Henry is a Jerk: Love a la Mode by Stephanie Kate Strohm

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Take two American teen chefs, add one heaping cup of Paris, toss in a pinch of romance, and stir. . . .

Rosie Radeke firmly believes that happiness can be found at the bottom of a mixing bowl. But she never expected that she, a random nobody from East Liberty, Ohio, would be accepted to celebrity chef Denis Laurent’s school in Paris, the most prestigious cooking program for teens in the entire world. Life in Paris, however, isn’t all cream puffs and crepes. Faced with a challenging curriculum and a nightmare professor, Rosie begins to doubt her dishes.

Henry Yi grew up in his dad’s restaurant in Chicago, and his lifelong love affair with food landed him a coveted spot in Chef Laurent’s school. He quickly connects with Rosie, but academic pressure from home and his jealousy over Rosie’s growing friendship with gorgeous bad-boy baker Bodie Tal makes Henry lash out and push his dream girl away.

Desperate to prove themselves, Rosie and Henry cook like never before while sparks fly between them. But as they reach their breaking points, they wonder whether they have what it takes to become real chefs.

Perfect for lovers of Chopped Teen Tournament and Kids Baking Championship, as well as anyone who dreams of a romantic trip to France, Love la Mode follows Rosie and Henry as they fall in love with food, with Paris, and ultimately, with each other.

Source: GoodReads

I really didn’t care for the love interest in this rom com.  That being said it’s not a bad book.  It’s actually quite enjoyable.  It’s warm and fluffy and reminded me of a lot like Anna and the French Kiss if it had some weird baby with Chopped or some other cooking related show.

Stephanie Kate Strohm has wrote some of my favorite books this year.  That being said while I found this book to be incredibly cute and sweet, at the same time the book was flawed in parts.

I like cooking stuff.  I have a ridiculous collection of cookbooks.  Watch a shit load of cooking shows.  And even attempt to cook when I don’t make a fool of myself by cutting myself  when chopping fennel (for this stupid sheet pan) and needing three stitches of a result (aka this is why I haven’t been blogging as of late, because typing with nine fingers is a bitch)

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So, I sort of like reading stuff about it.  And I even like reading stuff about baking even though I don’t eat a lot of bake goods because of the gluten thing.  I have even thought about doing a cooking feature on this blog before where I review cook books, but given my lack of finesse presentation wise and my tendency for getting in cooking related accidents. That being said, I found the cooking portion of this book to be very artificial in some regards.

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See I can post pictures of food.  My first attempt at fudge, don’t judge.

One of the reasons I have quit watching a lot of competitive reality cooking shows is the whole lack of heart in dishes crap that is usually used to make a chef peg themselves to a particular type of cuisine-usually this is where the chef’s from or their family’s from (i.e. your Italian you must cook Italian, you’re Southern you must cook Southern food) and that’s sort of thrown in here with Henry’s background and is a part of the story.  Never mind that his French food is just as damn good as his Chicago and Korean fusion food (which does sound pretty good now that I think about it) we’re told it doesn’t have heart.

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Okay?

Do you taste heart?  No.

In a cookbook or on a food show, I can get the argument.  Those things have narratives.  We’re just talking about the taste of the food though.  It just annoyed me…especially since Ms. Annoying (aka Rosie who I’ll get to in a minute) didn’t have any story to how she rips off Christina Tosi’s (who by the way has one of the most obnoxious wardrobe on food TV) cakes or why she’s so obsessed with lamination.  But whatever.

It’s just a pet peeve.  Besides, constant name dropping (seriously, every Food Network celeb gets a name drop).  The food stuff was interesting.  I did think though the stuff about Henry’s heritage was just pigeon toed in there at the end and was annoying.  Henry though in general was annoying and creepy.

While this was a cute book, I did not really root for this couple.  Henry is just so damn insecure and ridiculously possessive.

He and Ms. Annoying aren’t even dating yet and another guy flirts with her and he freaks out and gets all sulky.  God, what a moody character.

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Seriously, he sulks a lot.

It’s not attractive.

His moodiness also makes me realize I’m not in the targeted demographic but I digress…

I just didn’t like the way Henry acted and as much as Rosie annoyed me, she deserved better.  Guys like Henry are guys that usually become MRA fuckers.

As for Ms. Annoying…gah.  My problem with Rosie is she’s just such a stereotypical YA protagonist and her supposed improvement in cooking seemed almost miraculous.  Really, she shouldn’t have been at an elite culinary school.

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Surprisingly, I didn’t have a problem with the secondary love interest.  Yes, his backstory was a little outlandish, but Strohm didn’t result to the jerk in disguise trope and I have to give her a plus on that.

Surprisingly, while I did have a lot of nitpicking with the characters I did like this book.  It was a fun little escape.  I’m always down for a book with traveling and cooking, also I like rom coms.  So while I didn’t feel the ship it was sort of written to be an MJ book.

Overall I do recommend Love a la Mode.  There are better books out there, but it is a cute little escape from the dumpster fire that is the world.

Overall Rating: I’ll be generous and give it a B.  And now I’m going to rest my finger.

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These Bones Are Fractured: Mammoth by Jill

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The summer before her junior year, paleontology geek Natalie Page lands a coveted internship at an Ice Age dig site near Austin. Natalie, who’s also a plus-size fashion blogger, depends on the retro style she developed to shield herself from her former bullies, but vintage dresses and perfect lipstick aren’t compatible with prospecting for fossils in the Texas heat. But nothing is going to dampen Natalie’s spirit — she’s exactly where she wants to be, and she gets to work with her hero, a rock-star paleontologist who hosts the most popular paleo podcast in the world. And then there’s Chase the intern, who’s seriously cute, and Cody, a local boy who’d be even cuter if he were less of a grouch.

