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+

 

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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.

How to DNF In 77 Pages: The Art of French Kissing by Brianna R Shrum

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Seventeen-year-old Carter Lane has wanted to be a chef since she was old enough to ignore her mom’s warnings to stay away from the hot stove. And now she has the chance of a lifetime: a prestigious scholarship competition in Savannah, where students compete all summer in Chopped style challenges for a full-ride to one of the best culinary schools in the country. The only impossible challenge ingredient in her basket: Reid Yamada.

After Reid, her cute but unbearably cocky opponent, goes out of his way to screw her over on day one, Carter vows revenge, and soon they’re involved in a full-fledged culinary war. Just as the tension between them reaches its boiling point, Carter and Reid are forced to work together if they want to win, and Carter begins to wonder if Reid’s constant presence in her brain is about more than rivalry. And if maybe her desire to smack his mouth doesn’t necessarily cancel out her desire to kiss it.

Source: GoodReads

Oh, boy.

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I’ll be fair to this one it’s shit, but not shit in the sort of way where I’m raging.  It’s just bland shit, where I can really say I hate the love to hate trope.  Especially when it involves misogynist  assholes like Reid who I still can’t understand how the blurb thought it was reasonable to describe him as cute.

Reid is pretty much the defining reason why this trope can fail so hard.  Let me be frank, the enemies to lovers trope is one of those tropes I hate an ironic love/hate relationship with.  When done correctly it works amazingly (see It Happened One Autumnwhen it fails it can be worse than the very worse Dramione fan fiction (I shouldn’t be admitting that I even ventured into reading those but whatevs).

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Reid falls into what make me get my belly full of Dramione fan fics.  He is obnoxious.  A budding “well, actually” bro on the internet.  Within ten pages of meeting our MC he tries to destroy our MC but it’s all in the name of competition ya’ll so that’s okay.

The MC’s not that much better.  I really don’t know much about her other than she has the latest Star Wars merchandise which I guess is suppose to make he relatable.  Fun, really not related to this review fact, I have never seen Star Wars which is kind of weird considering what a huge Indiana Jones nerd I am.

You really didn’t need to know that.

Overall, the set up of the book really reminded me of Pizza, Love, and Other Stuff That Made Me Famous except there was no actual TV show here.  Still though, the formula stayed eerily the same.

And quite honestly, if you’re going to write the book like an actual recap of Chopped I’d be much better off actually watching the show or going on Previously TV or some other TV recap site on the internet and read their recaps.

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Seriously, what is the point of that?  Yes, I’m sure the cooking competition was suppose to show conflict but when your just giving us a blow by blow of what happens, not giving us a culinary point of view or anything…

Holy shit, I’m starting to sound like I could be one of those obnoxious judges on The Next Food Network Star I really need to stop it.  The point I’m trying to make though, is there was a lot of telling in this book not a lot of showing.  It felt stunted and very manufactured.  It didn’t really  anything about it that made it memorable or made me excited.

Again, it’s a shame.

I like reading about food.  This book took place in Savannah.  I went to Savannah last summer, I would’ve liked to relive that.  However, the book could’ve taken place anywhere.  Never mind that Savannah actually has a pretty big foodie scene,that would’ve been fun to explore.  No this book makes its self a fucking Chopped recap with a love interest that should just go ahead and get neutered because he is an obnoxious asshole.

What do I know though, other than I DNF’d this fucker.

Overall Rating: DNF

 

It’s Not Terrible: Love and Luck by Jenna Evans Welch

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Addie is visiting Ireland for her aunt’s over-the-top destination wedding, and hoping she can stop thinking about the one horrible thing she did that left her miserable and heartbroken—and threatens her future. But her brother, Ian, isn’t about to let her forget, and his constant needling leads to arguments and even a fistfight between the two once inseparable siblings. Miserable, Addie can’t wait to visit her friend in Italy and leave her brother—and her problems—behind.

So when Addie discovers an unusual guidebook, Ireland for the Heartbroken, hidden in the dusty shelves of the hotel library, she’s able to finally escape her anxious mind and Ian’s criticism.

