When the Exploitation Network is More Classy: Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

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Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for every possibility life has to offer. In that moment, I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything. 

Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin, too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the impossible art of giving people what they want, of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a newly acquired secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone.

Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game—which lands them in group counseling and community service—Libby and Jack are both pissed, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world, theirs and yours.

Source: GoodReads

A few years ago, a coworker recommended that I watch My 600 Lb Life. I was a little dubious about watching it because it was on the exploitation channel (aka TLC) but after some constantly pestering I decided to watch an episode and was pretty much horrified with I saw.  Like I thought, TLC exploited the situation for what it’s worth.  But unfortunately, by watching some of these episodes (mostly, when I was halfway asleep) I did learn a couple things enough that when I read Holding Up the Universe my eyes almost did a complete revolution in rolling  because it was so God offensive and awful on so many levels.

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First of all, if you are easily triggered do NOT read this shit.  It’s probably the most offensive book I’ve read featuring an overweight protagonist after My Big Fat Disaster and that one book I read from the 80’s where the character develops an eating disorder after lots and lots of body shaming (I think the title had “Big Fat Blimp” in it, but I couldn’t find anything when I searched on GoodReads so maybe title forgotten is best).  And the only reason its not as offensive as those books is that the main character does not attempt self harm.

Still though, even there’s no suicide attempt or grotesque depiction of an eating disorder, this book is pretty offensive.  There’s a whole twenty page sequence about how a crane is used to remove then 600 pound something Libby from her home.

Okay.

That is way melodramatic especially considering you can watch a couple of episodes from the exploration show and see plenty of 600 + pounders get out of houses  that aren’t as near as fancy as Libby’s.  PLUS if you watch the expoitation show, or really do any sort of research about morbidly obese people it takes years to get that heavy with a very high caloric intake.  And for that matter, changing someone’s lifestyle like Libby seemingly did is not that easy.

Hell, Libby eats pizza at one point in the novel and I’m just cringing because I know it has to be against her diet but it’s fluffed over.  Also, Niven only says that Libby went to a couple of fat camps to lose weight and leaves it there.  We don’t have the discussion of weight loss surgery, which I’m sure has to be at least a consideration in this case and really other than some bullying and Libby’s mother dying, we aren’t really given any insight in what drove her to over eat or what sort of methods she learned to cope with it. Hell, the excess skin that I’m sure Libby has from losing 200 + pounds isn’t even addressed.  Sure,  I guess there’s a creepy counselor-ish character who comes off more as Libby’s b.f.f. than counselor but come on…that’s the only

Also, I HATED the fact that the father’s role as an enabler was diminished. Libby makes excuses for him, that he didn’t know she was eating all that crap she had hidden in her room but considering the caloric intake that she had to have to maintain and add to that weight, considering she was house bound for six months, Dad was accountable at some level.  I’m sorry…

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Also, in addition to pretty much dramatizing Libby’s weight, Libby is just not a likable protagonist.  She’s prickly, borderline annoyingly mean, and quite honestly she’s one of those people who will not take responsibility for her actions.  Also, she suffers from YA heroines who quote from classical literature way too much and makes me want to deck her in the face.  I know that not being likable is arguably a part of being  a teen, but here’s the thing there could be bits and pieces of her that I liked while still being annoyed with her.  Also, cease with The To Kill a Mockingbird quoting already.  I like that book too, but I don’t go quoting around it even when I was a precocious teen.

The other main lead, Jack, is a big douche.  There’s no other way to describe him.  Niven tries to use his face blindness as an excuse for how he acts and what he does, but it doesn’t work.  Also, I found it laughable throughout the entire thing that no one in his whole family ever picks up on the fact that he has face blindness or that when he fell of that roof which was the cause of his injury that the doctors didn’t run an MRI and pick up on the brain damage.

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I’m just saying.

While the main leads were annoying, I think what bothered me about this one the most was that there was something “after school special” about it.  What I mean by this, is it just seems that the two leads are thrown to teach some big lesson and that the only way that Niven can justify that the two of them are even together is that they both have “issues”.

Personally, I could not find myself getting into this ship.  The fact that the so called hero meets the heroine when he pretty much assaults her just makes the whole ship have nasty feels throughout the entire time.  The fact that they are forced to attend useless counseling sessions that come out of a mid 90’s movie together even further the feeling of this nastiness.  The fact that the narrative constantly goes into questioning whether the Jerkwad lead could fall in love with a heavy set protagonist made me want to clobber someone.

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This book is just not healthy when it comes to relationships in general and like I said I cringe at the thought of a teenager reading this.  It’s NOT good for body image and it does not give a healthy view on what a healthy relationship requires.