It’s a summer that promises to be about more than just mammoths.

Until it isn’t.

When Natalie’s hero turns out to be anything but, and steals the credit for one of her accomplishments, Nat has to unearth the confidence she needs to stand out in a field dominated by dudes. To do this, she’ll have to let her true self shine, even if that means defying all the rules for the sake of a major discovery.

Source: GoodReads

Note, if you’re going to state to have a book about body positivity  do not have your character guess every lady’s weight and have the “Mean Girl” be the cliche skinny girl.  It will annoy your reader who would’ve otherwise enjoyed your book.

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Okay, that opening paragraph is pretty much a summation of my thoughts of Mammoth.  It had a lot of potential, there were parts I liked but with many so called “empowerment” books this one ends up skinny bashing AND emphasizing weight more than it should’ve.

At least it had paleontology.  That was cool, and it was the primary reason why I kept reading the book.  Because I was interested in the paleontology bits, even though it got ridiculously unrealistic with how successful the MC was.

Also, seriously, she really thought wearing a dress and heels was smart for a dig sight?

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Really, all of the clothes she bought weren’t fit for Texas summers let alone being outside all day long in the Hill Country.

Digressing…

The MC, Nat, was really annoying.  Baguchinsky does excerpts of Nat’s fashion blog throughout the book, and she is one of those obnoxious fashion bloggers that I would absolutely hate.  Seriously, I don’t need to know what lipstick you like to wear Nat (Pinup Girl, it’s always fucking Pinup Girl).  Nat has that over the top quirky style that I think the audience is suppose to find quirky and empowering, but soon it’s revealed she relies heavily on Spanx and that’s a good part of the novel besides telling us what every single FEMALE character weighs.

Oh, yes, this is just the female characters.  As for the love interests not surprisingly weight isn’t mentioned just abs and biceps.

Oh, and did I mention that the 110 pound girl is obviously a bad character for flirting with a boy that Nat might like and having a rich dad.  She’s skinny and rich so…

Here’s the thing about books that state they’re about body positivity, if THAT’S true the book needs to be accepting of all body types.  It just annoys me when there’s skinny shaming as much as there is fat shaming.  Honestly, I wish that the main character’s size wasn’t mentioned all the time.  Just have it mentioned she’s a plus size blogger and leave it at that.

And really, while I get the fashion thing was used to show her self esteem it really had little to do with the rest of the novel.

The paleontology internship itself was a little eye rolling.  Again, I’d had a hard time believing a complete novice like Nat would have as much success as she did.  Also, her randomly finding a document that dismisses a lawsuit….ha, ha, ha, no.  If only it was that easy.  I’m sure her randomly finding fossils with next to no experience would be just as laughable to paleontologists too.

There’s a part of the novel that had my inward Slytherin (yes, Slytherin and DAMN proud of it) fuming when we hear about how being too ambitious is bad.

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Nope.

Nope.

Nope.

Pro tip if you’re a woman in any professional industry you’re going to have to be helluva ambitious or else…well, your fucked.  Nat being told to get over someone taking the credit of her work had my little head exploding.

At the end of the day, I didn’t hate Mammoth enough where I DNF’d it or anything like that.  It also wasn’t terribly bland because it did have the paleontology plot to it-though the love interests in this book can die a slow death.

So, I’m giving it a middle of the road rating.  As annoyed as I got about finding everyone’s weight out within the first twenty or so pages, after I go past it, I enjoyed it (enough).

Overall Rating: C+

A Mutual Break Up (Well, the Series Ended): Geek Girl (5 &6) By Holly Smalle

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a double review.  So, yeah…double review time.  Disclaimer: before I begin this thing, I have already read and reviewed the first four books of this series.   To recap I started really liking this series and my feelings have sort of settled to meh by book four.

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This series eerily reminds me of The Princess Diaries, which is a good and bad thing.  Good at the beginning of the series, bad by the end.  And to Meg Cabot’s series’ credit, I do think that by the end of the series, several of the issues I had with Mia were resolved.  With Harriet…I hated her still by the end of the book series.

That being said, let’s dive into the double review so I can explain my grievances against Ms. Manners.

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“My name is Harriet Manners, and I will always be a geek.”

The fifth book in the bestselling, award-winning GEEK GIRL series.

Harriet Manners knows almost every fact there is.

She knows duck-billed platypuses don’t have stomachs.
She knows that fourteen squirrels were once detained as spies.
She knows only one flag in the world features a building.

And for once, Harriet knows exactly how her life should go. She’s got it ALL planned out. So when love is in the air, Harriet is determined to Make Things Happen!
If only everyone else would stick to the script…

Has GEEK GIRL overstepped the mark, and is following the rules going to break hearts all over again?

Source: GoodReads

This one was cringe worthy on so many levels.  By this point, Harriet is suppose to have developed as a character somewhat.  But she hasn’t.  If anything, I feel like each of these books goes on a cyclic pattern of of character regression that seems to resolve itself by the end of the book.  Only to reset itself by the beginning of the next installment.

