Let’s Get Meta: Literally by Lucy Keating

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A girl realizes her life is being written for her in this unique, smart love story that is Stranger Than Fiction for fans of Stephanie Perkins.

Annabelle’s life has always been Perfect with a capital P. Then bestselling young adult author Lucy Keating announces that she’s writing a new novel—and Annabelle is the heroine.

It turns out, Annabelle is a character that Lucy Keating created. And Lucy has a plan for her.

But Annabelle doesn’t want to live a life where everything she does is already plotted out. Will she find a way to write her own story—or will Lucy Keating have the last word?

The real Lucy Keating’s delightful contemporary romance blurs the line between reality and fiction, and is the perfect follow-up for readers who loved her debut Dreamology, which SLJ called, “a sweet, quirky romance with appealing characters.”

Source: GoodReads

When reading this book, I wondered what if reviewers got trapped in the God awful books that they are trying to read and review accordingly.

I imagine I would want to punch a lot of the characters that I would come upon.  Like Annabelle in Literally,  she and her author got into this battle of sorts in the book and honestly I sort of wanted Lucy Keating to erase AB out of existence, but I never was so lucky instead the ending was a bit of a cop out but…

Back to the review.  If you read the blurb, you’re probably expecting something akin to that Will Farrell movie Stranger Than Fiction where Will finds out he’s a fictional character that’s expected to die.  And yeah, there are vibes of that here.  But I suggest seeing the movie and skipping the book, because honestly the movie’s better.

That’s not something you say every day on a book blog.  But all kidding aside, the movie  was much better done than this book was.  I think in part because it was not near as cliche as the book was, or Farrell’s acting saved the day.

Here, there were no actors to help the story and while the movie had a few moments of ingenuity to it this book didn’t.

And I kept getting creeped out that the author used herself as a character.  I mean seriously, if I was writing a book I would not like depicting myself as a character let alone a villain.

Although, if I did have a death ray to destroy annoying book characters it might be worth it…

Zoey Redbird and Bethany Church, I am coming for you.

But seriously, can you just imagine how annoying that must’ve been writing yourself as a character, constantly referring to yourself in third person.

Keating must have felt like a house elf.

No bueno.

Also, the self grandizing  of the author character was a bit too much.  Lucy Keating made herself seem like JK freaking Rowling and while I get it was to add to the story, it came off as kind of…well, kind of annoying.

If you really are intrigued by this premises I don’t think trying this book out would kill you.  It was dull as shit but it was short too.  I was able to finish it fairly quickly-it’s not even 300 pages long.  The characters aren’t really that well formed out.  In fact, I would say the Will character in a mere caricature.   Really, the most well formed character is the dog and that’s not saying a lot for this book.

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Emory has much more development than the dog in this book.  At the very least he’s been featured on the Daily Corgi and that’s saying a lot for a corgi.

Still though, I really didn’t like this one.

Overall Rating: A C- it’s bad but it’s not like the worst thing I’ve ever read.  If you want this premises and can overlook a lot, it’s worth a try.  However, and I stress the however, you’ll have to be tolerant of paper thing characterization and blatant self inserts.

Fandom Done Right: Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

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Her story is a phenomenon. Her life is a disaster.

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, and friendless. Online, she’s LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of the wildly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves the online one, and she has no desire to try.

Then Wallace Warland, Monstrous Sea’s biggest fanfiction writer, transfers to her school. Wallace thinks Eliza is just another fan, and as he draws her out of her shell, she begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile.

But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart.

Source: GoodReads

I loved this book.

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I have read many books about fandoms this year, I think it’s almost a sub genre in YA contemporary.  Lots of them have been good.  Lots have been mediocre.  And some of downright pandered to their audience.  With Eliza and Her Monsters I think I found one of these books that’s actually scary identifiable.

Though, I do not have near the anxiety issues Eliza has, I see a lot my teen self in her and I have had panic attacks before.  I also can relate to her as an introvert.

Extroverts, like Eliza’s parents, always have a hard time realizing why introverts like being by themselves.  Why we have to have that alone time.  Why it’s so crucial that an introvert has a people free day and be a RAT (rude antisocial troglodyte).