Even those flashbacks where Jack creepily goes into Libby’s house after a crane (I am not even going to go into detail again about how ridiculous those fucking scenes were)  that are supposed to humanize him just make him feel like even more like a creeper.

I’m sorry, me no likey.

I can’t find any justifiable reason to recommend this one to anyone.  It’s trigger inducing. The romance is forced.  Sure, the face blindness seems like it would be something interesting to explore, but at the end of the day it really was more or less a justification to get the so called popular guy to like the heavy girl.  And no, it didn’t work it just cheapened this already horrible book.

Overall Rating: F as in fail.

Like TCM Lite : Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

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The one guy Bailey Rydell can’t stand is actually the boy of her dreams—she just doesn’t know it yet.

Classic movie fan Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online as Alex. Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush.

Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep in real life—or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth—a.k.a. her new archnemesis. But life is whole lot messier than the movies, especially when Bailey discovers that tricky fine line between hate, love, and whatever it is she’s starting to feel for Porter.

And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex…Approximately.

Source: GoodReads

Okay, the blurb completely ruins the book because it pretty much reveals the entire plot of the book. And that is annoying.

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Sigh.

Also, is it just me or was it annoying that this book got all these You’ve Got Mail comparisons when a good chunk of the book deals with old movies and in turn the comparison should’ve been made to The Shop Around the Corner-which for all you non-classic film buffs, is the movie that You’ve Got Mail based itself on.

In fact, it’s sort of referenced in the movie.

Okay…so I probably watched that movie and too many old movies way too much but oh well.  I’ll have to say reading this book and all its old film references, was exciting to me.  It was like finally meeting with someone who shared your weird old hobby and this book did with its love for old films.  And wasn’t even TCM  snobby about it which was great.

As far as The Shop Around the Corner reduxes go, this one is pretty good.  Both characters are surprisingly well fleshed out and have imperfections.  I also liked the sleepy beach town setting for the novel.  I thought it fit appropriately with the tone of the novel, and the town had enough quirks about it where it was sort of a character of its own.

The romance is so of slow burn, and it really worked for me.  It takes awhile for Porter and Bailey to tolerate each other, let alone like each other and the growth of the relationship is enjoyable to see with its gradual evolution.   On the flip side, we also get to see how their online relationship grows as well.  And I’ll be honest I sort of love the hate to love trope when done right.  Especially when they finally admit that they want to be together despite all the  obstacles.

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One thing that did annoy me, was that the dad character wasn’t at least a little freaked out about the fact his daughter had a quasi boyfriend online.  Given all the shit that happened to Bailey in the past, you would think he’d be at least skeptical.  And for that matter, maybe it’s one too many Lifetime movies (for yours truly) AND being an extremely paranoid person I would really have issues if I had a teenage daughter who randomly met some dude who was trying to get her to fly across the country online.

I mean, that’s reality talking.  And normally, I would sort of give it a pass.  But given the ultra dramatic back story that this book has, it sort of had me raising a couple of eyebrows.

Another problem I had with this book was the random dramatic backstory.  It felt a little bit out of place, and in all honesty I felt like it served no purpose other than to describe why the main character was scared of guns.

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Um, because they’re guns. That’s why.

But really, that and a couple of the dramatic side plots could’ve been cut out and the book may have been better for it.  Honestly, I was sort of on the fence about it.  Which is why I rated this book lower than five stars on GoodReads.  Still though, it was a very enjoyable read.

Overall Rating: An A-

Powerful: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Source: GoodReads

The Hate U Give is probably one of the heaviest YA books I’ve read in 2017.  It’s also probably one of the best.  This book is exactly why we need diverse books written by own voices authors. The perfection of this book  epitomizes this on so many levels.

The book is so relevant.  It’s educational. It’s pretty much worth all the hype its getting and needs to be to read at some point.

Unfortunately, the premises of Thomas’s debut is one that we’ve seen over and over in the news lately.  A young POC will be killed for seemingly no reason in what should’ve been a routine traffic shop or some other should be mundane event.  After hearing news story after news story, I literally cringed when I saw how Khalil reacted to the officer in the opening chapter.  Like, Starr I wanted to tell him to not say anything to not even blink and…it was too late.

The fact that I had such a strong reaction to a character who probably had only about twenty pages of the book alive says a lot about the writing.

The book handled the fall out of the situation properly focusing both on micro and macro reactions.  I liked that we got to see Starr’s reaction and how it affects her family, as well as how it effects her neighborhood too.