Hell, I skimmed through the 400+ pages in less than 90 minutes and really didn’t miss much.  Want the basic outline for one of these books , here you go:

  1. Harriet starts out with an annoying introduction of how perfect her life is (it’s not).
  2. Something happens that causes her to freak out and act like an ass-could be as simple as having a pimple or not getting a modeling job (because she’s an ass).
  3. Harriet overreacts
  4. This causes people to (rightfully) hate her.
  5. Somehow she gets hired for a modeling job when she really shouldn’t.  Because God knows, girl is a liability.
  6. Exotic local photo shoot time!
  7. Obsession about boys/friends
  8. Time to make an ASS over self again.
  9. Harriet’s parental units act like asses because she had to pick it up from someone.
  10. At this point in the book, if this was a movie there’d be a sad montage.
  11. Somehow the problems are simply resolved with a couple of conversations.
  12. Harriet’s life is perfect again!

Seriously, that is your typical Geek Girl novel.  This one was especially more squirm inducing than the rest with all that Team JINTH nonsense.

I was hoping by this time that Harriet would’ve matured a little bit.  But she has not.  Again, I think she’s regressed.  I also wondered as I read this book if she’s on the spectrum.  It really would make sense in a lot of ways.    Especially if it was undiagnosed.  But nope, Harriet is just an ass and nothing else which is a shame.

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I wanted something to explain her actions, but other than her being an ass there’s nothing to explain her lack of social decorum or lack of empathy.

Besides, Harriet’s unrealistic actions.  This book like the others is just ridiculous when it comes to modeling.  Honestly, I feel like America’s Next Top Model does a better job portraying the industry and that’s saying something.

To be frank about it, had this not been the next to last installment of the series I probably would quit here.  Just like a cameo-supporting character in this book I was ready to tell Harriet goodbye.

Overall Rating: A C-.  I mean, it follows the formula to a T and that’s not exactly a good thing.

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My name is Harriet Manners and I’ll be a geek forever…

Harriet Manners knows almost every fact there is.

Modelling isn’t a sure-fire route to popularity. Neither is making endless lists. The people you love don’t expect you to transform into someone else. Statistically, you are more likely to not meet your Australian ex-boyfriend in Australia than bump into him there.

So on the trip of a lifetime Down Under Harriet’s to-do lists are gone and it’s Nat’s time to shine! Yet with nearly-not-quite-boyfriend Jasper back home, Harriet’s completely unprepared to see supermodel ex Nick. Is the fashion world about to turn ugly for GEEK GIRL?

It’s time for Harriet to face the future. Time to work out where her heart lies. To learn how to let go…

Source: GoodReads

Talk about Princess Diaries similarities, this book’s title is almost identical to the last book in the first series.

Pretty much what I said about the standard formula applies to this one but with two big differences.  Smalle decides to throw a curveball with her audience and adds a serious dramatic plot point to this installment that is suppose to be a poignant moment from the series.

Spoiler alert: it’s not.

Instead, it felt oddly placed and I was like I’m really suppose to care for this character….Also, the character’s death was ridiculously fast.  Especially considering that Harriet didn’t even know said character was ill and then once she knows she kicks the bucket within the span of a week.

Le sigh.

So, the big death.  Didn’t really make a difference to this book.  The other thing that was different about this particular installment was the love triangle.

Going back to The Princess Diaries series…because I can’t help but think of that series when I read the Geek Girl books.  PD had its own love triangle that was hit and miss with many fans.  At the time I first read the book, I liked it and wanted Mia to jilt Michael because I was tired of Michael and knew it would be the unexpected choice.  Looking back, that was kind of dumb but JP and Mia even made more sense than Jasper and Harriet and that’s saying something.

As far as Jasper is concerned, I really view him as being a background character that was randomly added to give Harriet more of a social life.  I honestly found his attraction to her to be out  of place.  This is in contrast to the PD series where at least JP’s attraction to Mia is relatively explained.

TBH though, I find it hard to believe that anyone would be attracted to Harriet.  She really is a horrible character.  As I had mentioned she does not grow any at all throughout the books and her quirkiness is no longer cute.  In fact, I really do believe that the character is on the spectrum and undiagnosed.  It was really the only thing that kept me reading and from outright wanting to throttle her, but I digress.

At the end of the day, I was relieved when I closed Forever Geek.  This is one series that sort of left me with a sour taste in my mouth.  There was definitely potential with this series but rather than expanding upon said potential it was squandered and left a bit of a mess.

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If you want a fun light hearted series, I’m not going to be recommending this one.  Check out it’s obvious inspiration (The Princess Diaries) some of the middle books might be blah but at least Mia grows as a character.  Harriet does not.

Overall Rating: A C

 

A Really Dumb Twist: As She Fades by Abi Glines

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On the night of her high school graduation, Vale McKinley and her boyfriend Crawford are in a terrible car accident that leaves Crawford in a coma. They were supposed to spend the summer planning for college, for a bright future full of possibility. Together. Instead, Vale spends long days in the hospital, hoping Crawford will awaken.

Slate Allen, a college friend of Vale’s brother, has been visiting his dying uncle at the same hospital. When he and Vale meet, she can’t deny the flutter of an illicit attraction. She tries to ignore her feelings, but she’s not immune to Slate’s charm. Slowly, they form a cautious friendship.

Then, Crawford wakes up . . . with no memory of Vale or their relationship. Heartbroken, Vale opts to leave for college and move on with her life. Except now, she’s in Slate’s territory, and their story is about to take a very strange turn.

Source: GoodReads

I have taken sort of a sabbatical reading YA this month, and of course I broke the sabbatical by reading some puerile garbage.

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To be fair, I would say that for the most part As She Fades is a fairly insipid YA/NA book.  However, it has one dumb ass twist that I didn’t even really see as relevant to the book.  It’s saving grace though was that it’s mercifully short.

Going into this one, I sort of knew that there was a high likelihood that I would hate it.  While I have a penchant for contemporary romance, I know that there is a high likelihood for shit when I read it.  Abi Glines books especially.  I have her Field Party series on my shelves, but after the first one they have been sitting there collecting dust.  But I figure one day I’ll get to them (i.e. sometimes I like reading trash).