Yeah, I know.

Introvert whining.  But when you are constantly told that parties are fine and find yourself only looking at your watch the entire time wanting to know when you can go home and binge watch something on Netflixs…

Okay, end of introvert pity party.

The point, I’m trying to make-digressions aside is this book is so relatable.  It also goes into the pitfalls of how one can get absorbed in fandom in an almost unhealthy way.  And honestly reading this sort of scared me because I could see shades of myself in Eliza and while I loved her, that isn’t exactly a good thing.

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Okay, it was actually a great thing it made me feel for the character and made her journey seem even more real, but it also scared me on some level that some of the darker moments of this characters journey…well, I could see it happening to me if I were in her shoes.

The romance in this book was delightful.  I liked both Wallace and Eliza.  They both had this awkwardly cute quality about them.  I did get annoyed with Wallace towards the end of the book when he pressured Eliza to finish her comic.  His reaction, however, as douchey as it might’ve seemed wasn’t really that unrealistic.  In fact, had he not acted the way he did I probably would be calling the book out for not being realistic.

One of my biggest issues with Fangirl was that the fan fiction that Cath wrote was a very obvious watered down Harry Potter fan fic (the fact that, that got its own spinoff is another story for another day) the fandom in Eliza and her Monsters actually is its own thing and it sounds pretty cool.

Really, I wouldn’t mind reading a spinoff of Eliza’s story. which seemed to be more than Harry/Draco fan shipping.

Just saying.

I think what drove me into liking this book was that it was relatable.  It had its moments of darkness, but it also had its moments of hope.  If you want a good book about fandom, I highly recommend you check this contemporary out.

Overall Rating: An A

 

The Quotes Show Its Stupid: Toward a Secret Sky by Heather Maclean

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Shortly after 17-year-old Maren Hamilton is orphaned and sent to live with grandparents she’s never met in Scotland, she receives an encrypted journal from her dead mother that makes her and everyone around her a target. It confirms that her parents were employed by a secret, international organization that’s now intent on recruiting her. As Maren works to unravel the clues left behind by her mother, a murderous madness sweeps through the local population, terrorizing her small town. Maren must decide if she’ll continue her parents’ fight or stay behind to save her friends.

With the help of Gavin, an otherworldly mercenary she’s not supposed to fall in love with, and Graham, a charming aristocrat who is entranced with her, Maren races against the clock and around the country from palatial estates with twisted labyrinths to famous cathedrals with booby-trapped subterranean crypts to stay ahead of the enemy and find a cure. Along the way, she discovers the great truth of love: that laying down your life for another isn’t as hard as watching them sacrifice everything for you.

Source: GoodReads

I know I’ve ranted about YA fantasy being eerily the same.  Well, YA paranormal also falls under the same rut.  The only thing is, I was hoping since this genre has sort of disappeared in the past five or so years, that when there was a YA paranormal released-like Toward A Secret Sky– it would be something different.

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Only thing is, this book is probably as cliche as the books that were being released in the heyday of this genre.

Usually I’m not one for using quotes in my review, but I think this is one DNF where quotes sill exemplify why I didn’t finish this book.

Exhibit One:

My mother was totally beautiful-a former Miss Springfield-and I  looked nothing like her.  While she had olive skin and shiny black hair.  I got my Scottish father’s pale white coloring, light green eyes, and cray, thick, curly blonde hair.  The kind of hair that once made a hairdresser cry because the haircut came with a free blow-dry, and she counted on the whole process taking three hours.  Of course, it wasn’t California blonde or even all-the-same-color blonde.  It was someone once told me, “dishwater blonde.”  Just what my self-esteem needed: hair that reminded people of dirty water. (9-10)

Of course, this is our description of our MC who is described as being “Plain” because she has dirty blonde hair that’s curly.  I should mention later on when she starts attending school in Scotland, everyone is envious over said hair.  Furthermore, being a dirty blonde myself, I always find it insulting when people talk this way.

Exhibit Two:

I was kissing the hottest guy ever.  He was so hot, even his hair was red.  We were logging in the long grass, kissing deeply, like it was our new way of breathing.