I really liked that the neighborhood itself was more or less a character in this story and that Thomas related to all the problems that the neighborhood had to the shooing.  I feel like it was very informative in explaining issues that inner city neighborhood’s might face-gang violence, police brutality, amongst them.

The book is heavily character driven.  While it deals mostly with the aftermath with Khalil’s death.  We not only get the ramifications that his death has on the community, but also on Starr’s life and on her relationships.  We get to watch Starr makes terms with who she is, her friends, and her relationship with her boyfriend as well.

I liked that there wasn’t one thing that consumed Starr’s life.  Usually, YA falls to the problem of a character having an unbalanced life-i.e. a lot of the time the main character finds herself wrapped up in relationship woes-but here the character has a lot going on.  Not only dealing with the aftermath of the shooting, but dealing with interpersonal relationships with friends and family as well.

If I was to point out some flaws, one thing that did bother me was that Starr never saw a therapist.  I know this is  a nitpick thing but girl had endured a lot, and I wished she had a professional to talk to.  There were clearly signs that she had PTSD throughout the book and I just wish that Thomas would’ve explored this a little bit more.

However, over that didn’t detract from the book.

If there’s YA book that’s relevant  and as good as the hype its getting this year, it’s The Hate U Give.

Overall Rating: A solid A.

#Cringe: #Famous by Jilly Gagnon

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In this modern-day love story, Girl likes Boy, Girl takes photo of Boy and posts it online, Boy becomes accidentally insta-famous. And what starts out as an innocent joke spirals into a whirlwind adventure that could change both their lives—and their hearts—forever. But are fame and love worth the price?

Told in alternating points of view, #famous captures the out-of-control thrill ride of falling for someone in front of everyone.

Source: GoodReads

Is there a Meme solely devoted to cringe worthy yet?

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I know there are face palm gifs and the like, and there’s a cat that represents grumpiness but is there a meme just for cringing?

Probably.  But because I get annoyed with internet fads-Come on, The Dress.  Really,that was a thing that people got obsessed with for a week or whatever-I’m not going to do anymore research than maybe do a quick search for cringe worthy gifs to put in this review, but if this book  itself could be a potential cringe meme or hashtag though it’s trying for something else.

Side note, when thinking about how to draft this review I thought about looking up famous internet fads and using them in this review.  BUT…to be honest those sorts of things annoy me.  Except that cat playing the piano and all those Corgis.  Got to love the corgis.  But I did not love this book maybe if it had a Corgi I might’ve been able to like it but…

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Inserting corgi picture because after this book it’s needed to bring balance to this world. 

There is nothing about this book I liked.  Grant it, I didn’t finish it.  I read about 200 pages of it.  But with those 200 or so pages, I hated it to pieces and and those Corgis that become viral sensations have more personalities than the leads in this book.

It’s bad guys.  So, so, bad.

So, the basic premises of the book is this idiot takes a picture of a guy says something stupid about her crush online.  Gets Lifetime-ish bullied while guy becomes popular because (Misogyny Trope 101) and we get the painful scene of an Ellen wannabe trying to get them together give a stupid daytime TV talkshow scheme-note, I might love daytime soaps for their campiness but their cheap counterpart I cannot stand.

There are probably some of you reading this review wondering why I even read this book in the first place.  After all, it looks like based on everything I said I would hate it since I am not a huge fan of internet fads.  And yeah…to some degree that is true, but I thought it could be interesting to look at how an internet fad explodes and the aftermath it causes the people it surrounds.

That does not mean, I thought I’d get a cliche story with two characters who are pretty much being forced to be together when they shouldn’t.

Even though I DNF’d this mother fucker, I snuck a peak in the end and I did not like what I saw.   I think for this book to end well for me, it would’ve been for Gagnon to not do the cliche thing which she did.  I really wish, for example, that Kyle-fry guy-was not a main character.

He’s not bad, per say, but he is a dumb jock and adds nothing to the story other than being a dumb pretty jock.

Grant it, Rachel’s not that much better.  She’s one of those girls I would feel sorry for, but at the same time it would be hard to be nice to her because she is just annoying.  I’d probably just ignore her to be honest, but really she’s obnoxious and will be just as obnoxious as her mother when she’s older.

Spoiler alert, major bad parent alert.  I don’t think anyone in this book has decent parents which is always a shame, I’d rather the parents just be absent if their going to be jerks but Rachel’s mother brings bad parenting to another level.  Kyle’s mom is pretty horrible too.

