. I mean, I felt it in my heart and I just wanted to hug her. And that would be hard enough to process? BUT OH WAIT. PEOPLE FIND OUT AND THEN ACT REALLY SHITTY AND BULLY HER. I was seeing RED, guys. I mean, I was gripping this book so hard because of how MAD I was that I’m surprised it didn’t crumble in my hands. Everyone is SO awful to her. SO AWFUL. I wanted to cry so many times. They were cruel and the thing that killed me is I know how realistic it would be. I could the fear and the ignorance bring people to say all sorts of things like tell her she’s a dude and says she’s gay and just really have no FREAKING clue what they are talking about. None of the Above definitely showed how people are so hateful towards things they don’t understand. Thankfully there were some really great characters to make up for the ones who I wanted to punch in the face.

There was so much to appreciate about this novel but I will say that I wasn’t a fan of the romance, while cute, because it just detracted to me. I mean, thankfully it wasn’t an overshadowing plot point and it was great for Kristin to see that there ARE people out there that won’t be like her ex-boyfriend about it but I was more enjoying her personal journey with learning she was intersex and would have personally preferred no romance.

a6RATING-reallyliked

factors+ story, the main character Kristin, the feels, important topic
–  didn’t love the romance addition

Re-readability: I don’t know that I would. Picky with my rereads!
Would I buy a copy for my collection? Not for my own personal collection (you know I only keep faves or books I would reread) but I am ABSOLUTELY checking to make sure my local library’s YA section has it and if they won’t order it I would totally buy it to donate because it’s IMPORTANT.

a5people looking for diverse voices, contemporary YA readers who like issue books that don’t feel heavy-handed, readers looking for a story about identity and self-discovery. I would also recommend to teachers and youth librarians because it’s excellent but also you need to make sure it’s in your collection!

a8I.W. Gregorio’s None of the Above is a powerful story that I wish all teens would read so that they’d learn to be more empathetic and less judgmental towards what they don’t understand/they see as different..and obviously to learn what intersex is. None of the Above brings a diverse and important voice to the YA scene through Kristin and her story — a story that will have you feeling an array of emotions and reflecting on self-identity.

review-on-post-it

None of the Above by IW Gregorio

a8j* Have you read this one? What did you think? Similar or different from me? I would LOVE to hear regardless!
*If you haven’t read it, does it feel like something you’d be into?
Have you read any other books with an intersex character?

 

 


The Perpetual Page-Turner

Book Talk: Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Book Talk: Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky AlbertalliSimon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Published by Balzer & Bray on April 7, 2015
Genres: Contemporary YA
Also by this author: Done Dirt Cheap, The Upside of Unrequited
Format: ARC
Source: For Review
Amazon/Twitter
Goodreads

I received this book for review consideration from the publisher. This in no way swayed my opinion of the book. Pinky swear!

 

 

 

Want an “at a glance” look at what I thought? Check out my Review On A Post-It or my “Final Thought”

 

A1

Sixteen year old Simon is gay and hasn’t yet come out — until a classmate finds an email of his to Blue, a boy he likes and has been writing back and forth to anonymously from his school who might just like him too, and threatens to out him unless he helps him get a girl that Simon is friends with. Not wanting to screw up things with Blue or let someone else tell everyone that he’s gay, he goes along with it all while trying to navigate this growing relationship with Blue and shifting dynamics amongst his closest group of friends.

a2tumblr_lmefok86q81qbasi8

a4It’s no secret I gave a little preview telling you all that Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda was one of my favorite books I read last year. I’m so excited to tell you WHY I loved it so much!

1. It made me so INDESCRIBABLY HAPPY. If you know me you know that more often than not I don’t read SUPER happy books. I always seem to be drawn to the books that break me, destroy my life, elicit intense feelings or that tackle tough topics. But Simon made me realize how wonderful it IS to read a book that makes you feel giddy and slaps a goofy grin on your face. How FEELSY it can be. How warm and fuzzy feelings can be just as intense and legit as stab-your-heart-fifty-times type books can be.  Reading Simon was like hot cocoa w/ fluffy marshmallows and warm cookies on a cold day. It just completely warmed my heart from the inside out. AND I REALLY LIKED THAT FEEL. What a high pure happiness can be!