It was hot outside, and the kissing was making me even hotter.  Everywhere he touched me, my skin burned.  I never kissed anyone before, and certainly like this.

(13)

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Do I even need to say anything about this?

Exhibit Three:

Even the “normal” food in Scotland wasn’t normal.  French fries, which were called “chips”, looked like the fries back home, but instead of being crispy and yummy, they were soggy and not.  Chips were called “crisps”, which was a true description, but they didn’t have any fun flavors like ranch or hickory barbecue.  In fact, they didn’t have barbecue anything at all.  They’d never heard of brownies or cornbread (“Why would you put corn in bread?” my grandmother asked).

(14)

Disinterested teen,  who insults the area the area that she’s in.  I’ve been to Ireland-I know different country than Scotland, BUT we the area I was staying at had a Tesco (the same store this ingrate went to) and the store was fairly large, though not Super Walmart size, and they pretty much had anything you wanted.  Also, having had chips/fries in both the US and Ireland, I can tell you there really is not that much different.   So, I’m guessing that Scotland’s version isn’t that different either.

Anyway, a pet peeve of mine in any YA book is when the character will trash the area they just moved to.  Especially if its a foreign country.  America’s reputation has pretty much been shot by Donald Trump, we don’t  need little fictional ingrates like Maren to ruin it further.

Exhibit 4:

Hew as the most breathtaking guy I had ever seen and-thank you, God!-seemed to be about my age.  His wavy chestnut-colored hair fell over his forehoead, but not enough to hide his dark blue eyes.  He was tall and broad shouldered, but had a thin waist.  he carried his bulging frame like he  was wearing football shoulder  pads, but I could see from where his white tunic shirt hung open at his chest that he was all bare skin and muscle.

(30)

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Do I need to say more?

Exhibit 5:

I could tell by Jo’s flat tone that Elsie was not her favorite person.  I’d have to remember to cheer her up later by letting her know “Elsie” was mainly a name for cows in America.

(44)

Wrong.  Elsie is the name of a very cute diminutive Corgi  (AKA Wonder Corgi) who is upset that she is being compared to a cow.  She says she is going keep barking  into  Maclean’s ear until this is rectified.

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Wonder Corgi not Wonder Woman, but close enough.

These quotes are pretty much why I quit the book.  I could find more, but honestly I don’t want to.  Like I said, usually I avoid doing quote reviews, but I think in this book’s case the quotes exemplify why I didn’t want to continue.

Overall Rating: DNF.  Avoid.

All Unhappy Readers Are Different: Tash Hearts Tolstoy by

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After a shout-out from one of the Internet’s superstar vloggers, Natasha “Tash” Zelenka finds herself and her obscure, amateur web series, Unhappy Families, thrust into the limelight: She’s gone viral.

Her show is a modern adaptation of Anna Karenina—written by Tash’s literary love Count Lev Nikolayevich “Leo” Tolstoy. Tash is a fan of the forty thousand new subscribers, their gushing tweets, and flashy Tumblr GIFs. Not so much the pressure to deliver the best web series ever.

And when Unhappy Families is nominated for a Golden Tuba award, Tash’s cyber-flirtation with Thom Causer, a fellow award nominee, suddenly has the potential to become something IRL—if she can figure out how to tell said crush that she’s romantic asexual.

Tash wants to enjoy her newfound fame, but will she lose her friends in her rise to the top? What would Tolstoy do?

Source: GoodReads

I was really excited about this book since it was suppose to feature an asexual protagonist.  And God knows, there’s hardly any rep of that in YA.  The thing is Tash Hearts Tolstoy didn’t really work for me.  And no, it wasn’t a representation issue.

Though, it’s not even mentioned that the character is asexual until about a hundred or so pages in the book, but that’s besides the point.

Why did I quit this book?  Well, to put it bluntly I did not like the main character and more or less the book was another contemporary taking of the trend of 2017 (social media break out star).