And then their travel plans change. Suddenly Addie finds herself on a whirlwind tour of the Emerald Isle, trapped in the world’s smallest vehicle with Ian and his admittedly cute, Irish-accented friend Rowan. As the trio journeys over breathtaking green hills, past countless castles, and through a number of fairy-tale forests, Addie hopes her guidebook will heal not only her broken heart, but also her shattered relationship with her brother.

That is if they don’t get completely lost along the way.

Source: GoodReads

I really feel like I’m the odd one out with Jenna Evans Welch.  I know a lot of people love her contemporaries, but I am just not part of that team.  Love and Gelato while not terrible, was not a wow read for me.  And unfortunately, Love and Luck sort of followed the same pattern, though I do think there were misogynist undertones in the book that made me want to puke.

Why did I read this in book in the first  place…well, it is nearing the seventh anniversary since I visited Ireland so that’s why.  I wanted some nostalgia, so kill me.  And there were several places in the book that I visited though my recollections were a lot different than Addie’s.

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Seven years ago I was spending my summer with the highs in the 50’s and 60’s. After last week it doesn’t feel exactly real.

Digressing, digressing.

Anyways, back to the book.  The general gist of the book is that Addie and her Douche Brother and Family are attending her aunt’s wedding the two of them get in a fight on the Cliffs of Mohr and don’t die and their mother gets pissed and condemns each of them if the other fucks up when they go to Florence.  Only they don’t go to Florence because the first book takes place in Italy and this one takes place in Ireland ya’ll.

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The Cliffs of Mohr, not exactly the sort of place you’d want to fall off of a hill on. Also, the day I went wasn’t exactly idyllic wedding weather.

Instead, we get an Irish road trip.  Which is yay I guess?

Side digression, I got completely car sick any time I traveled in Ireland.  Which was mostly through bus and some really weird cab rides.  I think it’s because the whole driving on the other side of the road thing.  And then driving up mountains when you’re used to driving in the coastal plains of Texas thing.   Just thinking about being on a road trip across Ireland makes me feel slightly barf-y right now.  Perhaps, that’s why I never did the whole Ring of Kerry tour-even though I know I sort of missed out.

Honestly, the road trip seemed like it went incredibly fast to me.  For example, I can’t imagine just spending an hour in the Burren.  Grant it, my memories of the Burren consist of me getting slopping wet and later ending up getting an infection that lead to me getting pneumonia in the fall but digressing AGAIN…

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Me at the Burren  with terrible hair,slopping wet, and going to be hating myself three months later when all I can eat is popsicles.  But at least I have a nice scarf, so that’s all that matters. 

The same goes with going to Cork.  I loved Cork more than Dublin, which I personally think is overrated much like New Orleans-but I ‘m digressing yet AGAIN.  The fact that a mere visit to these places can be described in a few pages and the trip can go onto the next place sort of flummoxes my mind.

I get it, it’s a book.  But I really hate how pretty much this was a point by point book and didn’t take time to relish its surrounding.

One the biggest things that I was able to pick up from my short six weeks in Ireland was to savor things, to take your time and I just didn’t feel like this book did that.  It was more or less pain by the numbers get to the ending of the book.

As far as the characters go, I was sort of meh about Addie.  I hated that it was acted like she made this huge mistake during the book and that her brother had a right to be mad at her.  Honestly, her brother needed to be slugged in the jaw for acting the way he did towards her.

It drove me crazy throughout the book.  The fact that Ian’s (the brother) feelings were more important or stated to be more important-though, indirectly stated-throughout the entire thing drove me crazy.  It took the focus off of what happened to Addie and quite honestly I was a little disgusted by it.

The love interest, Rowan, I was a little meh over.  I really didn’t know why there even needed to be a love interest in this book because for the most part it was about the two siblings hashing out their weird fight.  Rowan wasn’t God awful by any means he just felt unneeded and unnecessary as did the connection with the protagonist of the first book.

God, you can tell I’ve read a lot of books because I completely forgot about the protagonist in the first book and had to reread my review just to know the basics-pretty much, I found the first book to be rather meh as well.