2. I loved the romance: Simon and Blue have been talking anonymously through emails — all they know is that the other person goes to their school and they both are gay but not out yet. I love how they get to know each other through the emails and talk about anything and everything and they leave out all the main details that would give them away (friends, classes, extra-curriculars etc). The suspense for WHO Blue is was definitely there and I became on high alert with every interaction. ARE YOU BLUE? ARE YOU? I loved how they wrestled with how they would go about finally meeting because it would change things and because neither of them were out yet. There was a certain comfort to their relationship as it was but they were definitely falling for each other in a deeper way. Their exchanges made me have a goofy grin on my face. What a sweet, sweet romance! AND HOW THEY FINALLY MEET/THE BIG REVEAL? The most swoony thing ever and I reread it like 5 times.

3. The blackmail storyline was really interesting: Simon isn’t ready to come out quite yet but he also doesn’t look at it as such a big deal. BUT when he gets blackmailed by a opportunistic classmate who threatens to expose it that definitely concerns him because he knows what he and Blue has is fragile and it could mess that up. I liked watching him wrestle with it all — not wanting to give in because it’s HIS thing to tell, not wanting to betray a friend who this classmate wants to get closer to and wanting to preserve what he and Blue have. I think the particular classmate who does the blackmailing is interesting himself — you just want to punch him for being a shithead but also you see him as a PERSON.

 4. THE FRIENDSHIPS: This book had such a great example of a realistic friendship group with all the ebbs and flows they tend to endure — probably one of the best I’ve ever read. I loved the dynamic of the group and seeing how it has been shifting and changing as newcomers were introduced (and how threatening that can be), how crushes within a group impact it, how to handle all the growing and changing even among the “core” members of the friend group who have known each other for years and years. All the nuances of friend groups and long-time friendships vs. new ones were just perfectly done.  I loved Simon’s friend group and it made me miss having a GROUP like I did all throughout high school and college. I just really appreciated how strong the friendships were but they were also susceptible to being caught in the wave of change and not knowing how to adjust.

5. Simon: Simon is just an unforgettable character and I really felt like I KNOW him… and it’s one of those cases where I’m sad he exists only in the pages and in my heart. You’ll know what I mean when you meet him. He’s smart, funny and thoughtful but humanly flawed. So humanly flawed. He makes me smile and I think everyone would be better off having met him.

6. These quotes: I loved the writing in this book in general but I loved these were some of my favorite quotes (just to note, they ARE taken from the ARC so subject to change):

     ” But I’m tired of coming out. All I ever do is come out. I try not to change, but I keep changing, in all these tiny ways. I get a girlfriend. I have a beer. And every freaking time, I have to reintroduce myself to the universe all over again.”

     “As a side note, don’t you think everyone should have to come out? Why is straight the default? Everyone should have to declare one way or another, and it should be this big awkward thing whether you’re straight, gay, bi, or whatever. I’m just saying.”

     “People really are like houses with vast rooms and tiny windows. And maybe it’s a good thing, the way we never stop surprising each other.”

a6RATING-beyondloved

factors+ plot, writing, characters, romance, humor, relationships explored, how it made me think, THE FEELS
–  NOTHING.

Re-readability: YES!!!
Would I buy a copy for my collection? YES!!

a5EVERYONE. Yep.

a8I think a good indication of how much I loved this book was that, in writing this review, I went to find one quote from it and got absorbed reading almost the whole book again (I read it in December for the first time and I’m not much of a re-reader though I like it in theory). It’s one of my favorite romances I’ve read in a while that in addition also perfectly explores the always evolving nature of friendships (and people), the idea of ‘coming out’ and how people, even the ones we’ve known for forever, will always keep surprising us with the new dimensions and the numerous “vast room and tiny windows” as Simon puts it. This book made me indescribably happy and I’m not going to shut up about it.

review-on-post-itsimonvsthehomosapiensagenda

 

a8j* Have you read this one? What did you think? Similar or different from me? I would LOVE to hear regardless!
*If you haven’t read it, does it feel like something you’d be into?