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Yeah, yeah, yeah, I knew going in it was going to feature this trope.  But there was something just noxious to me about it, I think because it was more or less the cliche of fame going to your head…or at least that’s what the author was trying to go with, but really from what I saw the MC’s friend was really an asshole a la Lily Moscovitz from The Princess Diaries books,  though to be fair though the MC, Tash, is also annoying.  And not annoying in an endearing way like Mia Thermpolis.

No.  She was just so, so, annoying.

In part, because this book has major shades of pandering in it.  I mentioned pandering in my review of Queen of Geeks a few months.  One thing I will give Tash Hearts Tolstoy is at least the MC’s TV web episodes weren’t immediately successful.  They had to get noticed first, but still the whole going viral bit was a bit unexplained.  And, well, boring.  Getting that many views, you’d think there would be more fall out than there was.

And maybe, if I kept reading the book I could’ve seen more of it.  But again, I read a little over a hundred pages and was completely underwhelmed with the whole thing.

I skimmed through the end to see if things picked up, from what I saw the book took the cliche route and really I did not have enough time to read that sort of shit.  My reading time is tight enough as it is, and with Tash being so obnoxious I didn’t want to waste my time with her or her story.

Which is a shame, because like I said I was interested in reading a book with an asexual main character.

But instead, I got whiney Tash who just seems to go in her room, talk about how she’s going to get into freaking Vanderbilt because she works at Old Navy, and complains about how evil her sister is for looking like Scarlett Johansson and occasionally mentions something interesting about her Czech heritage-alas, there is a lack of kolaches in the part of the book I read.  Being of Czech heritage myself that is so, so wrong.

Man, writing this makes me wish that I could find a good gluten free recipe for kolaches. I miss kolaches. Especially the poppy seed ones.  Poppy seed kolaches are the best.

I’m not kidding you about the character’s activities.  Given the synopsis of the book, I thought that the characters sexuality would play more of a role in the book than it did.  And maybe it did further on in the book, but it really was only merely thrown out there.  And in a way I think that might’ve been how it should be, but given how it was presented even though it was so sudden…you could tell it was going to be a plot that was further developed.

Sigh.

So yeah, me and this book just did not connect.  I wouldn’t say it was exactly a horrible book, but Tash and I just did not get a long and I didn’t see us ever getting along.  Add the fact that the plot was going the cliche route, I really wasn’t interested in staying around and seeing how things played out.

Overall Rating: DNF.

Cringe Drama: I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maureen Goo

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Desi Lee believes anything is possible if you have a plan. That’s how she became student body president. Varsity soccer star. And it’s how she’ll get into Stanford. But—she’s never had a boyfriend. In fact, she’s a disaster in romance, a clumsy, stammering humiliation magnet whose botched attempts at flirting have become legendary with her friends. So when the hottest human specimen to have ever lived walks into her life one day, Desi decides to tackle her flirting failures with the same zest she’s applied to everything else in her life. She finds guidance in the Korean dramas her father has been obsessively watching for years—where the hapless heroine always seems to end up in the arms of her true love by episode ten. It’s a simple formula, and Desi is a quick study. Armed with her “K Drama Steps to True Love,” Desi goes after the moody, elusive artist Luca Drakos—and boat rescues, love triangles, and staged car crashes ensue. But when the fun and games turn to true feels, Desi finds out that real love is about way more than just drama.

Source: GoodReads

I have mixed feelings about this book.  It’s very cringe worthy, but at the same time I think it’s suppose to be cringe worthy.  Honestly, I probably could’ve read it in one big swoop, but because I didn’t want to throw it against the wall (I didn’t).  Oh, yes, I had great self control.

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Again, it’s not a bad book but the premises is cringe worthy.  And there were things in it that happened that wanted me to shake the main character.

Like that thing with her college interview, I wanted someone to snap at her harder than they did.  And really, it left a real sour taste in my mouth how that plot point played out but I digress…

K-dramas are something I’m always wanting to try out, but never get around to a actually watching for various reasons (I think the main thing is that usually when I want to watch TV I’m too tired to read subtitles, which is a shame because they are they seem to have a crack soap opera  like quality about them that I would like to watch).  That being said, I was excited for this book and while I do think it did a good job exploring the K-Drama angle I did think at times the book was a little formulaic and Desi was more than a little annoying.