Needless to say, I don’t recommend this one.  In my earlier blogging days, I might’ve tried to make  this review more amusing.  Have the Beagle review it with a  series of her internet “memes” but I’m just tired of books like this.  Overhyped and just blah and annoying.  It’s especially annoying because fandom/internet famous themed books seem to be popular these days and I think I’ve only read about two books where I just didn’t cringe at how “fake” the book sounds.  I know I’m technically on the older side of the social media trends, but I know enough that not everyone who has a blog, log, or Twitter account is going to go viral.

And Gagnon (and any other author) don’t use fake social media sites when you really mean Twitter or Instagram.  Your audience is not stupid, we know what you’re really talking about just use freaking Twitter.  Same goes with your Ellen wannabe.  I was easily able to see who the talkshow host was.  Be less obvious if you’re going to go with the fake celebrity host.

God.

Overall rating, DNF.  I wish I hadn’t bought it.

Plenty of Painful Moments: Confessions of a High School Disaster by Emma Chastain

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In the tradition of Bridget Jones’s Diary, a lovably flawed high school student chronicles her life as she navigates the highs and lows of family, friendship, school, and love in a diary that sparkles with humor and warmth.

I’m Chloe Snow, and my life is kiiiiind of a disaster.

1. I’m a kissing virgin (so so so embarrassing).
2. My best friend, Hannah, is driving me insane.
3. I think I’m in love with Mac Brody, senior football star, whose girlfriend is so beautiful she doesn’t even need eyeliner.
4. My dad won’t stop asking me if I’m okay.
5. Oh, and my mom moved to Mexico to work on her novel. But it’s fine—she’ll be back soon. She said so.

Mom says the only thing sadder than remembering is forgetting, so I’m going to write down everything that happens to me in this diary. That way, even when I’m ninety, I’ll remember how awkward and horrible and exciting it is to be in high school

Source: GoodReads

This is a weird one to review.  The main character is slap worthy, but I think a lot of it has to do based on her age-she’s on the younger side of YA at 14/15 years old.

It’s not that I don’t mind YA books with younger protagonists (though, I generally avoid them because I can’t handle a younger protagonist’s usual severe immaturity) but in Chloe’s case what bothered me is that while she was so young, she got herself involved in some very adult situations.

I mean, maybe I’m showing my age but it’s not fun reading about a freshman getting severally wasted at a party.  Especially when said freshman urinates on herself.

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I know it happens, I’m not that naive…but since this is going to be a series I wish that the character might’ve been a little older before dealing with some of these situations.  I mean, in the Princess Diaries book Meg Cabot waited until book seven before having Mia drink a beer.

And to be honest, I probably would’ve been able to tolerate it better had Chloe been a bit more mature. But God was she dense.  So, so, dense.

If you’re not a fan of face palm moments in this book, you’ll want to avoid this one.  Chloe has so many shakeable moments its not even funny.  She makes Harriet Manners’s awkwardness look sophisticated that’s how bad it is.

True, a lot of the obviousness in this book might be overlooked by someone who’s in a similar situation to hers, but I couldn’t help but getting annoyed.

Still, despite many shakeable moments, I still enjoyed the book that’s an odd thing to say. I think one of the things I liked the best was the relationship Chloe had with her dad.  It’s nice to see a parent character in YA get fleshed out a bit and for that matter a dad character.  But as wonderful as Mr. Snow is, Mrs. Snow is just horrible and unrealistically bad in a lot of ways.  So, it sort of cancels out Mr. Snow’s greatness.  I hope what she did isn’t swept under the rug in the series subsequent installments.  Sometimes assholes like Mrs. Snow need to be treated like the assholes they are, parent or not.  I’m just saying.

The romance is squirm inducing too.  Though, I’m glad with the turn it took, it was unexpected for a YA book and it was sort of fitting.  Though, I honestly hated that everyone blamed Chloe for what happened.  The other party was just as guilty as she was, yet it seemed like he wasn’t blamed at all for what happened.  And her best friend, I’m sorry she slut slammed Chloe and didn’t deserve an apology.

It annoyed me and got me on a misogyny rant.  Yes, Chloe fucked up but I thought her friend acted shitty towards her especially given how she was treated by the rest of the school.  I mean, really bestie, you were right about that one party being hurt BUT while your bestie made mistakes she didn’t deserve to have urine thrown on her and be harassed, just saying.  Side notes, Chloe got covered with urine quite frequently throughout this book.

So as you’re probably seeing from my remarks, my feelings are mixed at best for this one.  I think I will likely continue with the series though.  The book was short and engaging and while I had issues with how Chloe was grossly immature and practically a baby but doing things that you’d expect to see with older more experienced protagonists, it was engaging enough.  If anything I’m willing to read the sequel just to see if my ship that involves Chloe’s dad and the drama teacher reunites (Yes, that was the best part of the book.  Sort of sad in hindsight).  Plus, I do see potential for Chloe maturing over the course of the series.