As She Fades was a standalone that came out earlier in spring 2018, the blurb interested me because it sort of had a While You Were Sleeping storyline only turns out the book wasn’t like that.

First of all, the book relied heavily on exhausted tropes such as the “Mean Girl” “Man Whore with Heart of Gold” and “Squeaky Clean But Bad Boyfriend”

Can you say gag me?

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To be fair, these tropes can be done correctly.  Not that they’re often done correctly, but when done correctly it can make a story engaging.  I wasn’t engaged when reading this.  In fact, I just started skimming after awhile.

The general setup is weak at best.  The blurb makes it seem like What’s-Hear-Face (Vale-I had to look that up) and Crawford had this amazing relationship.  However, other than being told how in love Vale is with Crawford we really don’t see them interact.  Even after the book gets sort of weird.

As for the obvious love interest Slate all I know is that he’s a man whore, has a dying uncle, and is named after a rock.

I just really didn’t care for this one.  Even after reading it, I’m trying to figure out the purpose of that twist.  It made half of the story irrelevant.  I get having it in there for shock and awe and all that jazz, but what was the point other than that?  It didn’t add to anything, it was only usually referenced in a sort of flippant fashion.

Sigh.

Was this the worst thing that I ever read?  Hell no.   It was bland and banal and stupid.  There were also some mildly offensive things said in the book too.  For example, at one point in the novel, the character gets a job at a Hooters type of restaurant and states that the outfit is offensive.  She is told to suck it up and show her ass because she’ll get decent tips.  And then the entire thing is dropped.

Okay, that’s not the dialogue verbatim, but that’s pretty much how the scene plays  out.  To say the least I was disgusted with the justification of this.  Or for that matter why it was even included in there in the first place.

But again, I’ve read way worse YA.  Which seriously has me wondering about the choices I’ve been making in my reading to be desensitized  so much.

Regardless, I don’t recommend this one even as a guilty pleasure.  It is poorly written, and quite honestly it sucks.

Overall Rating: A D

My Opinion Has Not Evolved: What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

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Who is the real McLean?

Since her parents’ bitter divorce, McLean and her dad, a restaurant consultant, have been on the move-four towns in two years. Estranged from her mother and her mother’s new family, McLean has followed her dad in leaving the unhappy past behind. And each new place gives her a chance to try out a new persona: from cheerleader to drama diva. But now, for the first time, McLean discovers a desire to stay in one place and just be herself, whoever that is. Perhaps Dave, the guy next door, can help her find out.

Combining Sarah Dessen’s trademark graceful writing, great characters, and compelling storytelling, What Happened to Goodbye is irresistible reading.

Source: GoodReads

I have a couple of Sarah Dessen books on my shelves, but I’ve always been lukewarm to her.  It’s not that the writing isn’t there.  Her stuff is easy enough to read, it just doesn’t excite me and in the case of this book I couldn’t find one character I liked which was why I DNF’d the book after almost 200 pages.

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Yeah, DNF.

It’s been happening a lot lately.

This one though, is a purely subjective DNF.  The book and I just didn’t gel.  I could see other people being more interested in it than me.  And it’s not poorly written.

The thing is, I knew I had difficulties with Dessen books in the past.  The one Dessen book I read, Lock and Key wasn’t my favorite.  From what I can recall (note, this was like a decade ago) it involved a mopey MC and an overall meh plot.

Funny, What Happened to Goodbye was similar.  It had characters I could care less about like McLean who randomly changes her name every time she moves…okay?  I get that it’s suppose to represent the MC running away form her past, but I really don’t think her father would be so nonchalant with her changing her name and shit.

Also, it’s sort of creepy with her multiple Facebook accounts (though, it’s not called Facebook here because reasons…).  Okay, I know someone is going to tell me that Dessen did that in order not to pay licenses fees or whatever, but that is bull shit.

Because I don’t want to go into a legal debate right now, I’m just going to got to the second point why creating all these accounts and then not deleting them was idiocy because…um, hello search function.  Besides, I really don’t see someone creating multiple email accounts to have multiple Facebook (or Wannabe Facebook) accounts but stranger things have happened.

To add to the MC’s backstory the deterioration of her parents’ marriage seems to be the crux of this otherwise non-existent  plot.

God, the lack of the plot so annoyed me with this one.

Yes, I know it is a contemporary.  And contemporaries are often more character oriented than plot oriented.  But when you don’t like the characters…

And yes, I said characters.  I couldn’t even feel sorry for the dad character who I am suppose to have great sympathy for since his wife up and left him for a Paul Ryan look alike-or at least that’s who I imagined annoying stepdad looking like.  If you’re imagining who I thought the father looked like I was thinking Alton Brown (even though he’s described having Sirius Black locks in the book).  Oh, and Opal looked like that Abby chick from NCIS.

As for the rest of the characters…I don’t know. Except ew when it comes to their personalities-so, maybe the Khardashians or the cast of some show on TLC?

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It’s bad when I start talking about how I picture characters looking in a review because it means I have nothing else to say about the book

Reading this book though, did make me come to a conclusion.  I have hit burn out.

It’s happened to me before when blogging, and it’s happened again.  Only this time it sort of snuck up on me.  All summer I have been having meh reads.  I don’t know if it’s the books I’m picking up or what, but I haven’t been having a happy time reading.  Which sucks, because reading is my unwinding outlet.