If you’re seen Election Reese Witherspoon’s character is pretty much Desi, except Desi isn’t near as psychotic.  Though that thing with the boat and the car comes pretty close.

Sorry, Desi but that was crazy.

Honestly, I wasn’t crazy about the ship.  This is one time, I would’ve been happier if Desi would’ve gotten together with her friend.  Luca seemed blasé to me, and I really felt like Desi had to compromise parts of herself to be with him.  Also, again the whole college subplot towards the end really grated under my skin.

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I know it probably wasn’t Goo’s intention, but it really annoyed me that the MC’s dreams were essentially squashed because of a boy.  And yeah I know, Desi still ends up going to a good school and its closure to said boy.

But GMAFB.

Maybe it’s because I’m older than the intended audience who probably found the ending perfect, but I was not satisfied with this ending at all.

Anyway, I can see younger readers and less cynical readers liking this more than me.  If you can’t stand cringe worthy moments, I recommend staying far, far away.  I knew going in that this could be a problem so I took the proper precautions (short reading periods, with lots and lots of breaks).

Overall Rating: Um, a B-.  I could see it maybe being a B, but honestly Desi had psychotic tendencies and the college subplot drove me insane.

Need Movie Now: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

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A laugh-out-loud, heartfelt YA romantic comedy, told in alternating perspectives, about two Indian-American teens whose parents have arranged for them to be married.

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

Source: GoodReads

When I heard about When Dimple Met Rishi it was on my TBR list pretty automatically, but I’ll admit it, I was a little skeptical about the whole arrange marriage angle.

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Okay, a lot of skeptical.

I think part of it is a culture thing.  In the US, arranged marriages aren’t really seen much.  I also took a course in law school on human trafficking, so I know how these marriages can go when they go wrong. And then I read that one book a few years back with a disastrous arranged marriage.  And finally, I know of someone who keeps avoiding being put in an arrange relationship by her mother so…it’s really hard to romanticize something like that.

Good thing is that Menon really doesn’t force the marriage angle at all.  In fact, Dimple’s reaction to the whole thing was so on point.

Oh, God, I love Dimple.  She is everything I want and more in a YA protagonist.   First of all, she’s direct to the point and bad ass.  Also, she’s interested in STEM which is highly unusual for a protagonist  in a YA book.  And it’s a genuine interest too, not some pandering interest ( a la that dumb ass Codes and Clues game in the Nancy Drew series).  I wish there would’ve been more discussion about her app, because it sounded really cool, but I did enjoy the parts that did focus on her and what a woman who is interested in STEM might potentially face.

I also enjoyed Rishi.  He was adorable.  At first I was kind of annoyed by him, because he did come off as slightly creepy in the opening pages of the book.  But it’s quickly revealed that that creepiness is really nervousness, and he really does develop as a character throughout the book.   Though, he still deserved that coffee in his face at the beginning of the book.

And oh yeah, the cover.  Totally fits the book.  I hardly ever can say that about covers, but this one fits.  And the cover models were actually how I pictured the characters.

The plot, is your pretty standard falling in love at a summer camp sort of thing with both Dimple and Rishi coming to realizations about themselves.  Menon makes the characters come alive, and I really like the infusion of Indian culture in the book.  It’s not done in a hammy way, but for readers who aren’t familiar with this culture will find it interesting.

The one  thing I did not like about this book was the side plot involving the Aberzombies.  I think it was in part suppose to be comedy relief, but all these characters came off as annoying and the whole bathing suit thing came off as borderline offensive and stupid.  It was the only thing that made me think about lowering this book from five stars to four.  However, I didn’t though.

Overall, if you want something cute and frothy to get your mind off of things, read this.  It’s a jut kiss already book  and it will take your mind off of things, while making you think about some other things.  Is it perfect, no.  But overall the faults it had, did not take away from the enjoyment (that much).

Overall Rating: An A.  A- if I want to be ultra picky.

Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

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A cappella just got a makeover.