I think what I found so disappointing about these two books is that they should’ve been fantastic.  Summer time is always the perfect time to read a book about traveling because when it’s 112 outside-yes, it was 112 this week-you’d like to imagine yourself somewhere else like Ireland where it’s currently 65 outside (and yes, I have Galway’s weather on my phone because I’m that type of person).  And as the contents of this blog has  probably revealed I like light, fluffy, contemporaries but this book.  So did not work.

I think this book suffered from trying to pigeon toe itself around the heartache guidebook.  It’s a similar problem I’ve seen suffered from other books, the one I can think on top of my head being How to be Popular.  

By trying to revolve the book around this guidebook, I felt like there were many things that were lost.  Again, we’re in Ireland we need to go off the beaten path a little bit.

At the end of the day though, this wasn’t exactly the worst book I have ever read.  Have I read better, oh yeah, but it wasn’t a total time sunk.  I knocked it out one  very hot evening when my thermostat wouldn’t go down from 85 despite being set at 77.

Overall Rating: A C+ it doesn’t quite do Ireland justice but it’s not going to kill you to read it.

The Corgis Disapprove (Well, Mine Do): Royals by Rachel Hawkins

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Meet Daisy Winters. She’s an offbeat sixteen-year-old Floridian with mermaid-red hair; a part time job at a bootleg Walmart, and a perfect older sister who’s nearly engaged to the Crown Prince of Scotland. Daisy has no desire to live in the spotlight, but relentless tabloid attention forces her to join Ellie at the relative seclusion of the castle across the pond.

While the dashing young Miles has been appointed to teach Daisy the ropes of being regal, the prince’s roguish younger brother kicks up scandal wherever he goes, and tries his best to take Daisy along for the ride. The crown–and the intriguing Miles–might be trying to make Daisy into a lady . . . but Daisy may just rewrite the royal rulebook to suit herself.

Source: GoodReads

It’s Royal Wedding weekend which meant that during my Benadryl induced insomnia last night, I caught part of Harry and Meghan’s wedding that I later watched via DVR.  I have to say Meghan was so on point with that dress.  Unfortunately, I was less on point when  I decided that Royals would be perfect reading material this weekend.

Instead it was rage inducing, me to using the below gif.

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This book, people…skip it, please.  If you want to read something with royalty read The Princess Diaries series again, The Royal We, A Prince in Disguise, I can go on but I  won’t.  Hell, you can even watch on of the various Hallmark movies that have been made and they’re better than this shit.

Okay…so what has pissed me off.  Pretty much that there love interest in this book is a misogynist asshole   who blames the MC for getting assaulted by his drunk ass best friend.  Seriously, it’s her fault that she was kissed against her will  and that said best friend passed out drunk on his ass in her room.

Do you see why I don’t like this book?

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And what really bothers me is that at the end when said scumbag best friend is put in his place, it’s not for coming on to the MC or other girls randomly.  It’s for declaring his love to the MC’s sister and her fiancee accidentally overhearing it.

Did I mention that said best friend is a minor while his attacker has at least graduated from college?

Yeah…

Oh, and said attacker is a prince.

Yeah….

And that all of this is pretty much brushed under the rug within twenty pages.  Just like the non-existant romance and anything else involving this storyline was resolved pretty much within twenty pages.

But there’s a sequel, but without this character as the lead I’m suspecting.  And which I really care about because this book was so poorly crafted I’m not checking out the follow up.

Obviously.

Especially if the would  be rapist gets his own book.

Because seriously, going into a stranger’s room forcing them to kiss them and probably forcing them to do more if you didn’t pass out drunk isn’t exactly attractive.  Neither is a douche who defend’s said best friend’s behavior but apparently Hawkins felt it  deserved a pass.

No it did not.

Overall Rating: Total failure.  This book just gives me a headache.

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What Was the Point of This?: Love, Pizza, and Other Stuff That Made Me Famous by Kathryn Williams

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Can a spot on a teen reality show really lead to a scholarship at an elite cooking school AND a summer romance?