I feel like I need to do something, which is why I think I’m probably going to take it easy on the reviews for a bit.  Meaning, if I read something meh or DNF worthy that really doesn’t stick out (much like this book) I am not going to force myself to review it.  I’ll probably do a bullet point review which I’ll post on GoodReads and then cross post here in batch.

Back to this book though, for me it was a skip.  I wasn’t engaged.  And from what plot there was, I sort of could guess what was going to happen next.   It just didn’t work.

Overall Rating: DNF.  More it’s you than me variety.

A Book I Finally Liked This Summer: The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett

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Beatrix Adams knows exactly how she’s spending the summer before her senior year. Determined to follow in Da Vinci’s footsteps, she’s ready to tackle the one thing that will give her an advantage in a museum-sponsored scholarship contest: drawing actual cadavers. But when she tries to sneak her way into the hospital’s Willed Body program and misses the last metro train home, she meets a boy who turns her summer plans upside down.

Jack is charming, wildly attractive, and possibly one of San Francisco’s most notorious graffiti artists. On midnight buses and city rooftops, Beatrix begins to see who Jack really is—and tries to uncover what he’s hiding that leaves him so wounded. But will these secrets come back to haunt him? Or will the skeletons in her family’s closet tear them apart?

Source: GoodReads

I bought a few Jenn Bennett books after finishing Starry Eyes to save for a rainy day.  If you’ve seen the shit I’ve read this summer, you know it was a very rainy day in reading land for me so I decided to break out the last YA book of Bennet’s that I haven’t read The Anatomical Shape of the Heart.

You can definitely tell it’s an earlier work because it was not as good as her other contemporaries.  That being said I did enjoy the book and it was a nice break from the shit I’ve been reading (don’t worry I read The Kiss Quotient  right after so the shit quota for the summer of 2018 has continued if you like hearing about me being miserable, which I’m sure some of you actually do).

I think if I was to describe this book in one word it would be deliciously weird.

The subject matter, drawing dead people is morbid in itself and there are a few chapters that get fairly graphic and remind me why I didn’t have the guts to go to medical or veterinarian school.  Dissections in high school always made me feel borderline cautious too, come to think of it…anyway, if you can get through the slightly creepy subject matter, the book is pretty good.  Even though it’s pretty much about nothing.

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Unlike, Starry Eyes and Alex, Approximately   which both have a respectable plot (even though like this book are fairly focused on romance, and summer romance at that) The Anatomical Shape of the Heart (that is a mouthful) is quite flimsy.  I mean, there is a plot but it’s not really the focus of the book if that makes sense.

To explain it further, in Starry Eyes there was an ongoing plot line with the family dynamics that affected the romance.  With Alex, Approximately there was a You’ve Got Mail-ish subplot that winded its way through the book as well, with this book there’s sort of a plot but it doesn’t really connect as well as the other two books plots did.

And to be fair, this book is much shorter than Bennett’s later contemporaries.

Don’t get me wrong, the books not bad by any means.  I did think the relationship with the love interest moved a little fast and some of the subplots really I thought were shafted over, but it wasn’t bad.

It’s just not my favorite Bennett book.

Even though, I thought the romance was rushed I still enjoyed the chemistry that the characters showed.  Bennett really has a talent for that.  I will literally ship any ship she writes, even though I knew I shouldn’t be into this ship the way I was.

Would I call this book good…um, in terms of plot not so much.  I mean, there were a few interesting things that happened during the course of the story, but I wouldn’t say it really made the book or for that matter connected with anything in the book.  The characters also while interesting, were nowhere near the quality of Bennett’s future characters.  HOWEVER, if you don’t look at any other Bennett books I would say it’s decent.  Or at the very least, it’s better than the recent shit I’ve been reading.

Despite having a slightly morbid twist to it, I found the characters relatable.  I liked the relationship and I did think there was potential.  I just think there was just something awkward about this book, thankfully it seems that Bennett has improved with time.

Overall Rating: I’m giving it a B.  I really should probably give it a B- BUT I enjoyed it so that’s giving it that bump up to regular B status.  If you like Bennet’s work you should check this one out, just be prepared to be a little disappointed.

Man Whore, Strippers, and Porn Stars Oh My: The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

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A heartwarming and refreshing debut novel that proves one thing: there’s not enough data in the world to predict what will make your heart tick.

Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases–a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice–with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan–from foreplay to more-than-missionary position…

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but crave all of the other things he’s making her feel. Their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic…

Source: GoodReads

Disclaimer: I am not going to discuss the depiction of Autism in this review.  Since I am not on the spectrum, I really have nothing to say about how Hoang depicted it. I will mention the fact that there were some things I wish would’ve been fleshed out better (i.e. Stella’s behavior at certain event, I do wish to know if she had any treatment etc.  prior to it because some of her interactions seemed a bit OTT)  That being said, I am interested in reading reviewers who are on the spectrum to see if Hoang’s portrayal was.

That being said, I did not like this one.  I read it hoping that it more or less a self discovery story of a woman who comes into her own skin and likes it.  Instead, it essentially was a bad gender swapped Pretty Woman story that is obviously trying to get turned into porn since there are five billion reference to the adult sex industry in the book.  And not one of these characters is tested for STD’s mind you, even though the male lead is literally a man whore.  At least, Pretty Woman sort of addresses that.

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Seriously, that’s all I kept thinking during these sex scenes has Michael been tested?  I get I was suppose to have myself lost in the romance.  But I couldn’t get lost in the romance because anytime there was a love scene one of the following things was mentioned: man whores, strippers (especially in reference to Stella’s body), and porn stars (see Stella’s breasts).

Seriously, how is that suppose to get me into the mood?