Overall Rating: I waiver between B- and C+ probably going to settle on the C+ though.

 

The Insides of This Book are Just as Cute as the Cover:Geekerella by Ashley Poston

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Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win…unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons—before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise. But when she disappears at midnight, will he ever be able to find her again?

Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom.

Source: GoodReads

General Disclaimer: I received an ARC from Netggalley it did not effect my opinion of this book.

Guilty Confession: I love Cinderella.

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I know I shouldn’t.  It goes everything against my feminist’s principles, but there’s something always so endearingly hopeful about Cinderella type stories and add the fandom aspect that gives Geekerella it’s unique type of edge well this book was on my “Must” list for 2017.

And somehow I got an ARC of it which is a miracle in itself because I hardly ever get ARC’s.  What was even better was I read this book while recovering from a hideous migraine that made it pretty much impossible for me to get out of bed without puking for 24 hours.

And it was the perfect sort of book to read when recovering from a headache.  It wasn’t that heavy and it was the sort of light hearted romp I like to read in YA.  Not depressing at all and the ship as very cute for the most part.  There were also some decent side characters which is nice since usually side characters in romance heavy YA books can be abysmal at best.

But the character Sage was probably one of my favorite characters in the book and so was The Magic Pumpkin which wasn’t a character, but the food truck had its own form which was interesting enough to read with.

Was Geekerella a perfect book?

No.  It had it’s fair share of problems, but at the end of the day it did it’s job.  It let me slip away for those few hours in a feel good bubble, though being the grumpy cantankerous blogger that I am, I am going to point out the faults that it did have.

Most importantly, the there were some tropes in the book that made me grown.  A lot of it had to deal with the stepmother and one of the stepdaughters.  And okay, I know it’s a Cinderella retelling.  I know when there’s a Cinderella retelling that there’s going to be an evil stepmother and at least one evil stepsister.  But my issue with this was that they were so ridiculously evil and had very little consequences that it made me sort of angry at the end.

I was like when is the stepmonster going to get her just desserts.  And don’t tell me it wouldn’t be realistic for her not to have them.  It would be very easy, considering I’m pretty sure she abused her role as guardian to her stepmother/possible executrix to her deceased husband’s estate.  And there are consequences for someone who abuses this role.

Yep, my brain went into lawyer mode when I read about this women, but she needed a good kick in the butt.  And so did one of her daughter’s who was just insufferable on so many letters.

And mild digression, BUT why are there so many books now that have character’s featured that are like minor Youtube celebrities.  I know that makeup tutorials are a thing on Youtube, but not every teen who has a Vine or Youtube Channel is going to be famous.  Or a big deal, I wish this was addressed.

Anyways, that aside I really liked this one.  It was cute and the fandom stuff was actually tastefully done-a lot of the times, I feel like the author ham’s it up, but this wasn’t the case.

If you want a cute light read and can overlook some things give Geekerella a try.  I liked it so much that I’m keeping my preorder in place which rarely happens with me being a penny pincher.

Overall Rating: A B+

Important Topic But…: Something in Between by Melissa de la Cruz

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It feels like there’s no ground beneath me, like everything I’ve ever done has been a lie. Like I’m breaking apart, shattering. Who am I? Where do I belong?

Jasmine de los Santos has always done what’s expected of her. Pretty and popular, she’s studied hard, made her Filipino immigrant parents proud and is ready to reap the rewards in the form of a full college scholarship.

And then everything shatters. A national scholar award invitation compels her parents to reveal the truth: their visas expired years ago. Her entire family is illegal. That means no scholarships, maybe no college at all and the very real threat of deportation.

For the first time, Jasmine rebels, trying all those teen things she never had time for in the past. Even as she’s trying to make sense of her new world, it’s turned upside down by Royce Blakely, the charming son of a high-ranking congressman. Jasmine no longer has any idea where—or if—she fits into the American Dream. All she knows is that she’s not giving up. Because when the rules you lived by no longer apply, the only thing to do is make up your own.

Source: GoodReads

I’ve outgrown Melissa de la Cruz’s books.  It’s a sad fact.  At some point I plan to reread the Blue Bloods books, but I feel like it is going to be a sea of disappointment and embarrassment that I ever liked her stuff.  Still, she writes really good premises and I find myself ridiculously attracted to her blurbs.  Like this one.

But still, it sat on my shelf for awhile.  However, after the God awful month of executive orders that the Trump administration has thrown on us I have been wanting to read more issue relevant books.