 

 

 


The Perpetual Page-Turner

Book Talk: Tease by Amanda Maciel

Book Talk: Tease by Amanda MacielTease by Amanda Maciel
Published by Balzer & Bray on April 2014
Genres: Contemporary YA
Format: eARC
Source: For Review
Amazon/Twitter
Goodreads

I received this book for review consideration from the publisher. This in no way swayed my opinion of the book. Pinky swear!

 

Want an “at a glance” look at what I thought? Check out my Review On A Post-It or my “Final Thought”

A1

Okay so Tease is told from the perspective of a girl who, along with her best friend and others, bullied another girl who ended up killing herself. It goes back and forth between what started the bullying/led to the suicide and then also is in the present where she’s fighting a case against her and the others for their responsibility in the girl’s death as well as trying to live life after this event.

a2I NEVER WANT TO HAVE KIDS BECAUSE, MAN, BULLYING IS WAY WORSE THAN WHEN I WAS IN SCHOOL!

a4What a compelling book! There was a lot of good and then there were some little details that would have made for a BETTER experience for me. I think, altogether, it is a powerful read (albeit a frustrating one at times) that will stir up a good conversation. I absolutely couldn’t put it down because it made my stomach all in knots.

Here’s what I liked about it:

1. Being in the head of the BULLY  made for an interesting experience:  Okay, so I’m just putting it out there. YOU ARE GOING TO BE FRUSTRATED. We are in the head of a girl who bullied a girl with her friends (though her bff was the mastermind) and was AWFUL… and for most of the books can’t see that she did anything wrong. But the thing there was constantly a war waging war in my head because we really get to know her — the good and the bad and what makes her tick — and it made it hard for me to HATE her despite the fact I wanted to strangle her half the time. We see her side of the story and, though I disagree with a lot that she did OBVIOUSLY, I really was able to understand in some ways where she was coming from — NOT that bullying is the answer. The girl who was bullied, Emma, from what we see actually DID things to warrant some of the feelings that she had towards her and was not innocent in the beginning situation. Stealing her boyfriend? Yeah no. Not cool. I GET that rage. I was mad FOR her. (Mad at the boyfriend too). I get the wanting revenge (not the actual carrying out of). I get that sometimes jealousy and fear and insecurities can manifest and it’s not pretty. I GET IT.  As humans we are capable of these ugly emotions and feel them intensely. But the actual letting those feelings manifest into action like THAT? That’s where it was hard to stomach for me and I would feel so angry as 28 year old reader Jamie like, “NO! WHY! STOP!” But then I would feel compassion for her because, as a reader, we know she’s not just a 100% evil person despite what an AWFUL thing she was part of (and as an old lady I was like…ahh so many years to learn and grow from this).

It’s not black and white and I LOVED THAT because people rarely are so easy to put into a box. We never know the whole story — sometimes we just see the tip of the iceberg and we don’t know what is going on underneath. This story really captured that on all sides — especially Sara and a bit with Emma. There was obvious wrong and right but there was A LOT of grey for the reader to wade through.

2. It’s so, so relevant with all the bullying cases making headlines: There’s so many questions this novel brings up and I love that the author did not answer them but posed them through this story. There’s a lot to navigate — especially with online bullying. Emma’s bullying takes place in school, harassment outside of school and there is some vicious bullying on social media. During the whole book there’s the questions of: who is responsible? Should the bullies be held responsible and to what degree? What constitutes bullying and what is just catty teen stuff? It was just a really thought-provoking and compelling read because it’s so realistic and relevant.

Now despite the gripping and page-turning aspects and all the GOOD there were some things I needed to make it better:

1. At certain points it would linger and I found myself bored: Some of the timeline kind of would drag out and I’d just kind of be like OKAY LET’S GET ON WITH THIS.

2. I felt like a lot of the other characters fell a bit flat: I felt like our main character was really pretty fleshed out but some of the other characters just had nothing to them at all which frustrated me. Even with the one moment of vulnerability we see with Brielle, I still felt she just felt like a standard mean girl with nothing really to her. Carmichael was the most fully realized character, I thought, besides Sara but I still felt like he didn’t JUMP out at me. I liked him alright but I felt like I was missing something in his development. And even Emma was just like this sort of person to me. We know she steals Sara’s boyfriend and clearly has some things going on in her own life but other than that she just IS the person Sara is fighting against. I wish we could have learned more about her in the end. OR oh my gosh I would love an Emma novella or something to learn more about her!