Sixteen-year-old Sophie Nicolaides was practically raised in the kitchen of her family’s Italian-Greek restaurant, Taverna Ristorante. When her best friend, Alex, tries to convince her to audition for a new reality show, Teen Test Kitchen, Sophie is reluctant. But the prize includes a full scholarship to one of America’s finest culinary schools and a summer in Napa, California, not to mention fame.

Once on-set, Sophie immediately finds herself in the thick of the drama—including a secret burn book, cutthroat celebrity judges, and a very cute French chef. Sophie must figure out a way to survive all the heat and still stay true to herself. A terrific YA offering–fresh, fun, and sprinkled with romance.

Source: GoodReads

Well, I finished this book.

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So that’s a plus.

But God, what a waste of time. I literally felt that nothing.  Oh, stuff did happen.  There was a reality TV contest with characters that were flatter than the creepy bow twins on the latest incarnation of Master Chef Junior (and yes, I know the bow twins are just kids but  their stylist really needs to be canned for making them look like they should belong on the set of The Shining), a couple of cute boys who’s main characteristics was that they were cute and either culinary institute student or the MC’s B.F.F. who makes her enter the contest.  Oh, and yes the MC was Italian and Greek and that was her big thing besides her butt which she called “the tank” but other that…

Nope nothing happened here.

I feel like I need to back up on things Pizza, Love, and Other Stuff That Made Me Famous came out a few years back and was sort of on my radar but ended up in the pits of TBR pile.  I’ll admit it, I like cooking shows.  When I was in undergradthe Food Network was pretty much on 24/7 when I was in my dorm room just because it was entertaining enough  to block out noise but not too entertaining for me to get distracted when I wrote essays about why Oprah should run for president (yeah, I actually did that-we were suppose to pick a person who we thought would likely get elected back in 2008,  this was pre-Obama’s running announcement ) and the various Shakespeare plays I was forced to read because I was delusional enough to be an English major.  I still watch cooking shows today-which mostly consist of Gordon Ramsay yelling at people because for some odd reason it is cathartic for me to listen him to yell at incompetent jackasses (probably because I can’t do that myself, even though I purposely became a lawyer to  yell at people-’cause I’m not a nice person, ya’ll).   So, seeing it in book form totally going to go for it.  And a few years back a couple of books we’re introduced this being one of them and Taste Test being another.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Taste Test either, but unlike this book there was a semblance of a plot and it didn’t feel like 250 pages had been a complete waste of time.  This book though, that’s the feeling I got.  As you probably saw from the introductory paragraphs of this review.  The book had 1D characteristics at best which is a shame.  Yes, I get the MC has Greek and Italian heritage that she lost her mother and is torn in a love triangle between the boy next door and the hot cooking whiz she shares two lines of dialogue with-but Williams never made me care about them.  Or for that matter, she never resolved that plot.

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She never resolved anything.  Okay we’re heading to major spoiler territory now.  So if you’re one of those weirdos who actually cares about things like that you probably don’t want to read the next paragraph because it’s going to be a very spoiler filled rant…

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The book just ends exactly how it starts.  The MC doesn’t win.   There’s really no explanation for her loss.   She’s just back to working at her dad’s restaurant except she’s okay with being called Sophia now (okay, I didn’t get the whole not liking Sophia thing to begin with anyway).   And she’s sort of involved with both boys at the end of it, but sort of not (just like the entire book!).  She doesn’t really learn anything about herself, he new friends problems are never explained.  And I never did find out if Phillip was related to the producers or not (I assume he was because that’s the only way someone who can’t cook a fucking egg could’ve won a cooking contest).  Not that that was ever discussed.  The book just mentioned that this random minor character named Phillip seemed to win all the time and cooked horribly and no explanation was ever made for it, so I’m saying he’s related to the producers.

Phillip’s non-existing storyline seemed to be one of many that filled this book.  From the quasi romances going on.  To the long lost aunt.  To the burn book that the producer’s started.  To the contestant with the maybe eating disorder.  To the contestant with the romance with Phillip.  To the fragmented sentences of this paragraph.  There were that many plot holes.