And I did remember liking Melissa’s Fresh Off the Boat, I at least remember thinking that book had more heart to it than some of her frothier rich people novels-not that some of those can be okay, they just get very stale after awhile.

The thing is, that Something In Between didn’t have that realness quality about it, even though it dealt with some topics that were very near and dear to Melissa’s own personal life.

I got to say, the romance was cringe worthy and completely unrealistic.  Jas and Royce fall ridiculously in love within a couple of pages of looks and text messages.  It make Skyjack (Jack/Schuyler from Blue Bloods ) look more realistic and in hindsight that pairing was illy paced, but to its credit it was a paranormal romance.  Here though, other than he’s handsome/she’s hot I didn’t get the attraction.  Maybe because both of these characters came off as bland.  Like Cinderella and Prince Charming Disney movie bland.

I often think it’s harder to write a contemporary than a paranormal or fantasy novel, because the characters are often the focus of the novel.  Unless it’s bitchy blonde vampire socialites, I always think Melissa’s characters suffer from vapidness and this book was no exception to that.  I honestly did not get how Jas won this big scholarship.  She doesn’t come off as particularly smart or driven, and while she did do some cheerleading she didn’t really have the sort of resume that most Ivy bound kids have.  Royce was even duller than Jas, I can’t even remember if he had a hobby outside of sending really embarrassing texts to his girlfriend and then getting his Paul Ryan Wannabe father go against his core conservative values.

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And that had me roll my eyes and just seethe with anger.  I am already not a huge fan of the Republican party-in fact, I’d say right now I have no tolerance for what they’re preaching at least before the tea party and the racist party of Trump, I could at least sort of get where they’re coming from in the Bush era  but that’s besides the  point.  Here, seeing Royce’s asshole of a congressman make an exception for one family had me rolling my eyes.

And yes, I did vaguely recall reading about private bills very briefly in the Immigration Law course I took 2L year, but I also remember hearing that they hardly ever happen and other than being briefly mentioned we didn’t discuss them hardly any.  Instead, we talked a lot about work visas and I find it difficult to believe that Jas’s working class family would even acquire a visa in the first place.

Unskilled workers have the burnt end of the deal immigration wise, and this book didn’t seem to even discuss that.  Yes, I understand that Ms. de la Cruz is not a lawyer and that it’s possible in her own case that her family could’ve gotten in on such visas-but it doesn’t happen that often.   Part of the reason why is in order to get a work visa the company has to show that there are no qualified American workers.  Sort of hard to do with an unskilled job.

And then there was that farce of a court hearing…I’m not even going to talk about it.

And while I think there was some work into looking up the immigration process I don’t think it encompassed a lot of the issues on a whole of what is going on.  About how broken the process is-and it’s even more fucked up now, for obvious reasons most involving a big fat Orange Boob.

Look, I can’t fault Ms. de la Cruz too much on the legalities.  Immigration law itself is a beast, and there’s a lot of reasons why attorneys don’t practice it.  And even very seasoned lawyers can’t figure out some of the nuances involving the process-and I’m quoting some lecturer on an online CLE I took a couple of weeks ago almost verbatim on that one.

I just don’t know, having this conservative congressman who is described as being an asshole towards immigrants for a big chunk of the book being Jas’s savior  rubs me the wrong way.  Why is it okay for her to have a private bill while the congressman roots for legislation to harm constant others in her position?  I just didn’t like this congressman and wanted to go to a town hall to tell him what a hypocrite he was and that even though Jas situation was awful and she deserved help all the other undocumented immigrants in his district deserved to be treated like real people and not criminals.  He doesn’t even have a come to Jesus moment in the book and realizes that his hardline stanch is that of an asshole.

But I digress..

If you can look past the hypocrisy and the cringe worthy romance, this one is readable.  That is one thing I will always give de la Cruz, her stuff is readable.  But God there’s so much cringe and hypocrisy that I did close it a couple of times throughout reading it just to rant.  The immigration stuff while researched (enough) isn’t fully researched in some aspects.

The parts that rang truest about the book were the brief insights we got into Filipino culture, but those for the most part were very brief.

Overall Rating: A C

 

 

 

Predictable Fluff: All That Glitters by Holly Smale

 

My name is Harriet Manners, and I am still a geek.

Harriet Manners has high hopes for the new school year: she’s a Sixth Former now, and things are going to be different. But with Nat busy falling in love at college and Toby preoccupied with a Top Secret project, Harriet soon discovers that’s not necessarily a good thing…

Source: GoodReads

If we’re going to be honest about it, this series has gotten a bit pedantic (which seems to be the word of the week, FYI).  The good thing is if  you’re reading it with its publication schedule you’re not going to notice as much the repetition.  The bad thing is if you’re an American who has gotten tired of waiting for these things to be released in the states and decided to just buy them at the Book Depository you’re not exactly going to binge on them as I was planning…

Yeah.