Jordan Sun is embarking on her junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts, hopeful that this will be her time: the year she finally gets cast in the school musical. But when her low Alto 2 voice gets her shut out for the third straight year—threatening her future at Kensington-Blaine and jeopardizing her college applications—she’s forced to consider nontraditional options.

In Jordan’s case, really nontraditional. A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshipped…revered…all male. Desperate to prove herself, Jordan auditions in her most convincing drag, and it turns out that Jordan Sun, Tenor 1, is exactly what the Sharps are looking for.

Jordan finds herself enmeshed in a precarious juggling act: making friends, alienating friends, crushing on a guy, crushing on a girl, and navigating decades-old rivalries. With her secret growing heavier every day, Jordan pushes beyond gender norms to confront what it means to be a girl (and a guy) in a male-dominated society, and—most importantly—what it means to be herself.

Source: GoodReads

Good news guys, I finished my reading goal for 2017.  Fifty books.  Grant it, I did DNF a few of them but I still technically read fifty books.

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Anyway, Noteworthy was the book that pushed me over the top.  I had mixed feelings about this book.  Overall, I’m giving it a sold B rating but there were some things that didn’t work for me.

What worked.  The setting.  From what I could tell it was pretty spot on.  My sister went to a performing arts boarding school, and it was pretty much like Kensington-Blaine (grant it, her focus was in playing the oboe, not singing or theater, but still same sort of deal).  I also really liked the way that Redgate explored how economically disadvantaged kids fare at such schools.

To be blunt about it, my sister experienced hell when she was at her fancy pants performing arts high school mainly becuase she was a scholarship student.  Grant it, my family was pretty solid middle class-my parents own their home and we never were on any benefits like Jordan and her family-but without a scholarship there would’ve been no way that she could’ve gone to that school and it was the first time she really had to deal with classism.

My mom actually had more of a home life like Jordan-her dad was in a wheelchair and even though her parents worked they survived in part because of Social Security and ate pretty much a staple diet of dried beans for a lot of her childhood.  Reading Jordan’s narrative, reminded me of a lot of the issues my mom described that she faced growing up, so those two parts of the book were very relatable to me even though I had not directly experienced either of them.

So those two parts of the book-the handling of the setting and poverty were at least really well done from what I have experienced.  I also loved how diverse this book is.  There are a variety of different character from different backgrounds and the boarding school really leads to a great setting for them to interact.

Jordan was also an entertaining narrator and sort of atypical.  She is actually one of the few YA character who gender bends who I think realistically could pull it off-at least from a physical perspective.

She’s actually described as looking androgynous, which I know shocking as this may sound doesn’t happen a lot with this trope.

The gender bend storyline didn’t drive me that crazy either.  I did think before reading it, that Jordan would question her gender identity, but really that’s not a factor in this book. I am glad that some discussion was made about the difference between cross dressing and being transgender.

The relationships between the singing group were also nice.  The dynamics make it perfectly acceptable for a companion sequel-just saying-and I felt like there was a lot to explore here.

The romance also didn’t bother me, though I don’t really know if it was needed.  I was satisfied enough with the character development for Jordan and the platonic relationships she developed with the rest of the team.

What didn’t work?

The pacing.

Oh, the pacing.

It dragged so freaking much in parts.  I felt like if the book could’ve cut down a little bit of the page count it would’ve been better off for it.

Also, the sheet ludicrousness of Jordan’s gender bending experience made me roll my eyes.  You would’ve thought that the faculty sponsor would’ve at least looked to see if Julian existed for the pure purpose of checking his eligibility to see if whether or not his grades allowed him to compete in the group.

But…

Stephenie Meyer excuse, it’s fiction.

Still, it’s hard to let something like that go when you’re reading, especially if you are the super neurotic reader like yours truly.

Overall, I do recommend Noteworthy.  It does have some really good bits to it, but there were some issues.  If you can handle the slowish pacing and can suspend logic then you might should give this one a try.

Overall Rating: A solid B.

The Egypt Book I Wanted: In a Perfect World by Trish Doller

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Caroline Kelly is excited to be spending her summer vacation working at the local amusement park with her best friend, exploring weird Ohio with her boyfriend, and attending soccer camp with the hope she’ll be her team’s captain in the fall.