The book just really seems to be going nowhere and it’s a fucking shame.  There was a lot of potential with Pizza, Love, and Other Stuff That Made Me Famous, but at the end of the day the book was more than a little bit of a let down.

Overall Rating: A C.  I have read worse and at least with this one it was painless short-I read it in the span of two hours.

 

 

Die, Dude Brow, Die: Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner

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Cameron’s cosplay–dressing like a fictional character–is finally starting to earn her attention–attention she hopes to use to get into the CalTech costume department for college. But when she wins a major competition, she inadvertently sets off a firestorm of angry comments from male fans.

When Cameron’s family moves the summer before her senior year, she hopes to complete her costume portfolio in peace and quiet away from the abuse. Unfortunately, the only comic shop in town–her main destination for character reference–is staffed by a dudebro owner who challenges every woman who comes into the shop.

At her twin brother’s suggestion, Cameron borrows a set of his clothes and uses her costuming expertise to waltz into the shop as Boy Cameron, where she’s shocked at how easily she’s accepted into the nerd inner sanctum. Soon, Cameron finds herself drafted into a D&D campaign alongside the jerky shop-owner Brody, friendly (almost flirtatiously so) clerk Wyatt, handsome Lincoln, and her bro Cooper, dragged along for good measure.

But as her “secret identity” gets more and more entrenched, Cameron’s portfolio falls by the wayside–and her feelings for Lincoln threaten to make a complicated situation even more precarious.

Source: GoodReads

I really liked Chaotic Good, but I felt like it was missing a certain oomph.  This was one book where I wanted 200 more pages than the mere 250-ish pages I got.  However, what I got I can’t complain about too much.

Though, is it so wrong that I want a certain character to die a slow death.

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This book hit home in a lot of ways.  Any woman has probably encountered a dude bro (aka a misogynist asshole)  at some point in her life.  It’s like an experience that we all experience but all wish we could  have not experienced- I  sort of equate it to  having a period except misogynic assholes just don’t tolerate biological women but ALL women and  birth control cannot make misogynists  tolerable, though it can prevent their existence technically I guess.  God knows you have  if you’ve ever been told to smile, been honked out when you’re jogging, or for that matter have been told you’re not a real fan because you’re female and might like aspects of a series or game that those of the masculine persuasion might not because you know dude bro’s opinions are so much better than yours…

I could go on, but you get the picture.  Chaotic Good tries to conquer misogynist assholes and while I do feel like a lot of important aspects were raised, at the end of the day I wasn’t so satisfied with how everything was dealt with.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know.  I probably wouldn’t be satisfied unless Brody was castrated and they made a section at his store for nincompoop dicks, but I’m ahead of myself.  I think what really bothered me about Chaotic Good was that everything just clicked into place seemingly easily.  Up until the last fifteen pages, it seemed like Cameron’s life was one big dumpster fire.  But a picture of her gets liked by some costume designer, the dude bro gets an exorcism, and her twin brother and his boyfriend like her again, so everything in hunky dory.  Life just doesn’t work that way…

Also, really, why are you friends with that dude bro, Cameron?  He is the type of guy you block on the internet and run, run away from.

Besides the ridiculous fast wrap up, I did like the book though.  Although, the whole premises could’ve been avoided with Cameron ordering her comics online to avoid dude bros.   God knows, I order stuff on the internet just because I’m too lazy to drive, and I have also ordered stuff online come to think of it to avoid annoying people.  It is so much easier than wrapping my breasts up, stuffing my hair in a beanie, and going around as a guy just to avoid  assholes.

Honestly, I wish rather than having the whole I’m going to avoid the misogynist at the comic store that Cameron would’ve just been androgynous looking or gender queer.    God knows, it would’ve been refreshing and a lot hell more realistic than this complicated scheme that could’ve been avoided by just Amazon-ing it, BUT hey it’s fiction, so..

I will say I do love the gender bending trope.  It’s a timeless favorite of mine ever since I saw that old black and white film, Some Like It Hot, it’s just that a lot of times the situation that has the character flipping genders doesn’t really make sense as in Chaotic Good.