 

a6RATING-reallyliked

factors+ the complexity of the main character, the unique way this story is told, how much it made me think & the conversation that can happen because of this book
bad pacing at times despite me furiously turning pages for most of it, a lot of flat characters

Re-readability: Probably not. It was a one time read kind of deal.
Would I buy a copy for my collection? No but I want to buy it for every teen I know! And I want to make sure all the teachers and libraries have it on their shelves (I wish I could fund that).

a5people who don’t mind really difficult characters, people who are interested in books about bullying or slut-shaming that isn’t preachy and shows different sides, people who are looking for a good conversation starter or book club read (MAN I wish my book club read this), lovers of contemporary YA that deal with tough issues, people who liked Speechless by Hannah Harrington

a8What a uniquely crafted story dealing with bullying and slut-shaming that manages to NOT be preachy or make everything black and white. I was so intrigued by the POV of the bully and loved the switching of the story in the past and the present. I love a book that I REALLY have to engage with and think about and this book was certainly that. While it wasn’t a technically WOW book for me for a couple reasons, it really did absolutely pull me in and I do recommend it!

 

review-on-post-it tease-amanda-maciel

a8j* Have you read this one? What did you think? Similar or different from me? I would LOVE to hear regardless!
* If you haven’t read it, is it something on your radar or that you think you will read?
* If you read, HOW FRUSTRATED WERE YOU WITH SARA ON A SCALE OF 1-10?? Did it impact your rating of the book or no? (It did not impact my rating personally).
* Does anyone else need an Emma novella?? LIKE I NEED IT.


The Perpetual Page-Turner

 

Book Talk: Side Effects May Vary By Julie Murphy

Book Talk: Side Effects May Vary By Julie MurphySide Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy
Published by Balzer & Bray on March 18, 2014
Genres: Contemporary YA
Also by this author: Dumplin', Done Dirt Cheap, Ramona Blue
Format: ARC
Source: For Review
Amazon/Twitter
Goodreads

I received this book for review consideration from the publisher. This in no way swayed my opinion of the book. Pinky swear!

 

 

 

 

book synopsis

Alice is diagnosed with leukemia and the prognosis is not at all good. She knows she is going to die and she begins living knowing that — things like telling people how she feels, getting revenge, etc. Then she’s given a clean bill of health and is left with the prospect of learning how to LIVE again when she thought she was going to die AND realizes that she has to face the consequences of all the things she did/said when she thought she was going to die soon.

good books to readI’ve been sitting on this post for a while. I finished having VERY complicated feelings — I like that because yay thinking– and I really had to process it all. Typically when I finish a book I can easily say, “I liked it! I loved it! Or EHHH not for me.” or something to this affect. But with Side Effects May Vary? I just wasn’t able to pin down my feelings for this one right away like I can with most books. And the more I sat on my feelings…I think the more I really liked it. It was like how sometimes when you make a chili or a stew and the next day it tastes even better…the spices and the flavors really got a chance to shine. That’s how this book felt for me once I let it sink in.

What worked:

1. I loved how DIFFERENT this “cancer story” was: Typically most of the books that I have encountered deal with somebody being diagnosed with cancer or something to that affect. The alternating chapter DID show her dealing with the diagnosis but the main thrust of the story is about how everything changed when, after being so close to dying, she gets a clean bill of health and has to deal with all the repercussions of what she did and said — things like revenge plots and also things she said to people that she can’t take back now that she’s not dying. She has to deal with all that. It makes it all very interesting because, despite what I assumed it was about, this wasn’t a story about a girl trying to complete this super meaningful bucket list or even trying to make these profound life changes after almost dying but rather she was just trying to come to terms with what to do now that she lived. How does she start planning for a future she didn’t think she would have? It didn’t always make her likeable or sympathetic but the struggle was real to me and, by the end, her story hit me really hard.