It’s superficial at best.  And I know we all talk about book boyfriends (which I personally find to be an obnoxious term) but here’s the thing you can’t see a book boyfriend.  At the end of the day he is text unless there is a movie adaptation made about him.  And most people aren’t turned on by the mention that X looks like a K-Pop actor especially if they don’t know said K-Pop actor.  Rather, what turns on people to fictional characters is how they’re depicted.

And I didn’t care for Michael.

He is like a sad male version of Julia Roberts’s character in Pretty Woman with an Alpha douche twist.  At the very least if you’re going to do that, have Richard Geere a la Pretty Woman era come out of the book with those roses.  You know what, I’ll insert a gif of him doing that in this review so that I get that pleasure (albeit ,belatedly).

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Anyway, Michael complains about having to be be a  ho to pay for his mother’s  medical bills because he can’t get his fashion design business off the ground.  Then its later on mentioned that he was valedictorian of his high school class, which made me wonder if he had potential skills then designing clothes that apparently show off someone’s voluptuous stripper like body in a modest like fashion.

I kid  you not.  While that is not a direct quote from the book some asinine description like that regarding Michael’s clothes or Stella’s body would make a frequent appearance in this book.

Besides, Michael’s seemingly lack of logic skills in the book.  I just didn’t like him.  I think Hoang wrote this back story involving his mother hoping that it would make me sympathize for the character, but other than it being his reason for being a hooker I really could care less.  Especially when it seemed he had other options.  And the rest of the aspect of the backstory-his mother’s illness, his father’s misdeeds-we’re pretty much thrown into the background in order to compare Stella to a porn star some more.

God, Stella really should just get into the business already.  She already has a ready name: Stella Lane.

Fun fact, that was the street where I grew up: Stella Lane.  So, I had a hard time taking any of this seriously when I read it-the comparisons to porn stars, strippers, and the occasional K-Pop icon didn’t help much either.

Autism representation aside (because again, not my place to discuss it) I found Stella’s sections of the book just as painful as Michael’s.  I couldn’t sympathize with her.  It’s mentioned that she has Autism, but nothing is discuss in terms of therapy or coping mechanisms are mentioned.  There are some painfully awkward very obvious social miscues that she made that just have me shaking my head, especially if you take into effect how successful Stella is at her job in freaking Silicon Valley where there probably has to be some smidgen of social cues to get up as high as she did on the corporate ladder.

Also, Stella, girl, really looking up male escorts on a freaking work computer?  Come on.

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Speaking of the whole hiring a male escort angle there were never any repercussions for either Stella or Michael for their involvement in the business.  With Michael, I expected there would’ve been some fall out from his family.  With Stella, with her company and family, but nope.  All it did was allow the cliche break up scene of the book.

Other than the raunchy superficial romance (and please Stella, for the love of God get tested for STD’s already, God knows where Michael’s dick has been) the book had very little plot.  Romances generally don’t have much in plot to be fair, unless they’re a Lisa Kleypas book and have a ridiculous climax that comes with a gun totting villain in the last 100 or so pages of the novel, but I was really hoping this one would’ve been more character oriented.  I would’ve loved rather than Phillip merely being the very obvious office perv turned NO guy in a love triangle, for him and Stella to have some sort of office rivalry going on regarding a promotion or something and maybe have Stella stressing out because of her lack of social cues to get said promotion.  Like, maybe that could be why she hired Michael-to show that she can be sociable kind of like in that Halmark movie The Mistletoe Promise than just hiring him because she wants to appease her parents and thinks she needs sex lessons because of some gross comment Phillip makes.

I digress though.

That almost got me as mad as the stupid Tiny Tim trope being used at the end.  For those of you, who are unaware of that trope that is where some rich character seemingly  donates all their money to a character that is described as pathetic for no apparent reason.  You know, calling it the Tiny Tim Trope might not be a good name for the trope because at least Scrooge was haunted into giving Tiny Tim’s family his money.  And I guess here, Stella was pretty much paid in sex.  But it still seemed illogical and just plain dumb and annoying.  Girl, don’t give away fifteen million dollars because some sad sack is good in bed.

At the end of the day, I’m not going to recommend this shit.  I have a very short fuse for bull shit right now, and this book doesn’t pass the mustard which is a shame.  I was actually looking forward to this one.

Overall Rating: A D which is not the cup size Stella wears based off of Hoang’s description of her porn star breasts.  Yeah, I know crass joke but I put up with this shit.

Super Vanilla: Stay Sweet by Siobhan Vivian

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A summer read about first love, feminism, and ice cream.

Summer in Sand Lake isn’t complete without a trip to Meade Creamery—the local ice cream stand founded in 1944 by Molly Meade who started making ice cream to cheer up her lovesick girlfriends while all the boys were away at war. Since then, the stand has been owned and managed exclusively by local girls, who inevitably become the best of friends. Seventeen-year-old Amelia and her best friend Cate have worked at the stand every summer for the past three years, and Amelia is “Head Girl” at the stand this summer. When Molly passes away before Amelia even has her first day in charge, Amelia isn’t sure that the stand can go on. That is, until Molly’s grandnephew Grady arrives and asks Amelia to stay on to help continue the business…but Grady’s got some changes in mind…

Source:GoodReads

I have been on a  slew of shit reads lately.  Yeah, I know a harsh way to start the review, but I’ll just say it now, Stay Sweet isn’t bad.  It’s a little bland and other than the twist towards the end of the novel there’s nothing that really stuck out to me, but it didn’t turn me into a rage inducing Book Hulk like some of my other recent reads being said.