The good thing though, is if the real world is being particularly hellish as it has since Biff stole Doc and Marty’s machine and somehow stole the presidency from HRC Donald Trump has become president (that sounds so wrong) this series can at least buy you some hours of peace at least another Executive Order has been dropped.

Sorry for all the current events references, it has really been hard to read or really  lately.  And really do anything else especially when all this shit has been thrown in your face on a 24/7 basis.  If you follow my Twitter feed you know I’ve been very vocal in my disdain.

Anyway, back to the book.  Its the predictable fluff that is needed right now in this world and I am grateful for that.  Honestly, I will probably be reading a lot of fluff in the coming months.  It’s needed and wanted and this book does the trick.  It’s easy to look past the faults, but they are there and it’s pretty obvious to anyone who has read this series what they are.

Harriet is a stagnent character.  She doesn’t grow, and at this point I don’t expect her too.  Most of the books center around ridiculous misunderstandings that anyone with adequate emotional skills would be able to pick up on but this is Harriet we’re talking about.  So…yeah, don’t expect her to pick up on social cues.

And to be honest, her friends are sort of shitty in this one.   I get that they want to help her, but come on.  They should know that she wasn’t going to exactly take their behavior the way she wanted them too.  And really, at this point…ugh.

The more I think about it, the more I want to pull my hair out.  But again, I don’t hate this book.  It’s sort of like the Princess Diaries series.  Sure, there was a slump in the middle of that series where all I wanted to do was deck Mia, but it didn’t make me hate or stop reading the series and I sort of hope that in the next two full installments there’s some growth with Harriet-again, don’t expect there to be but I still can’t help there is some.

As far as the romance department goes, this installment of Geek Girl is ridiculously light on that as well as the modeling stuff.  I did enjoy the modeling antics though.  I think they’re often some of my favorite parts of the book surprisingly.  Even though they are more or less the same-Harriet going to some exotic location and making a fool of herself.

So yeah, there was nothing surprising or really unprecedented about this particular installment of Geek Girl if it was a more serious series, I’d probably would give it a lower rating.  But as it stands, it did its job in getting to me forget about the crap that’s been going on in this world right now.

Overall Rating: A B- it’s flawed but enjoyable.

First DNF of the Year: Flower by Elizabeth Craft and Shea Olsen

These are the things that I’ve always wanted:

To get the top grades in my class.

To make my grandmother proud.

And most of all, proof that I could succeed where the rest of my family had not: a Stanford acceptance letter, early admission.

My mother and my sister were obsessed with boys and love and sex. So obsessed that they lost sight of their futures, of what theywanted. And in the end, they lost everything.

I’ll never let a boy distract me. I promised my grandmother that.

But that was before Tate.

Before the biggest pop star on the planet took an interest in me.

Before private planes and secret dates and lyrics meant for me alone.

There’s so much I don’t know. Like why he left music. Where he goes when we’re not together. What dark past he’s hiding. But when we kiss, the future feels far away. And now…I’m not sure what I want. 

Source: GoodReads

Well, I knew it had to happen but honestly I was hoping it would be a little later than fourteen years within the New Year before I DNF’d my first 2017 book.  But hey, Flower can’t help that it sucked donkey’s balls.

Actually, that’s an insult to donkey’s balls.

Anyway…Flower was bad.  Really, really, bad.  Just to give an idea of how bad this book is here is a sample of writing from the first few pages of the book.

Love can undo you.  It can take everything away.

And so, I promised myself: no boys, no prom, no parties on Saturday nights.  I would stay home, I would get straight As, I would go to college and make a different kind of future for myself. I wouldn’t let anything stop me. I wouldn’t let anyone stop me.

But that was before everything changed.

That was before him (1).

That should give you an idea how cringe worthy this is.  I mean, yeah the premises made me think it was going to be on the cheesy side, but it could’ve been done in such a way where the reader didn’t think they were reading some 13 year old’s One Direction fan fiction with a self insert character and token gay best friend that was straight out of a bad early 2000’s Lifetime movie.

But alas, this was not the case with Flower.

It was published by not only one, but two real authors (meaning, people who actually have legitimate past credits and aren’t a celebrity with a ghost writer peddling crap).  And it still sucked.  Hell, it was a packaged book and it still sucked.

Usually with package books they’re at least homogenous enough where they aren’t painfully bad, but this one is painfully bad.