2. Honestly Alice is going to be a tough pill to swallow for some people but I didn’t HATE her: Don’t get me wrong. Girl sucks a lot (seriously, she’s manipulative and mean and downright awful most of the time) and honestly her redemption is kind of miniscule for most of the book. But for some reason I understood her in ways even though I didn’t like her for much of it. I mean, she THINKS she is going to DIE. She’s so close to dying. There’s almost like this new perspective one would have at that and she knows that there aren’t consequences to what she’s saying/doing. I can’t imagine the reality shift that happens when you are so close to death but then you are given a clean bill of health. Her road to redemption is a long, arduous road and it’s messy and we barely get to see ANY of it, just really the start to it, but I really felt for her in her long road to figuring out how to live again when she was resigned to dying. We don’t get to see the happy neat bow, but in my head, I see her story playing out to where she really does take a lot of meaning from her experience once she fully comes to terms with it.

What didn’t:

1. The timeline of the story was one thing that detracted from my reading experience for sure: It was so jumpy. It was Alice and Harvey in alternating perspectives but not only that there was past and present switches for both. So it might be something like Alice Present, Harvey Past, Alice Past, Harvey Present and it was just really hard for me to get planted into the story. It may not be a problem for others but I kept getting frustrated by it because I was being pulled out of it. It made sense in that we needed to know the backstory and how it lead to everything in the now but it didn’t flow well for me and I often got frustrated trying to keep it all straight.

2. For a good majority of the novel I felt really nothing emotionally: I’m a pretty emotional reader and I felt like this should have elicited something from me pretty early on but it took quite a bit for it to…but when it did it did. There was just this wall that just kept me at an emotional distance to a lot of what was going on until I got further on. It may have been the fact that the characters were hard to really get a good sense of because the perspective change. It could have been because Alice herself was hard to like and therefore I kept trying and trying to find ways to connect with her. I eventually DID but it took a long, long while. It could have also been because I loved Harvey in theory but I become frustrated by trying to see what made him LOVE her so much that he would continually take her crap. There was supposed to be something so incredibly special about her, as we see from Harvey’s devotion, but even in the “past” chapters I couldn’t SEE what it was that made him so over the moon about her. But, like I said, I eventually did eventually break down that barrier and had a huge emotional surge/point of connection/reason to care.

 

book reviewsBottom line, I STILL can’t quite simply put into words what I feel about this one. I’ve tried. It’s a complicated book and you have to be okay with the fact that Alice is REALLY quite awful and hard to like. I personally don’t have to like the character of a book to like the book but I can wholly admit she is a tough pill to swallow and she’s angry and honestly treats people like crap a lot of the time and sometimes it is SO hard to want to care for her in any way— but for some reason I found her so complicated and intriguing and I loved the messiness of the story. In how hard it might be to start living again when you thought you were dying and everything you did/said because you thought there would be no consequences to them, because you were DYING, are now things you have to be held accountable for. I appreciated the freshness and uniqueness of the story even if half the time I felt frustrated and angry. I love that it made me think a ton. This book is going to be so polarizing among readers and I’m interested in seeing the dialogue on both side.
short book review

Julie Murphy Side Effects May Vary

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? What did you think of it? Tell me your thoughts on Alice! Did her personality impact how you read this one?


The Perpetual Page-Turner

 

Book Talk: How To Love by Katie Cotugno

Book Talk: How To Love by Katie CotugnoHow To Love by Katie Cotugno
Published by Balzer & Bray on October 2013
Genres: Contemporary YA
Also by this author: 99 Days, Done Dirt Cheap, Fireworks
Format: Hardcover
Source: For Review
Amazon/Twitter
Goodreads

I received this book for review consideration from the publisher. This in no way swayed my opinion of the book. Pinky swear!

four-half-stars

 

 

 

 

book synopsis Reena has been in love Sawyer for as long as she can remember as their parents were friends before they were even born. They’ve never been anything more than childhood playmates until one night, when she least expects it, when something happens between them and they find themselves in love — a very messy and imperfect love that is beyond complicated. A story that becomes more complicated when Reena finds herself pregnant and Sawyer has left town. Fast forward a couple years and Reena has had her daughter and is settled into her life now — going to community college, dating and living with her parents. Things are going well, for the most part, until Sawyer shows up in town unexpected. Reena resolves to stay away from him but the pull that has always been there threatens to crumble her resolve.