Other than the suspension of logic, I liked the book.  The romance wasn’t my favorite but it worked.  Honestly, I could’ve passed on it either way, but it wasn’t terrible.  It sort of reminded me of the Penny/Lenard relationship on The Big Bang Theory which wasn’t really my favorite ship but it had it’s adorable moments.  I liked the D&D crew too save for Brody, who really needs to die a slow death.

God, I hate Brody.  I wish there was a way to block a character in a book.  I have to give Gardner credit though for making me hate that asshole.

I didn’t like that he was still part of the group at the end though.  He really shouldn’t have been…

I guess overall, I liked this book.  I was just hoping that some things would’ve been fleshed out a little more.  It seemed to me that this was a story that could’ve dived into the meat of things more than it did.  What I got I liked but I just wanted more…

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Overall Rating: A solid B.  The book is timely.  I liked that it did address issues.  I just wanted more.

 

What I Wanted vs What I Got: And She Was by Jessica Verdi

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Dara’s lived a sheltered life with her single mom, Mellie. Now, at eighteen, she’s dreaming of more. When Dara digs up her never-before-seen birth certificate, her world implodes. Why are two strangers listed as her parents?

Dara confronts her mother, and is stunned by what she learns: Mellie is transgender. The unfamiliar name listed under “father”? That’s Mellie. She transitioned when Dara was a baby, shortly after Dara’s birth mother died.

But Dara still has more questions than answers. Reeling, she sets off on a road trip with her best guy friend, Sam. She’s determined to find the extended family she’s never met. What she discovers—and what her mother reveals, piece by piece over emails—will challenge and change Dara more than she can imagine.

From rising star Jessica Verdi, this is a gorgeous, timely, and essential novel about the importance of being our true selves.

Source: GoodReads

What I Wanted: A book with a mother-daughter relationship that was a bit Gilmore Girls-is but instead of running away from rich parents because of teenage pregnancy, the Lorelai ran away because she came out as transgender and Grandpa and Grandma Gilmore couldn’t handle it.  Also, some coffee would’ve helped too.

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What I Got: A book where the MC and her mother really have a nonexistent relationship and once the MC found out that her mother was transgender, she pretty much flips out on her and runs away with some random guy we’re told is her b.f.f.

Yeah…

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Okay, going by the premises I knew that there was going to be a road trip and all of that, but I was hoping at the very least that the relationship between Melly and Dara would’ve been a little bit more than it was.

Even before Melly’s secret is revealed she and Dara are distant at best.  Dara has her head in the clouds and Melly was just…I don’t know not all the way there and sort of rigid.  The premises to me just seemed like there would be more of a mother and daughter connection than there actually was.

As I mentioned before, I really didn’t care for Dara.  She was was self absorbed and really had no realistic ambitions.  While I know that not every teen is college bound, I wish she would’ve had a slightly more realistic plan for the future than work for a juice bar and attempt to play pro tennis.  It just annoyed me, especially since Verdi has all the supporting cast point out several times throughout the narrative that it isn’t likely that Dara is going to advance in the pro circuit.

As for how trans issues were handled…honestly, I only made it about 110 pages in the book, and as a cis female I’m probably not the person you want to ask about sensitivity issues.  Still though, I found Dara’s behavior sort of disturbing at least from my perspective.  She instantly wants to meet her grandparents, despite hearing from her mother that they are essentially bigots.

Oh, it’s okay if they hate the woman that raised me for eighteen years they’re my grandparents…and I’m not a bigot because I follow sport stars that preach LGBTQ issues.

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You see where we’re going here.

Given that I DNF’d this, I didn’t see every cringe worthy moment that results from Dara’s betrayal and stupidity.  However, being the spoiler loving junkie that I am (and the should I even bother addict that I am) I took a peak at the end and it seems as disappointing as I predicted it.

Some of you might be wondering what I was expecting.  After all, the blurb clearly illustrates that there’s going to be some sort of separation between Melly and Dara throughout the duration of the book.  And I expected it, but I also expected them to have some sort of bond besides liking to eat hot sauce.