That being said, this book is a little forgettable.  I started writing my review about thirty minutes after I finished the book, only because I know it’s going to go from my memory fast.

What I liked about the book: it was very summery.  I like light hearted books in the summer time, and while there were a few darker moments in this book it was for the most part pretty light.  I mean, there’s only so many ways you can make ice cream dark.

I also found the characters to be relatively unoffensive for the most part, although bland.  Though I do have to say, the book overall underwhelmed me.

The blurb says that feminism is going to be a strong theme throughout the novel.  Honestly, other than one character’s decision I didn’t really see any shades of feminism throughout the book.  I looked.  So, to quiet the disappointment I am inserting a gif that defines feminism.

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I thought that this book could’ve been a strong story about female friendship, however the friendship ended up being a bad friendship and took a backseat to the kind of weird romance.

I did not like the ship in this book.  For one thing, there was a weird power dynamic that gave me the icks.  And for another, I really did not like Grady he seemed like a weak character who didn’t have a spine.  And I don’t do spineless and neither should Amelia.  But Amelia was sort of spineless too…so.

God, Amelia.  She is the main character in the book.  Though, the novel is not told in her point of view.  It’s in this weird stilted third person POV.  I don’t know if that’s Vivian’s typical style-this is the first book I read by her-but it just made the book seem off to me.  This is just a preference thing, but it just didn’t work.  It probably didn’t help that the lead was also extremely weak and pretty much devoid of any personality, other than she wants to work at the ice cream parlor for the summer.

The ice cream was the most interesting part to me.  I actually bought a fairly decent ice cream machine  this year, so I’ve been trying out different recipes and was interested in reading this.  However, I was just shaking my head at how ridiculous hard it was for these characters to make some decent ice cream.  Seriously, couldn’t they just invest in a copy of The Perfect Scoop already and call it a day?

Digression aside, I think Vivian did over complicate the process.   Probably on purpose to give the plot some extra fodder, but still.  A basic Philadelphia style vanilla isn’t that complex.  You’re not even making a custard, but I digress (again).

A lot of things were either over complicated or essentially all realities were suspended in order to add to the plot.  It annoyed me.  I also hated how a GoFundMe was essentially used to resolve all of the MC’s problems (including the rift with her friend) at the end of the book.  Did I mention I fucking hate GoFundMes.  Now occasionally, there will be a worth while cause up there, but its not an adequate way to raise money for a business.  And there is a lot of pandering that goes on on that website as well.

At the end of the day, I found Stay Sweet to be fairly inoffensive.  I just don’t think it’s one of those books that’s going to stick with me a week or so from writing this.  It wasn’t bad though.  If you like quick little summer time reads, you might want to give it a try, but it is far from perfect.

Overall Rating: C+

 

The Time I Almost Threw A Book in a Toliet: One Small Thing by Erin Watt

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Beth’s life hasn’t been the same since her sister died. Her parents try to lock her down, believing they can keep her safe by monitoring her every move. When Beth sneaks out to a party one night and meets the new guy in town, Chase, she’s thrilled to make a secret friend. It seems a small thing, just for her.

Only Beth doesn’t know how big her secret really is…

Fresh out of juvie and determined to start his life over, Chase has demons to face and much to atone for, including his part in the night Beth’s sister died. Beth, who has more reason than anyone to despise him, is willing to give him a second chance. A forbidden romance is the last thing either of them planned for senior year, but the more time they spend together, the deeper their feelings get.

Now Beth has a choice to make—follow the rules, or risk tearing everything apart…again.

Source: GoodReads

Even though my father has a tendency to be an all around terrible person, he has his moments of wisdom.  One Dad signature phrase that came into mind after reading One Small Thing  was, “I need a triple shot of vodka.”

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Because seriously, after reading this shit if I was a drinking lady (which I’m not for health reasons) I’d totally be getting smashed right now.

Instead, I put in a Burn Notice DVD so I can watch Jeffrey Donovan kick ass when he was moderately attractive-season one Michael is where it’s at folks, before the severe bulking up and Paul Ryan hair dye.

Television diversion aside and Dad quoting wisdom (seriously, my asshole father having actual wisdom still confound me) aside, I really hated this book.

The concept in just general should’ve gotten it a one trip visit to the slush pile.  Pretty much falling in love with your sister’s murderer should be a no no.  But hey….I get it.  There have been storylines that took this stupid plot line before.  Like the late great All My Children in which big shot journalist Brooke English fell in love with this pastor who got drunk and killed her daughter all those years ago before becoming a pastor.

However, All My Children was smart enough to cut their loses and end this ship.  It’s really hard to do in a book and God this ship really never got off the ground.  I’m sorry but random drunk hookup does not equal sexy like Watt would like the audience to think.

I think my biggest concern with this book was that it just pushed too many buttons and there wasn’t any redeeming features.

The parents are assholes.  They angered me.  The whole taking off the door off of the MC’s room was something similar that happened to me when I was a teen.  It still annoys me to this very day that my mother thought that was all funny hahaha that she took my door off because God forbid I wanted some privacy.

Thankfully, my mother even though idiotic in that moment wasn’t nearly as bad as the parents in this book.  I think that Beth’s parents are seriously in contention for the Golden Charlie of 2018.

They are just outright terrible people.  So is most of the cast of this book.  Funny, titling this book Terrible People might’ve actually been more in its benefit than how it was presented.

I’m not naive.  I knew going in that the concept was going to make me squeamish.  However, I thought it would’ve been done with a little finesse just not a little you’re like so hot at a party and then instant hook up and pretty much forget that the guy killed your sister because he’s hot.