 

good books to read
I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH. One one hand I’m furious with myself for waiting this long to read it but on the other hand I needed this book right now. You may have known I was in a bit of a “THIS IS SO NOT ME” reading year so far in 2014 and I really just needed a book to blow me away. How To Love by Katie Cotugno did the trick — along with another book that I will be talking about soon!

Why was it so awesome?

1. It completely destroyed my thought of “Ehh this is a novel about teen pregnancy” pretty early on: First, this book was SO much more than that. If you looked at this book like “oh god this is going to be a teen pregnancy issue-y book or like a rerun of Teen Mom”…NO..Just NO. It’s a complicated story about love, second chances and forgiveness. Reena may have a baby but this book is so much more than the cliched teen pregnancy stories I’ve come across.

2. I haven’t compulsively read a book like this in a while: I was seriously reading every moment I could — on my phone when I had a few seconds and I even woke up at 5:30 am so I could read it. I think it’s partly in the way it’s told in addition to the fact I was so into the story. It alternate between “Before” and “After”. The Before shows her and Sawyer’s past and really who she was before she got pregnant. The “After” is a couple years later when Sawyer comes back into town and we see she’s already settled into life as a mom. The unraveling of their story was just so gripping and Katie Cotugno gets you BAD with the ending of each chapter. I was RAVENOUS for more. She’d end, let’s say, the BEFORE chapter on a note where I was tempted to just skip the AFTER chapter because I HAD to know what happened next (and vice versa — each one was equally compelling). There are so few books that hook me so bad that after EACH chapter I can’t imagine putting it down. That’s a problem when life demands you still must exist outside of those pages!

3. Reena & Sawyer were two incredibly REAL characters & drew me into their story: These are characters that are going to piss you off probably at times, they are flawed, they are real and they don’t always make the right choice. I LOVED THAT. I don’t know if it’s an unpopular opinion but I LOVED SAWYER. I didn’t always LIKE him and the things he did but I felt the chemistry between them and that there was more to Sawyer. Sometimes I was so frustrated but I felt like I could feel Reena’s resolve not to give into Sawyer but, like Reena, I felt it all crumble. I just loved being tangled in Reena and Sawyer’s messy and complex love story. It was breathtaking at times, I cried, I fumed but I just felt what it was like to be young again and thinking with your heart and sometimes making those mistakes to learn and grow. I also really loved their individual growth — that aspect of the story was just important to me as their love story. They got second chances, opportunities for forgiveness and to come to terms with the past. Also, as a sidenote, I LOVED their banter.

book reviewsHow To Love by Katie Cotugno is a book that shot a line straight to my heart from the beginning and I was so thoroughly enchanted with Reena and Sawyer’s messy yet utterly romantic story that I kept sneaking in moments whenever I could and even set an alarm for 5:30am so I could squeeze in more time. It was beautiful, heartbreaking at times and made my heart just feel so full as I watched these wonderfully flawed characters unravel before me and build themselves back up. I mega loved this book and highly recommend it. Don’t be turned off by the thought that it might be a cliched “teenage pregnancy issues” book because that is NOT at all what this book is.

short book review

HOw To Love Katie Cotugno

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? What did you think of it?


The Perpetual Page-Turner

 

four-half-stars

The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

Madmans jkt Des1.inddBook Title/Author: The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd
Publisher/Year
: Balzer + Bray January 29, 2013
Genre: Historical Fiction — with some science fiction-y kind of things (think science experiments)
Series: Yes (totally did know that when I started reading it!)
Other Books From Author: None — her debut!

Amazon| Goodreads | Twitter |

I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way swayed my opinion. Pinky swear!

