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.