But when Caroline’s mother is hired to open an eye clinic in Cairo, Egypt, Caroline’s plans are upended. Caroline is now expected to spend her summer and her senior year in a foreign country, away from her friends, her home, and everything she’s ever known.

With this move, Caroline predicts she’ll spend her time navigating crowded streets, eating unfamiliar food, and having terrible bouts of homesickness. But when she finds instead is a culture that surprises her, a city that astounds her, and a charming, unpredictable boy who challenges everything she thought she knew about life, love, and privilege.

Source: GoodReads

I love books about travel.  I love emerging myself into other country’s history and culture.  If done right a book about traveling will very easily end up on my favorites lists since I’ll feel like I’m emerging into a whole new world.  If done wrong, it will have me raging so hard.

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Luckily, for Trish Doller In a Perfect World had me smiling throughout the entire book.  Was it perfect, no there were some parts that were a little unbelievable, but I think overall the general feel of the novel worked.

Full disclosure I have never been to Egypt or anywhere near that area of the world, but from what I read it did seem like Doller did her research.  Or at the very least, she did a better job than Colleen Houck did with that God awful mummy book of hers, which isn’t exactly a high bar.  And it did address the geopolitical issues in the area that many other books that take place in the area often overlook.

The Egypt that Doller depicts is multi-dimension you see the good and bad bits of it, and above else it feels real.  I think the fact that the location itself is a character, its much the same way where I felt that Paris and San Fransisco were a character in themselves in Stephanie Perkins books.

The plot of this book isn’t really there that much.  Sure, there is a love story and sure the character grows, but it’s not that plot heavy.  And maybe that’s why I didn’t really like what happened to the eye clinic at the end of the book.  It just seemed too random and out of place more than anything else.  Merely a way to end the story sooner rather than later.

And while I understand why Doller chose this plot point, it still came off a little cheap.  Just like the end of the book.  Don’t get me wrong, the romantic part of me liked the ending but the more realistic part of my brain was crying foul since I know that the situation would be a lot more complicated than Doller made it seem though.

That aside though, I really did like this book a lot.  It’s the perfect summer book for escapism.  The characters were depicted and their parents were more than just merely there because-hey, seventeen year olds need parents.

The main character’s parents, in particular, are well drawn out and felt like real people.  I particularly liked the father’s relationship with Caroline throughout the book.

I also liked the romance for the most part too.  The relationship builds up realistically and it does address the problems that the two characters are going to face.  Again though, not such a big fan of the ending even though it was cute.

If you can’t get away this summer and want something that can transport you to another location if only for a few hours.  This is your book.

Overall Rating: A-

I Gave Up: The Truth About Happily Ever After by Karole Cozzo

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Chin up, Princess, or the crown will slip.

A theme park princess must put her life back together after her happily ever after falls apart in this contemporary YA romance from Karole Cozzo, author of How to Keep Rolling After a Fall and How to Say I Love You Out Loud.

Everything was supposed to be perfect. Alyssa has a job she loves, working as Cinderella at her favorite theme park; a fantastic group of friends; and a boyfriend who will no longer be long distance. But as the summer progresses, her prince becomes less charming and more distant, and Alyssa’s perfect summer falls apart.

Forced to acknowledge that life is not always a fairy tale, Alyssa starts working to pull her herself back together. Fortunately, she doesn’t have to do it alone. With her friend Miller’s support, she’s determined to prove that she’s more than just a pretty princess. And with his help, maybe she’s finally ready for something better than dreams. Maybe she’s ready for something real.

Source: GoodReads

I will give myself this after nearly five  years of consistent blogging (six if you count the sporadic first year) I know when to DNF something.  I decided that The Truth About Happily Ever After wasn’t for me after thirty pages.

To be fair, it’s not horrible if  you like super saccharine books that you can pretty much figure out the entire plot from the blurb.

In a lot of ways this book reminds me of a Hallmark movie, it’s not going to be anything special but it will entertain you if you’re in the right sort of mood.

I wasn’t in the mood.