Instead, it was more about Dara’s relationship with stupid Sam who had a girlfriend until like two minutes ago which totally means he’s going to be in Dara’s pants by the end of the book.

Look, this book just wasn’t for me.  Maybe it gets better as it progresses, but quite honestly I wanted to read more about Melly than Dara.  And unfortunately I had to read more about Dara who is more f’d up than Rory Gilmore on the Netflix’s revival (seriously, Rory look at your choices).

Overall Rating: DNF.  I’d rather watch Rory and Dean and that’s saying a lot.  Because, ew Dean.

 

A Book That Makes Me Like Camping (Or Reading About It): Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett

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Ever since last year’s homecoming dance, best friends-turned-best enemies Zorie and Lennon have made an art of avoiding each other. It doesn’t hurt that their families are the modern day, Californian version of the Montagues and Capulets.

But when a group camping trip goes south, Zorie and Lennon find themselves stranded in the wilderness. Alone. Together.

What could go wrong?

With no one but each other for company, Zorie and Lennon have no choice but to hash out their issues via witty jabs and insults as they try to make their way to safety. But fighting each other while also fighting off the forces of nature makes getting out of the woods in one piece less and less likely.

And as the two travel deeper into Northern California’s rugged backcountry, secrets and hidden feelings surface. But can Zorie and Lennon’s rekindled connection survive out in the real world? Or was it just a result of the fresh forest air and the magic of the twinkling stars?

Source: GoodReads

Jenn Bennett is officially on my favorites list.  This book sort of solidified it for me.  Starry Eyes took a topic I really didn’t think I’d like-camping-and turned it into an interesting foot popping story.

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Because really Bennett is the master of ships.  I adored Zorie and Lennon and all of their love hate-ness.  And despite being an extremely ship book, here were a lot of things about this book that resonated with me.  It was a book that I could really identify with because I shared a similar experience to what Zorie dealt with this book when I was roughly her age.

The emotions that Bennett has her going through throughout the book was something that I could identify with.  How a parent’s betrayal can have ramifications on not only their significant other but their kids as well.  I thought that Bennet did a good job showing this.

If I had to fault the book, I think what bothered me is the drama did get a little over the top at times.  Especially the fall out with Reagan.  Honestly,  I didn’t even get why Zorie was friends with Reagan.  It seemed so forced.  She more or less existed as a plot point to get Zorie and Lennon stranded-which by the way happens much later in the book than I thought it would.  But anyway, back to Reagan and her friends they really were just pointless.  When they abandoned Zorie and Lennon I was glad, I was like finally….

While Reagan annoyed me, I did like some of the supporting characters which is better than a lot of YA books.  I thought Lennon’s family was pretty well fleshed out and I did like Zorie’s mother.  Her dad though was a douche.  But I have to say the depiction was pretty much spot on, living through a similar situation the dad character did make sense to me.

As I mentioned earlier, I was pleasantly surprised with the whole how lost in the wilderness thing was handled.  I’m not an outdoors girl.  I freak out when there is even a fly in my house.  Honestly, I don’t even like reading about the outdoors.  Yeah, there was that one somewhat interesting Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys super mystery  where she goes camping, the Hardy boys pop out of nowhere-they always popped out of nowhere in the super mysteries-, Nancy and Frank almost make out again and their chased by the mob who apparently their trail guide owes a lot of money too but….not your typical outdoors book.  No, when I think of outdoorsy type of books I think about that stupid Literature and Culture class I took where I had to read that book about that guy who went to Alaska to live in a bus and die, oh and write a stupid paper about my local park that used to be the site of a Confederate powder mill.

Ah, memories that the blog reader does not  know or care about…

Weird discretion that probably has you confused aside, I think it shows just how good and enjoyable a book is when they can make a subject you find meh at best enjoyable.  Not that I’m planning on going camping anytime soon, but after reading Starry Eyes I don’t think I would mind so much reading it.

If you like love-hate romances, second chance romances, have an interest in the outdoors, or for that matter astronomy you should definitely give Starry Eyes a try.  Bennet is definitely on my to buy list now.  And it seems I have a bit of a backlist to get too.

Overall Rating: An A-