The book, honestly, sort of goes against the Erin Watt brand.  While it does have its signature flare for the over dramatic never going to happen bat shit insane bits.  It’s not a fluffy romance.  In fact, romance was the last thing I thought about when I read this book. I did not want a romance with this book.  Instead, I wanted to hit the protagonist with a big stick of reality and get her out of her psycho parents’ house and away from her so called friends.

One Small Thing is just really a bad book when it comes down to it.  I can’t find one thing about it that I can say I enjoyed. I mostly kept reading-then skimming-because it was so spectacular that it blew so much.

I will have to say my tolerance for this shit is really surprising me these days.  This used to be the sort of book I would bemoaning at and ranting about, but other than almost throwing it in my toilet when I read it-I know, sometimes it surprises me at how immature I still occasionally might be.  One would think that having a professional degree and being licensed to practice law in two states would make me a bit more mature, but nope book still almost went into the crapper.  Only reason it didn’t was because I didn’t want to call out maintenance agains for my apartment unit-the air was out most of last week AND then the place decided to just go ahead and flood on Saturday.

Overall Rating: Fail.  I don’t know what to say other than that.  There was nothing redeemable about this one.  Save your money, and if you are really desperate and live near me I’m donating my copy to the local library soon so check it out.

Phoned In: Listen To Your Heart by Kasie West

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Talking to other people isn’t Kate Bailey’s favorite activity. She’d much rather be out on the lake, soaking up the solitude and sunshine. So when her best friend, Alana, convinces Kate to join their high school’s podcast, Kate is not expecting to be chosen as the host. Now she’ll have to answer calls and give advice on the air? Impossible.

But to Kate’s surprise, she turns out to be pretty good at the hosting gig. Then the podcast gets in a call from an anonymous guy, asking for advice about his unnamed crush. Kate is pretty sure that the caller is gorgeous Diego Martinez, and even surer that the girl in question is Alana. Kate is excited for her friend … until Kate herself starts to develop feelings for Diego. Suddenly, Kate finds that while doling out wisdom to others may be easy, asking for help is tougher than it looks, and following your own advice is even harder.

Kasie West’s adorable story of secrets, love, and friendship is sure to win over hearts everywhere.

Source: GoodReads

Kasie West is the 2010’s version of Meg Cabot.  That is both a good and bad thing.  Like Cabot, she write cute, fluffy books that give you the feels and she’s extremely prolific.  Also, like Cabot, sometimes the quality suffers as a result of the prolificness.

Listen to Your Heart feels very phoned in, which is kind of ironic because it’s about a girl who who has a podcast show where people call in to ask for advice.

The concept of the story itself isn’t that original.  There are lots of stories that share the sort of plot line that this story has.   I probably watched a couple of Hallmark movies with similar plots.  What would make this concept good, is the execution.  Are the characters fully fleshed out? Is the chemistry with the characters palatable?  Is there some sort of plot twist that makes the story original despite having what appears to be a fairly generic concept/plot?

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All the answer to these questions is no with this book.  It was as if West was clearly  phoning this one in.  The MC lives near the lake  that’s her defining characterization.  And she has lots of cousins.  One whose four.  This is pointed out every time, Cora-the four year-old, makes an appearance. The only reason I remember Cora is it’s made pretty fucking clear through the book that she’s four-years-old.

There’s lots of other cousin’s too.  Most of them are as blah as wallpaper.  The only one besides Cora I remember is Liz or it Liza, whoever she is she’s the one who randomly goes to a tutoring center so that Kate can interact with Diego.

Diego is the love interest, BTW.  Though, Kate doesn’t really have feelings or decent interaction with him for most of the book.  Hell, I thought her love interest was going to be someone else who she at least sort of shared chemistry with.  But apparently, I was wrong.

Me missing ships  does happen occasionally.  See the Harry Potter books where I was not able to guess the horrid cannon couples we got-Heron is totally going to go to wizard divorce court you know it and I know it and I won’t even get started on my hatred for the shallow ship that is Hinny (it should’ve been Harmony, damn it, even Rowling knows it and now admits it).

If you made it past my Harry Potter ship rant (it really doesn’t take much to get me started) you’ll see that I really didn’t get the Diego/Kate relationship because other than a couple of interactions with the two of them, there isn’t that much interaction with the two of them.

The story itself was vanilla.  I was hoping for a couple of more plot twists than we got.  I really felt this could’ve been developed more than it was.  Even the podcast itself was boring, nothing really developed from it and I kind of was surprise that a high school teacher would actually okay an advice podcast for high school kids.  Then again, what do I know…

After reading this, a part of me felt cynical.  Contemporary YA is usually my jam.  Yes, it can be cheesy and unrealistic, but that’s part of what I love about it.  With this book I just felt complete blah-ness there was nothing that had me loving the characters or  interested in the story.  I knew what was going to happen.  Even worse, the only thing  that really was unexpected was the ship.  And it wasn’t because the ship itself was unsuspected.  Rather, it was how  banal and chemistry-less the ship was.  Hell, I thought the interaction between the MC and her archenemy was better than her interaction with Diego.

If you are a die hard Kasie West fan you’ll probably read this one and moderately enjoy it.  I’ll admit that during the days Meg Cabot was uber prolific I read every book by her even if it was not so good and told myself it was good.  I could see West fans doing that too.  However, the book is not going to sit on you later on when you look at West’s backlist.  Much like when I think of Meg Cabot’s books I do usually not think about How to be Popular (which I think is one of Cabot’s worse).

Would I say it’s the worst book ever?  Hardly.  But it’s not worth its space on my shelves and for someone who gets as much praise as West does, it was a bit of a fail.

Overall Rating: An F.