To be frank about it, it actually reminded me of one of those Simon Pulse Romantic Comedies I read when I was a teen.  Unpredictable fluff that is kind of cornball and cheesy.

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So yeah…I gave up.

To be fair, going in I knew it was either going to be hit or miss.  With books like this, in order to be successful the voice needs to be great or there needs to be some sort of twist that makes the otherwise mundane story interesting.

With this book there was none.  I guess the biggest twist was that the obvious love interest wasn’t classically handsome, BUT honestly that’s not much of a twist if you look at all of the various sitcoms out there where the slightly chubby and average looking guy gets the supermodel wife.

Oh, and the theme park that was pretending it wasn’t Disney World but so obviously was.

But honestly, there are a lot of YA books that take place at various theme parks and I haven’t really found any of them THAT interesting.

Overall Rating: DNF.  I only read thirty pages, so I don’t really feel like giving this one a rating.  Just know that this one was not for me and unless you like cliche, it’s probably not for you either.

Just Because You Gender Bend Doesn’t Mean You’re Mulan: Flame in the Midst by Renee Ahdieh

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The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

Source: GoodReads

It’s time to be a Debbie Downer, while there have been lots of positive reviews for this book this review isn’t going to be one of them.  Instead, it’s going to be me being extremely grumpy about said book that I gave up on about 90 pages from the end because NOTHING interesting had happened and I didn’t understand what Mariko was trying to do.

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First of all, the Mulan retelling bit?  Other than gender bending and hanging out with a group of guys, don’t see it.

Oh, and this book takes place in feudal Japan NOT China.  Big difference there, publishers.  I know that both countries are in Asia.  BUT they are different countries with severally different histories and cultures.  For example, did you know Japan is where the novel originated (thank you, Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego PC Game that I beat about 40K times during my childhood).  I bet unless you played that game or studied Japanese history you didn’t know that.   Also, if you only watched the Disney movie you probably don’t know that Mulan actually was not an original Disney project-shocking, not, since Disney usually adapts various folklores and stories rather than having original projects.  The origins of the story, obviously, are from China.

So…yeah, I don’t necessary know if calling this a Mulan retelling is a good idea, but I guess I could see where marketing was going with this one…

Anyway, the initial set up is an interesting one.  The MC escapes for her life because bandits are trying to kill her and then decides to infiltrate the bandits to find out why they killed her.

And that’s when the book flops because the character does every stupid thing possible when with the bandits, while being depicted as clever.

Look, I get it, you need to have some moments of stupidity to fuel the story but when the character keeps acting stupid and doesn’t do anything to further her plan except make stupid mistake after stupid mistake with to add to another stupid plot point which results with her making out with a guy who probably tried to kill her…

Yeah, I’m not a happy reader.

In Ahdieh’s first series she used a love/hate relationship too and that worked because it was a Scheherazade retelling and you know…kind of happens in that story.  Here though, it annoyed me.  I didn’t like any of these bandits.  I didn’t care for them.  I didn’t care for the lead, or any one else.

I pretty much hated everyone and wanted to tell them they were fucking stupid.

Which isn’t how the jacket described the book at all.  Like, Mariko was described as being this clever character.  Yet, everyone and I mean EVERYONE can figure out her motivations.  Which is ridiculous beyond words.

I am not going to even start on how abusive and annoying I found the love interest.

In the end though, what drove me to DNF this book was the extremely slow pacing of this book.  The fact that I had gotten so far in the book and it seemed like nothing had happened, was enough for me to DNF it.  That and the random make out scene that came out of nowhere.

If you really like the gender bend trope, you might want to give this one a try.  But for me it didn’t work.  I think if anything it made me long to write that book where a boy has to pretend to be a girl in order to save his life/spy on the evil rulers or what not and falls in love with the MC who is all powerful and shit and deals while the guy who is a gal in disguise has to deal with the unfortunate shit that comes with being female-i.e. sexism.   And yeah, I sort of feel pumped to write that now.

Overall Rating: A DNF.  I think this might’ve been a bit of a more subjective than objective DNF though.  The writing is decent, but man did I get annoyed with the characters and the snail pacing of this one.