At 16 Juliet is an orphan — she works as a maid and every day tries to move past the horrific scandal that drove her father away and left she and her mother penniless and outcasts. She’d heard rumors about her father’s experiments but she wanted to believe her father wasn’t capable of such evil. She has an encounter with a childhood friend who she finds out knows her father’s whereabouts and she begs him to take her to the island where he is apparently working and living so she can get the answers to her questions and learn for herself what he really did that made him flee. When she reaches the remote island, with her childhood friend Montgomery and Edward,a man she found almost drowning to death in the ocean, she is reunited with her father and learns what he’s been doing all this time on a very secluded island. She encounters the work her father has done on this dangerous island in creepy and chilling ways  and learns that  maybe her past is more connected to these secrets than she even knows.

 

 

Do you enjoy creepy, Gothic stories that are completely atmospheric? Do you like some mystery mixed with an intriguing dash of science fiction? Looking for something DIFFERENT? These were all the things that I found myself raving about when it came to this book!

I am a sucker for Gothic novels and historical fiction that just get the setting right and that feel of place and time pervaded the novel whether we were in London or on the island. I could feel the chill as Juliet walked through the streets of London and I could feel the muggy, wild air of the tropical island so full of danger.  As Juliet travels from London to be reunited with her father, there was just this continually heightened sense of mystery — why did her father have to run from? What had he been doing? What was UP with some of the things on the island? I felt such danger and KNEW that something was off and that the experiments he was doing on the island were definitely creepy and messed up and then bodies started piling up. I had this smothering feeling and just wanted Juliet to GET OFF THE ISLAND with Montgomery and Edward. It was beyond creepy and Megan Shepherd did an amazing job bringing this island and its mysteries to life. I shudder picturing the island and what her monster of a father has been doing there — the creepy experiment-made people, the shocking secrets he’s kept and brought with him to the island. I’m telling you, this story has things that will give you the creepy crawlies under your skin. For the most part, I flew through it, though there were some slower parts!

I’ll be honest though, despite how GREAT I thought this book was, there is one thing of note that I wished had been different to make this a PERFECT novel for me.  It’s probably just a personal preference but there was some romance going on, and that’s fine, but I was MUCH more interested in the creepy things that were happening and the mysteries of the island. Sure, I found myself fawning over Montgomery and quite intrigued by Edward but I kept thinking MORE CREEP, LESS LOVE! And this has nothing to do with Megan  Shepherd’s ability to create compelling love interests or weave it intricately into the story.  I mean you KNOW I love my kissing and romance but I just wanted more of the creepy things because Megan Shepherd was spinning this compelling mystery with the island and her father and I just couldn’t get enough! And at some times it seemed Juliet was more concerned with the boys rather than THE CRAZY EFFING THINGS HAPPENING AROUND HERE.

There were some remarkable twists and I just never knew quite what to expect in this breathtaking story. I felt like I had a hunch about things but I never was quite sure. AND THE ENDING. The sort of mouth-gaping-open-OMG-Ican’t-believe-that-just-happened sort of ending. OH MAN. I am desperate for book 2!

The Madman’s Daughter was perfectly dark and creepy — the sort of Gothic, atmospheric story I love. From the very beginning, I was drawn into Juliet’s story of being abandoned by her scientist father who had disappeared after being accused of doing horrible experiments. As the story progressed I was fascinated with Juliet’s time on the island and sufficiently creeped out by what was going on there with her crazy father and sweaty-palmed thanks to all the twists and turns and shocking revelations. What a compelling story! My only minor hangup was that the romance was such a big part of the story but I just wanted more of the other elements that made this story so good despite the ease there was to fall in love with both Montgomery and Edward.

A bit of a warning though: I know some people are sensitive about any sort of animal cruelty and experimentation so you should know that there is some of that in here considering the father is a mad scientist basically.

For Fans  Of: dark and creepy stories, historical fiction with a little science fiction elements (think: science experiements), Gothic novels, a good mystery

Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd

 

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one?? Heard of it? If you’ve read it, what were some of your thoughts? Like/Dislike? Was Juliet’s dad not the creepiest person you’ve read about in a while?? Which boy did you love more — Montgomery or Edward?

four-stars

Review: Ten by Gretchen McNeil

Book Title/Author: Ten by Gretchen McNeil
Publisher/Year: HarperTeen
Genre: YA Horror
Series: No.
Other Books From Author: Possess

Amazon| Goodreads |Gretchen McNeil’s Website

I received this for review from the publisher. This did not sway my opinions in any way.