As the premises points out our main character, Charlotte, is turned off of love because everyone in her family gets knocked up at the ripe old age of 17 or what not and she decides to do the no boys thing until a pop star comes into the flower shop she works out.  Only she doesn’t realize he’s a pop star and…I don’t know how she doesn’t realize he’s a pop star.  I mean, I’ve never listened to Justin Beiber, but I still know who that foul specimen is.  I just couldn’t buy it that this MC didn’t know who he was.  Or that a pop star would be so interested in a high school girl.  Or that Charlotte would somehow have a job in a florist’s shop designing bouquets with no florist training whatsoever.

The book really felt like it was a skeleton of a story that could be interesting but turned out to be no better than a self insert fan fic.  Like I said, I stopped at page 58 when Tate-the wannabe Jonas Brother-was essentially pulling an Edward Cullen on Charlotte.

I often feel like there is a misconception in YA that there does not need to be any effort put in fluff books that just having two characters kissing each other is enough.

It’s not.

A good fluff novel has complex characters that have interesting relations together and you want them to be together.  This book has none of those.   I had a real hard time believing that this was even a finished product, that’s how lazy it came across.

Usually, Alloy is one of the better packaging companies (note, that’s not saying a lot since I think most packaged books suck), but this one is particularly wretched.

Avoid at all costs especially if you love fluff.

Overall Rating: DNF

2017 Is Off to a Decent Start: The Secret of A Heart Note by Stacey Lee

An evocative novel about a teen aroma expert who uses her extrasensitive sense of smell to mix perfumes that help others fall in love while protecting her own heart at all costs

Sometimes love is right under your nose. As one of only two aromateurs left on the planet, sixteen-year-old Mimosa knows what her future holds: a lifetime of weeding, mixing love elixirs, and matchmaking—all while remaining incurably alone. For Mim, the rules are clear: falling in love would render her nose useless, taking away her one great talent. Still, Mimosa doesn’t want to spend her life elbow-deep in soil and begonias. She dreams of a normal high school experience with friends, sports practices, debate club, and even a boyfriend. But when she accidentally gives an elixir to the wrong woman and has to rely on the lovesick woman’s son, the school soccer star, to help fix the situation, Mim quickly begins to realize that falling in love isn’t always a choice you can make.

At once hopeful, funny, and romantic, Stacey Lee’s The Secret of a Heart Note is a richly evocative coming-of-age story that gives a fresh perspective on falling in love and finding one’s place in the world.

Source: GoodReads

This book was the perfect way to start off my 2017 reading list.  It wasn’t a perfect book mind you, but it was a nice book to read on a quiet New Year’s Day and I really enjoyed it.  Though, I’ll be honest I don’t think it will probably be a very memorable read in the long run.

Prior to this book, I had only read one Stacey Lee book and I wasn’t exactly a fan.  I think in a lot of ways because it relied so heavily on dialect and I’m not a big fan of dialect.

This book though didn’t use dialect and I thought it had a very interesting concept with it’s aroma witches.  Honestly, when I was reading it I thought this would be a pretty good Hallmark movie.  And I could see it being made as one, save for the fact that the protagonist is a teen and Hallmark protagonists are like constantly 30 somethings but whatever.

But it had that same sleepy, lighthearted quality about it that made it enjoyable.  The protagonist is likable-though not that memorable-and her relationship with the love interest was also cute.  I also liked the world building was with this one.

Save for the aroma magic stuff, it could very much be a contemporary.  There were plenty of subplots that were contemporary based-the falling out with relatives, Mim and her mother’s relationship, the romance.  But the way that magic incorporated the book wasn’t annoying either.

I think one of the reasons why The Secret of a Heart Note worked for me was that the paranormal elements weren’t so do or die like they are in a lot of young adult novels.  It was refreshing to read how out of the world elements could be wrapped up into every day life.

Were there some things about this book that I didn’t like.

Well, yeah.

I did think the ending seemed a little rushed with how some of the familiar relationships were resolved and I wasn’t exactly a fan of how the magic situation was resolved either.  Though to be honest, on the whole magic subplot concerning Mim’s nose I sort of falter back and forth about the conclusion of it.  At times I got annoyed because it was an easy fix to what seemed like a huge problem.  But on the other hand, I sort of liked that the problem wasn’t near as catastrophic as it was described to be.

I think if you want something on the lighter side you should give this one a try.  I enjoyed it, though releasing it in winter might’ve been a mistake on the publisher’s plot.  The book really reads spring to me.  Still, as my first 2017 read I can’t complain (that much).

Overall Rating: A B+