 

Best friends Meg & Minnie are invited to the super exclusive weekend house party thrown by one of the most popular girls at school. As they arrive at the party at her vacation home on Henry Island, they are immediately whisked into the fun by Meg’s crush TJ — a boy she has a secret history with & that Minnie has been in love with — and Ben — a hot friend of the hostess who Minnie clings to right away. As the party gets started and the friends start having fun, it takes a turn to the sinister upon discovering a creepy video that threatens the ten party-goers. When the body count starts climbing and they find themselves with no electricity or way of getting off the island, everyone is on edge with the video’s threats in mind and starts turning on each other. Can Meg figure out the killer before it’s too late? Is it someone they know or is it somebody else that wasn’t at the party?


Please understand that all I read during my middle school years was RL Stine and Christopher Pike along with some other horror books. I love the horror genre but have really neglected it these days. Ten by Gretchen McNeil excites me in the same way that those books did. I love a good scary slasher-y story where I’m changing my mind every couple of pages of who the killer is and the big twisted WHY. It was everything I loved about those books and movies like Scream & I Know What You Did Last Summer — which every teen in the 90’s loved despite wanting to pee their pants and learned that you ALWAYS, ALWAYYYYS MAKE SURE THE BADDIE IS DEAD LEST THEY REACH OUT AND TRY TO GRAB YOU AGAIN!

The thing I loved most about Ten by Gretchen McNeil is how she kept me guessing the whole way through. I had so many theories swirling about my head and pointed the guilty finger at just about every character at the party and invented scenarios in which it could be someone outside of the party. I seriously had a BALL trying to figure out who the killer was and WHY they did it. But you know what, I did NOT guess that ending nor who it was…though I initially had my suspicions of who it was but they were fleeting so SHOCKER. I went back and read the part where I suspected that person and MAN, I was SO CLOSE. Because of this crazy guessing game I devoured this like a hungry animal but it also helped that Gretchen McNeil created some really gruesome (albeit not graphic) death scenes and crazy tension-filled situations where you just didn’t know what to expect. Props to her writing for setting the scene of the creepy house & creepy island!

I think that, while it satiated my love for a quick horror story, that it really just stayed on par with the 100’s of teen horror novels I read in the 90’s…it never rose above those. What I mean is that I enjoyed it but it wasn’t ground-breaking to the genre; almost stayed true to the “formula”. There were a lot of times where it clung very close to the cliched tropes in teen slasher type horror and, like those books for me, I really never thought the characterization wasn’t that great — seriously, lots of cliches and unlikeable characters who you never end up caring about (some because they just die so soon naturally). They are books that I really enjoy and devour quickly but most of them blend in. I think they are great for quick, fun (?) reads that give you a little bit of a fright but that’s where it stayed. Also, I have to say I thought sometimes the reactions of the characters and the things they were thinking of and talking about in the midst of a big slaying of their friends were just so strange to me. Rather than being worried about a boy I’d be worried about not DYING so maybe I could like enjoy a boy again. JUST SAYING.

I also hear that this was based on an Agatha Christie novel (And Then There Were None) and that if you LOVED that novel you might have a hard time with this one. I can’t compare Ten to that since never having read And Then There Were None so that wasn’t a problem for me.

If you loved books from RL Stine & Christopher Pike or movies like Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer when you were a teen, then I think you’ll enjoy Ten by Gretchen McNeil. It’s got all the riveting action and pulse-racing tension with a body count and the ability to keep you guessing until the very end. It was a good read but not stand-out in the genre for me. It wasn’t honestly that scary; more mysterious than anything. It was a perfect start to my Halloween reading binge nonetheless and begged to be compulsively read for the action & the mystery of WHO the killer was and WHY he or she was after them.

 

For Fans Of: YA horror, slasher films like Scream & I Know What You Did Last Summer, Christopher Pike & RL Stine books from the 90’s

 

Let’s Talky Talk: Have you read this one? Heard of it? What did you think if you have read it? Were you able to guess the killer? What other horror novels do you recommend? And I HAVE TO KNOW…were you huge Christopher Pike or RL Stine fans like me??

three-stars
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